Sport

Women’s Super League: talking points from the weekend’s action

Patience is a virtue – but how much is there at Everton?
The new Everton manager Jean-Luc Vasseur’s appeal for patience following his team’s 1-0 defeat by Brighton might be seen as optimistic. “The project is long and we need to be patient”, he said. One league game is not enough time to get a team up to speed with a new philosophy but it is hard to see why Vasseur will be afforded time when his predecessor Willie Kirk wasn’t. Before Saturday’s loss to Brighton, Everton dropped points against Manchester City, Chelsea and Arsenal and, while it had been hoped they would be more competitive against those sides, it was perhaps naive of the club to expect a team that had undergone wholesale changes in the summer to go toe to toe with squads that have a much more established core. Everton face a problem that any team attempting to break into the top three will face; it takes time to build up a squad of players able to compete at the top, year after year, and it takes time to embed those players. In many ways Kirk has paid the price for an attempt to buy fast success.

City win for first time since opening round
The main talking point this season has been Manchester City’s poor form. It is their worst start to the WSL but the manager, Gareth Taylor, has now started to steer their campaign back on track. At the weekend City recorded a 4-1 win over struggling Leicester City, despite going 1-0 down after a minute. They are seventh and, despite it being early in the season, are unlikely to win the league now. But if their results continue to improve they could still target that all-important Champions League qualifying top-three spot. “We’re in a good feeling,” Taylor said. “I think it was really important for us to get points on the board like we have.”

Chelsea’s Fleming continues good form
Olympic champion Jessie Fleming maintained top form in Chelsea’s 1-0 win over Aston Villa, scoring the only goal of the game. Her effort may have been a straightforward one, a late tap-in past Hannah Hampton, but it added to her impressive stats this campaign. Fleming has two goals, one assist and an 85% pass rate success after six matches. The young player is developing well at Chelsea and manager Emma Hayes acknowledged as much post-match. “[Villa] sit really low and you have to work hard to drag them out of the spaces,” Hayes said. “We did that really well in the first half with the runs from Jessie. The movement from Beth [England] was also good.”

Spurs show the importance of a plan
Tottenham’s first point from seven games against Manchester United put them third in the league and is a big milestone for the north London side. True, Manchester United are not as formidable in attack as they have been in recent seasons, with Leah Galton and Kirsty Hanson struggling to make an impact, but Tottenham look a well-organised team with a plan all the players understand. It is not the teams splashing money on transfers that look most likely to break into the top three. Instead it is Tottenham and Brighton, two clubs reaping the rewards of having recruited managers, in Rehanne Skinner and Hope Powell, who understand how to get the best out of their players. As a former assistant coach with the national team and former England manager respectively, both are used to doing just that.

Birmingham still without a win
Unlike Leicester, who are bottom, Birmingham have experience in the WSL but seem to be on a downward trajectory. A match against Reading presented the perfect opportunity for the club to gain valuable points with their opponents just one place ahead of them in the table before the match. They managed to hold Kelly Chambers’ team off until the second half but then conceded three times. Scott Booth was appointed ahead of the season to change the club’s fortunes but instead they seem to have regressed further. It may be that only Leicester can save them from relegation and there will be a tasty fixture for fans when the bottom two face each other next month.

Captain Kim reaches half century
The stars in Arsenal’s squad make it easy to overlook the consistent and dependable captain Kim Little. However, she made her presence felt in their 4-0 win over West Ham as she scored twice to take her WSL tally to 50. She became one of the select group, also including her Arsenal teammate Vivianne Miedema, to reach the milestone and did so in 98 games. The former Scotland international was modest post-match, telling Sky Sports: “Most importantly we got the win and the three points … We want to make sure we don’t concede and I think we’ve got that mentality right now.” Arsenal have scored 50 goals this season across all competitions, to match Little’s mark.