Football Features

Women’s Super League mid-season review: Arsenal, Man City & Chelsea in three-way race

By Harry Edwards

Published: 12:01, 18 December 2019

After 10 gameweeks of pulsating action, the FA Women’s Super League takes its winter break.

Tipped as the biggest season of women’s football in England, off the back of the 2019 World Cup, the WSL has not disappointed.

We’ve seen close games, other-worldly individual displays, records smashed and men’s stadiums filled. Although the top three appear to have pulled away from the rest, the title race is a tight one while things at the bottom are also too close to call.

The WSL returns in the first weekend of January but, for now, it is a time for reflection — looking back at the season so far. Who has impressed, who needs to improve in 2020 and what have been the moments of the 2019/20 campaign so far?

Arsenal

Position: 1st

Record: Wins: 9 Draws: 0 Losses: 1

The defending champions going into the season, expectations were high on Arsenal to retain their title in 2019/20 — even with the added fixtures of the Uefa Women’s Champions League. And Joe Montemurro’s side have been fantastic, growing in confidence with every win. The only side to win against Arsenal in the WSL this season is Chelsea, but the Gunners bounced back shortly after to beat fellow title challengers Manchester City.

Moment of the season so far: Vivianne Miedema’s dismantling of Bristol City.

Perhaps the moment of the season for the entire WSL, Miedema went crazy on the eve of the Ballon d’Or — where she placed fifth despite enjoying a record-breaking year. The latest record came in an 11-1 win over Bristol City, the biggest ever WSL margin of victory and its highest scoring game. Miedema left the field after 70 minutes with Arsenal 10-0 up and was involved in every goal scoring a double hat-trick and adding just the four assists.

Birmingham City

Position: 9th

Record: Wins: 2 Draws: 1 Losses: 5

After finishing fourth last season as the best of the rest, so to speak, there may have been some expectation for Birmingham to at least match their performance. But a summer of overhaul has hit Birmingham hard and they are a far cry from last season’s team. Marta Tejedor’s side have managed just two WSL wins so far, and have managed just five goals and sit four points off the bottom. However, they did see two games called off so there is still a chance for them to claw their way up the table in the second half of the season.

Moment of the season so far: Win over Liverpool.

Birmingham went into their fourth WSL game of the season without a win or goal, joint-bottom with opponents Liverpool. But the side that turned up in late October apparently hadn’t been told of the difficulties, dominating Liverpool. Kerys Harrop gave Tejedor’s side an early lead — Birmingham’s first league goal of the season — before Lucy Staniforth capped off the win late on. Unfortunately, things haven’t been much better since.

Brighton & Hove Albion

Position: 10th

Record: Wins: 1 Draws: 3 Losses: 6

Brighton’s second season in the top flight of women’s football isn’t going too well, with the Seagulls just three points off the bottom. Former England manager Hope Powell has yet been unable to work her magic on the side but this appears to be very much a project, one the 53-year-old is being trusted to fulfil. Worries of relegation are somewhat eased currently by the fact that there is at least one team worse than them this season.

Moment of the season so far: Beating Birmingham City 3-0.

Another team who unfortunately haven’t had too much to celebrate, Brighton have had two big moments of the season so far. The first was drawing with Chelsea in the second game, being one of just two teams to take points off the Blues, but their 3-0 win over Birmingham may be more significant. A 3-0 victory in November is their only one of the season so far and was the perfect display for Powell’s side.

Bristol City

Position: 12th

Record: Wins: 0 Draws: 3 Losses: 6

Bristol City finished a respectable sixth in the WSL last season, comfortably safe from relegation without threatening the top four. But this year has been a complete change in form and the Vixens sit bottom of the WSL, currently staring relegation in the face. Yet to win, Bristol City have accumulated three points from nine games and are bottom due to their inferior goal difference. That comes after their 11-1 defeat at the hands of Miedema and Arsenal.

Moment of the season so far: Coming from behind to draw 3-3 with Reading.

