Man United and Arsenal cede WSL title race to Chelsea

Halfway through the 2022-23 Women’s Super League season with Chelsea top of the table, is it too soon to declare them winners after the Blues’ closest rivals dropped points again this weekend ?

The proposition for teams at the top of the WSL will always be to sail through the season with as few dropped points as possible, accepting that winning every league game is a stretch. However, we have seen teams go entire seasons without losing a game – Arsenal in 2012, Manchester City in 2016 and Chelsea in 2017-18 and 2019-20 – and indeed a team can gain a lot from a draw. , especially if it’s a snatch from the clutches of defeat.

However, a draw can also be a blow. Arsenal fans may recall from their 2017-18 campaign how a scoreless draw against Yeovil Town hampered their title chances and isolated – due to them finishing a point behind Manchester City – the kept out of the Champions League the following season, despite being one of the only Seven matches they failed to win.

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With deadlocks for second-placed Manchester United and third-placed Arsenal on Sunday, it’s reasonable to wonder whether, at this stage of the season, it will be one game too many for either team as they chase Chelsea top of the table. WSL ranking. . While the Blues held on to see out the final minutes of a nervy 3-2 win over Spurs earlier in the day, Arsenal’s frustration in front of goal at West Ham may have just put all the challenges of the title out of reach for the season. Hours later, it was Manchester United, two points behind Chelsea, who failed to score against a resolute Everton side.

It is worth highlighting the excellent goalkeeping performances of Courtney Brosnan and Mackenzie Arnold in the nets for Everton and West Ham respectively. Both marksmen have worked hard to keep the sheets clean and help their sides earn a point, which only makes things harder for Man United and Arsenal respectively from here.

There’s a lot to analyze about why neither United nor Arsenal were able to score despite posting 25 and 21 shots in total – the Red Devils were particularly finicky, managing just four efforts on target. To their credit, Arsenal worked Arnold more with his nine shots on target, camping completely in West Ham’s half and even preventing the Irons from having a shot of their own after the 10th minute. Compare that with the nine attempts Chelsea have had against Spurs – and three goals from five shots on target – and you can see three different games with Spurs and Everton capable of going ahead against their opponents.

On another day, it’s easy to expect different results with United and Arsenal finding just enough to get the better of Brosnan and Arnold – as we know, that’s how it is sometimes in football. Yet there is only one team that always finds just the right thing in every game: Chelsea. Both Tottenham goals came from two shots on target and from Chelsea were really sloppy at the back – defender Magda Eriksson’s presence is clearly missed by the team when she’s not on the pitch. But the Blues have done what they have so consistently since winning their first WSL title in 2015 and found enough to get them over the line.

Indeed, Chelsea warned the WSL at the start of the year, when Arsenal had the chance to overtake Chelsea and Man United and climb to the top of the table with a victory over the Blues. In the 88th minute at the Emirates, the Gunners were heading for a win and were close to leveling the defending champions on the points table, but disaster struck: Chelsea striker Sam Kerr nodded ball over the lobed glove of goalkeeper Manuela Zinsberger. The result, a 1-1 draw, was a blow for Arsenal, but being just three points behind Chelsea with a game less, it was not the end of their title challenge. However, with each passing week as Chelsea continue to find a way when their opponents cannot, each point lost begins to matter more.

Sometimes it’s about Chelsea’s perfectly executed plan and how they can exploit their opponent’s weaknesses. For others, it’s a moment of magic like the one striker Lauren James produced against Spurs, or simply the benefit of partnerships that have been worked on week after week. The Blues are consistent in their ability to score goals and score points even in games where they look positively discolored, such as their draw against Arsenal in January, when they went off target until the final 10 minutes.

With 10 games still to play for Chelsea and United, and 11 for Arsenal, it seems far too soon to declare anyone champions when Chelsea’s lead could be dissolved in a single matchday. Yet a stumble never seems to impact the Blues once the finish line is in sight, as their four WSL titles over the past five seasons suggest.

Arsenal manager Jonas Eidevall may well regret the club’s failure to sign a ‘prolific striker’ in the January window, and he has said he does, after world-record offers from Gunners for star striker Alessia Russo have been turned down by Man United. For all the quality of the Arsenal squad, with every player capable of scoring regardless of their position, it was this lack of clinical finishing that cost them against West Ham on Sunday as against Chelsea in January. Consecutive league draws may not have been the nails in Arsenal’s coffin, but their title challenge needs medical attention.

As for United, who parted ways in the second half of the season last year to finish fourth, and who had to follow in Chelsea’s footsteps and win a few games. ugly already this season, it is increasingly necessary for the team to find a plan B during frustrating games, lest they once again eclipse the race.

For now, Chelsea are top of the table, with a small buffer between them and those who chase, which is exactly where they like to be. For challengers like Arsenal and Man United, they should hope they don’t look back on last weekend when they ceded the WSL race to Chelsea, as fighting for the title away from the Blues could be more difficult than winning. trying to get the newspaper out of your dog’s jaws.


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