1) City deflated but still title favourites
Manchester City will be deflated after the manner of their 2-2 draw with Chelsea on Sunday, conceding twice having led 2-0 at half-time, with the second of Chelsea’s goals coming in the final two minutes. But they remain top and very much in the hunt for the title. Nick Cushing said as much after the game and what will have pleased City’s manager is the way his side started against Chelsea. Their tempo was ferocious and did not relent until the final whistle. Nikita Parris was key to City’s approach with her high energy and persistent pressing of Chelsea’s defence, which in turn led to errors on the opposition’s part. Meanwhile, Tessa Wullaert capitalised on some lackadaisical play from the back by Chelsea while City’s second goal, scored by Georgia Stanway, was a thing of beauty. “Based on the team I’ve just watched they’re not going to drop points,” said Emma Hayes of City after Sunday’s game. It is hard to argue.
2) Chelsea’s championship grip is slipping
Chelsea’s title hopes are hanging by a thread. They sit third, six points behind City and four behind second-placed Arsenal, who have two games in hand. It is hard to see the champions making up ground on either of their rivals, especially given how they are currently performing. Chelsea have looked vulnerable ever since their seven-game winning streak came to an end and in two games against City – in the Continental Cup and the Super League – they have been very wasteful. Fortunately for them on Sunday, Ji So-yun rode to the rescue in the second half, scoring twice in 38 minutes to give the visitors a share of the points, but as Hayes conceded afterwards, her side are well and truly off the pace.
3) Miedema sparks Arsenal’s charge
Arsenal’s 2-1 victory over Manchester United in their Continental Cup semi-final last week means Joe Montemurro’s side remain in the hunt for the Treble, and given how well they are playing it is more than possible they will complete that feat. Arsenal have had the odd wobble but they keep finding a way to win, a task undeniably made easier by the presence of Vivianne Miedema, who was yet again brilliant against United. The striker scored both of Arsenal’s goals at Meadow Park, taking her tally to 25 for the season, with 14 of those coming in the Super League, already making her the top scorer in a single WSL campaign. What has been important to Miedema run of goals has been her fitness – she’s played in every single game, which is in stark contrast to last year when she was hampered by a calf injury. Arsenal can see now how much that affected them at the time, because with a fit and firing Miedema they are a much stronger and deadly side.
4) James impresses for United
Manchester United may have lost to Arsenal but they pushed their opponents from the WSL all the way and, in doing so, showed they are getting better and better. What really impresses about Casey Stoney’s fledgling squad is how rounded it is – there is experience as well as youth and enough depth for the manager to implement tactical changes if and when required. For instance, she targeted Arsenal’s left-hand side as it is their principal area of weakness and it worked as United, with overloads and pace in that area, created several openings only to be let down by the subsequent finishing. But as they continue to fight for promotion to the WSL, United can take heart from how they went toe-to-toe with one of the leading sides from the division, and in particular from the display of 17-year-old midfielder Lauren James. For me, she is the rising star of English football.
5) Spurs earn chance to show WSL credentials
The FA Cup fifth-round draw is complete following the fourth-round ties that took place at the weekend and there are some intriguing contests to look forward to. The standout is Chelsea v Arsenal, but I’m also intrigued by Tottenham v Manchester City. Tottenham are having a really good season in the Championship – leading the way having won 12 out of 14 fixtures, but as things stand they do not meet the criteria for promotion. That is tough for Spurs but should also mean them putting in a really determined display against City as they look to prove they indeed have what it takes to compete with WSL opponents. Reading v Birmingham is also an exciting, all-WSL tie. For Reading, who beat Keynsham 13-0 on Sunday to reach the fifth round, there is the need to push on after a difficult spell, while for Birmingham, who won 3-1 at Yeovil, there continues the process of becoming a more technical side under Marta Tejedor.
BT Sport has coverage of women’s football all season, including the FA WSL Continental Tyres League Cup Final (Arsenal v Man City) on Saturday, February 23, on BT Sport 1 from noon.
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