Unfortunately, Bristol City’s first half of the season will be remembered for that 11-1 thrashing by Arsenal, but the Vixens may want to focus on a dramatic 3-3 draw with Reading for inspiration. Bristol City were dominated by their hosts and were 2-0 down after 18 minutes. They managed to pull a goal back but saw the deficit stretched to two once more, just after half-time. However, they continued to fight and hold Reading back, eventually equalising and earning a point.

Chelsea

Position: 3rd

Record: Wins: 7 Draws: 2 Losses: 0

Some people may have discounted Chelsea for the title after an underwhelming defence last season but Emma Hayes is back to her best and the Blues have looked on form. There have been two minor blips with draws against strugglers Brighton and Liverpool, which currently puts Chelsea in third, but there have also been big moments. The Blues have recorded the highest-ever attendance for a WSL game not played at a non-Premier League stadium, and have already beaten title contenders Arsenal and Man City at Kingsmeadow.

Moment of the season so far: Signing Sam Kerr.

As previously mentioned, Chelsea have enjoyed massive wins over Arsenal and Man City coming from behind in both, but there may be a bigger moment that could shift the title race in their favour. In November, Chelsea announced the signing of 26-year-old striker Sam Kerr — widely regarded as the best forward in world football. She is the all-time record scorer in both the American and Australian leagues and was named as the best women’s player in the Guardian’s Top 100. Set to make her debut in January, Kerr’s arrival in the WSL is big.

Everton

Position: 5th

Record: Wins: 5 Draws: 0 Losses: 4

Everton were poor last season, only saved from relegation by the unfortunate demise of Yeovil, but the Toffees have brushed away all negativity from the campaign to grow under Willie Kirk. Chloe Kelly has been just one of the stars this season to have earned acclaim for their performances and Everton are deserving of their place in fifth so far. Kirk was also rewarded for Everton’s November form, picking up the Manager of the Month award.

Moment of the season so far: Beating Liverpool at Anfield.

There have been highs and lows for Everton so far this season, with hard-fought wins accompanied by comprehensive defeats. But perhaps the highest of highs was a 1-0 win over Liverpool. Yes, Liverpool have struggled this season and Everton may have hoped for a larger margin of victory but this Merseyside derby took place at Anfield — the stadium’s first WSL game — in front of 23,500 fans.

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Liverpool

Position: 11th

Record: Wins: 0 Draws: 3 Losses: 7

Liverpool have been regressing over the past few seasons and in 2019/20, it has not been any different. Vicky Jepson’s side are one of just two teams still awaiting their first WSL win of the campaign and are only above Bristol City on goal difference. But, despite accumulating just three points and scoring only two goals from open play, the Reds have been improving in recent weeks and will hope their momentum isn’t hurt by the winter break.

Moment of the season so far: Draw with Chelsea.

There hasn’t been too much to celebrate at Liverpool this season and even their good performances weren’t getting the results they deserved. That was until they welcomed Chelsea to Prenton Park. Chelsea manager Hayes wasn’t too happy with the conditions in a game that needed a pitch inspection 10 minutes before kick-off but Liverpool were excellent in frustrating their visitors and well worth the point they got — even taking an early lead.

Manchester City

Position: 2nd

Record: Wins: 8 Draws: 0 Losses: 2

Man City were second last season and that’s where they stand so far. With eight wins from a possible 10, Man City will be happy with their WSL season as a whole, including the performances of their defence and goalkeeper Ellie Roebuck, who has conceded just three goals. However, those three goals have come in defeats to title rivals Arsenal and Chelsea, showing there is still room for improvement.

Moment of the season so far: 5-0 vs West Ham.

October ended pretty poorly for Man City, losing to Arsenal and Man Utd in the Continental Cup and exiting the Champions League. But Man City bounced back from all that, after the international break, with a 5-0 win over West Ham. Georgia Stanway, 20, was the star of that match, scoring twice and recording an assist on her 100th game for the club. The moment was slightly marred by Stanway also getting sent off, but it contributed to a frankly ridiculous match from the 20-year-old.

