Too little too late from Arsenal?
Arsenal’s 4-0 victory at Aston Villa had plenty of impressive elements. The WSL’s leading scorer, Vivianne Miedema, got her 12th goal of the season, Jordan Nobbs – back from a quad injury – added the second after relentless pressure, and Katie McCabe and Lisa Evans made the score better reflect Arsenal’s 78% possession and 14 shots on goal.
It left Arsenal six points behind Manchester United with a game in hand in the battle for that coveted third place and Champions League football. Arsenal are due to host United on 18 March and have a goal difference superior by 14, but I think it may be too little too late from Joe Montemurro’s team.
After a strong start to the season Arsenal have stalled, with their away form particularly poor before Sunday. They had been defeated in three of their previous four away matches (against Chelsea, Manchester City and United) and drawn the other (at Reading). To put it in perspective they had lost three of their 22 away league fixtures before that.
This first meeting with Villa was a newly promoted side against the most decorated women’s team in history, and Villa held firm until the second half only because Lisa Weiss saved brilliantly on numerous occasions.
Free-scoring City ready to pounce
Manchester City showed with a 4-0 win at Birmingham that they are waiting to pounce if Chelsea, the leaders, slip up. They sit two points behind and have scored 42 times in their past 10 WSL games. Sunday was the second occasion during that run when they have ended with four goals and there have been two seven-goal hauls and one of eight.
This was an eighth league victory in a row for Gareth Taylor’s side and significantly they had the USA midfielder Sam Mewis back after injury. She got the first two goals, assisted both times by Chloe Kelly, who has the most goal involvements in the WSL this season. That put the game beyond Birmingham, who only had 18% possession.
Kelly’s statistics are impressive but Lauren Hemp has been another key part of City’s revival and she got the third goal before Caroline Weir scored her fifth in five matches since returning from injury.
The match was at St George’s Park because Solihull Moors’ stadium was deemed to be “not meeting requirements”. It has been Birmingham’s home since 2014 but their last win there was in October 2019 so home advantage did not appear to exist.
Scott making her mark at Everton
Jill Scott headed Everton’s winner in their topsy-turvy 3-2 win at Tottenham and the swift impact she has had on the team was seen in the way her teammates mobbed her in celebration. Scott is back on loan from Manchester City and it was fantastic for her last Tuesday to win her 150th cap against Northern Ireland.
The midfielder had been stuck on 149 since last March and finally became the second player, after Fara Williams, to hit that milestone. They are two legends of the game.
England’s 6-0 win bears further reflection. The team had gone flat, winning only three of their final nine games under Phil Neville and looking devoid of flair. In this first match under Hege Riise the players seemed to perform with freedom and expression and I’d love that to carry on.
The friendly featured Ellen White’s first England hat-trick and four debuts, including for Manchester United’s Ella Toone, who completed the scoring with a penalty. But there were lots of impressive performances for Riise to mull over and there are only a few international fixtures before the Olympic squad is named. It will be a tough cut and massive disappointment lies ahead for many players.
Spurs on a journey but must be patient
Tottenham fought back well against Everton – only to lose to that Scott goal. They had gone 2-0 down before sparking a revival when Angela Addison calmly finished a through-ball before half-time. The former England international Gemma Davison then half-volleyed them level on 57 minutes.
Spurs are ambitious and on a journey to get into the Champions League but they will have to wait at least another season, and the same goes for Everton.
Everton had won only one of their previous nine WSL games but the return of Valérie Gauvin before the international break was positive. In only her second start since injury in November she scored two penalties in the opening 18 minutes.