Manchester United

Position: 4th

Record: Wins: 5 Draws: 0 Losses: 4

Following their promotion from the Championship, Manchester United were a tough team to decipher. They had stormed to glory in England’s second-tier in their maiden campaign but how would they fare in the big leagues? Pretty well, it turns out. Casey Stoney’s side couldn’t have got off to a worse start, losing 1-0 to Man City and then Arsenal, but they have bounced back to win five games and currently sit as the best of the rest. A title challenge is definitely too far away for this season, but United can be proud of their WSL start and it’s something to build on for years to come.

Moment of the season so far: Lauren James signing a professional contract.

United fans will have enjoyed beating Man City in the Continental Cup and there have been so many positives on the pitch but securing Lauren James’ future may be the best so far. The 18-year-old has been brilliant for Stoney this season, scoring five goals so far and terrorising defences with her technical ability and strength.

Reading

Position: 6th

Record: Wins: 4 Draws: 2 Losses: 3

It’s been an up and down season for Reading so far but, at the halfway point, they sit comfortably in mid-table. Only the top three have lost fewer games than Reading but they also have one of the worst defences in the division, conceding 17 goals. Fara Williams has been excellent, which comes as a surprise to none, and they went into the winter break off the back of a good win over Tottenham.

Moment of the season so far: 3-2 win over West Ham

Reading have had some good wins, but perhaps the best was their 3-2 victory against West Ham in late November. The Royals were 2-0 down and a player down as the game entered its final 15 minutes with Rachel Rowe getting sent off. But three goals in seven minutes from Kristine Leine, Brooke Chaplen and Jade Moore completed a dramatic comeback that had looked unlikely.

Tottenham Hotspur

Position: 7th

Record: Wins: 4 Draws: 1 Losses: 5

After a loss to Chelsea in their first WSL game, Tottenham enjoyed a good run of form, winning three of their next four games. Two of those coming in September was enough to secure the Manager of the Month award for Karen Hills and Juan Carlos Amaros. However, they have faltered recently, perhaps unable to fully deal with the quality of some WSL teams having only been promoted in the summer.

Moment of the season so far: North London derby posting record crowd.

Result-wise, Tottenham will not look back fondly on their 2-0 defeat to Arsenal in the first WSL North London Derby. But taking a step back, the club made history. With the first women’s game to be played at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, a record was set with 38,262 fans in attendance — the most in WSL history.

West Ham United

Position: 8th

Record: Wins: 3 Draws: 1 Losses: 5

There have been more downs than ups for West Ham this season, but the Hammers are in a respectable position going into the second half of the campaign. They appear safe from relegation and can focus on improving themselves and, in particular, their winning record having only managed three so far despite some good performances.

Moment of the season so far: 3-2 win over Manchester United.

One week after losing a 2-0 lead against Reading, West Ham showed their capabilities of a comeback. The Hammers went 1-0 down to United inside a minute but responded very quickly, equalising moments later. Another United lead late on was shut down just as quickly and the Hammers won at the death with a wonderful chipped free-kick from Katharina Baunach as the game neared injury time.

FAWSL 2019/20 top scorers

1. Vivianne Miedema: 14 goals
2. Bethany England: 6 goals
3. Chloe Kelly: 5 goals
=. Lauren James: 5 goals
5. Pauline Bremer: 4 goals
=. Kim Little: 4 goals

FAWSL 2019/20 assist leaders

1. Vivianne Miedema: 7 assists
2. Fara Williams: 5 assists
3. Janine Beckie: 4 assists
4. 10 players: 3 assists

FAWSL 2019/20 most saves

1. Sophie Baggaley: 44 saves
2. Rebecca Spencer: 34 saves
3. Tinja-Riikka Korpela: 33 saves
4. Megan Walsh: 31 saves
5. Hannah Hampton: 31 saves

FAWSL 2019/20 most clean sheets

1. Ellie Roebuck: 8
2. Manuela Zinsberger: 5
3. Tinja-Riikka Korpela: 4
=. Ann-Katrin Berger: 4
=. Mary Earps: 4

FAWSL 2019/20 most successful passes

1. Jennifer Beattie: 746 passes completed
2. Leah Williamson: 695 passes completed
3. Steph Houghton: 616 passes completed
4. Gemma Bonner: 590 passes completed
5. Caroline Weir: 520 passes completed

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