The WSL will be back this weekend, with Arsenal travelling to play bottom-placed Reading.
It’s been a very good start to the new season for Arsenal who looks to end Chelsea’s dominance in the Super League. After an incredible summer for the Lionesses who conquered Europe for the first time in their history, the football fanatics in England are very interested for what’s next on a club level.
A GREAT START TO THE NEW SEASON
Arsenal’s first fixture of the season against Manchester City got postponed but still with a game in hand they lead the Women’s Super League on a goal difference ahead of favorites Chelsea who were shocked by promoted side Liverpool on the opening day of the new season. The Gunners on the other hand had no problems against Brighton, dispatching them 4-0 with EUROS 2022 Player of the Tournament Beth Mead being the driving force behind this victory.
Brighton were no match for Arsenal who dominated the entire game by keeping 76% possession and taking 14 shots to the opposition’s one although they had a rough start in the first half. They looked disjointed in moments and were giving away the ball far too easily although the midfield and backline were much on their toes and quickly lost possession. Additionally, they also missed out on some great opportunities in the game they more than made up for it in the second half. We can attribute this tough first half to EUROS hangover as most of the Gunners squad were part of the teams which went deep into the tournament.
Meado’s revenge tour continues 😎 pic.twitter.com/n1MFMEcwMs
— Arsenal Women (@ArsenalWFC) September 16, 2022
The Gunners had a tough opposition ahead next but on the European stage, AFC Ajax who they needed to beat in order to qualify for this season’s UEFA Champions League. It was a very tough game at home which ended in a 2-2 draw. But the away leg will stand out and could be a testament that this side can grind results when they need the most. Although Arsenal were not able to get behind the opposition as frequently as they would have wanted, they were incredibly sound defensively and Super Vivi’s long-range effort was enough for them to go through to the group stages of Europe’s top competition.
They have been drawn into a challenging group with the most successful team in the history of the competition, eight-time defending champions Lyon and defending Serie A champs Juventus and Swiss champions Zurich to round off the group.
But the best game until now and probably will be of the season was when Arsenal played Tottenham Hotspur in the North London derby in the Emirates Stadium. The game smashed the previous record for attendance also when the two sides played each other back in 2019 as 47,367 fans packed into the Emirates to watch the game.
Arsenal made it their point that their fans would not leave the stadium without enjoying as they swept their rivals 4-0. Just 5 minutes into the game Beth Mead opened the scoring charts for Arsenal with Super Vivi getting two on the day and Rafaelle Souza rounded off the scorer’s list. It was a game very similar to the Brighton one as Arsenal dominated Tottenham both in possession and in attack.
Different week. Same outcome. 😎 pic.twitter.com/sBUAZ1K5ev
— Arsenal Women (@ArsenalWFC) September 24, 2022
BUT DO THEY HAVE ENOUGH IN THEIR TANK TO BEAT THIS CHELSEA SIDE?
As good as Arsenal has been this season and has been in the past, Chelsea has always had the upper hand throughout the last season. The Gunners are the country’s most successful team, having also won the European Cup, but they have been defeated in recent years by Chelsea.
Chelsea have won every title since Arsenal won it in 2019, and they were on the verge of ending their dynasty last season if they hadn’t lost 2-0 to eventually-relegated Birmingham in January, a setback that was their only loss in the whole WSL season the previous year. It was also a difficult season in cup competitions, as they lost 2-0 to eventual champions Chelsea in the FA Cup semifinals and to Manchester United in the League Cup quarter-finals. They narrowly qualified for the Champions League group stages when 1899 Hoffenheim came close to defeating Arsenal on better head-to-head results.
This season, Arsenal may make a significant stride toward challenging Chelsea for the title. If you look at the in and outs of this summer transfer window, six players departed the club and just three were brought in. Amongst those is Gio Queiroz, the Brazilian kid described by head coach Pia Sundhage as “probably the future of the squad,” has gone on loan to Everton for the remainder of the season, while Lina Hurtig has joined from Juventus to give some much-needed support in the attacking areas. The main business was already completed by the Gunners in the January transfer window when they signed Stina Blackstenius from Swedish team BK Häcken and centre-back Rafaelle, 31, from Palmeiras.
Arguably the biggest win for Arsenal was to keep the WSL’s all-time top goal-scorer Vivianne Miedema, who even after heavy interest from Spanish giants FC Barcelona decided to stay at the club by extending her current deal. Add to that UEFA EURO champions England captain Leah Williamson and talisman Beth Mead you have possibly the most renowned names in English football.
INTERNATIONAL BREAK BRINGS IN TROUBLE
The depth in the squad will mean that Arsenal have the ability to go deep into all competitions, however this will be challenged since three players had to withdraw from participating during the international break due to injury for England and one of them being Leah. They could probably get away with injuries in WSL given their squad depth but Jonas Eidevall’s side will be seriously tested in Europe.
THE EMMA HAYES VS JONAS EIDEVALL BATTLE
Emma Hayes rules the WSL, unlike the men’s side – Chelsea Women’s FC has a manager who has been in her job for ten years. She has completely changed the club from the ground up. In her first season in charge, Chelsea, who were still a part-time professional club, finished third-last in the League. The following season, they finished second-to-last. Then her revolution started to take shape, and she has now built a dynasty that is second only to Arsenal’s Vic Akers, who was assisted by Hayes when he was at the club from 2006 to 2009.
So it’s clear that Arsenal is up against a legend, and if Jonas Eidevall’s first season is any indication, we know that he is not going to back down. He has all the tools he needs. The rivalry between these two coaches is starting to grow, and it seems like it will only get fierier this season.
All in all, Arsenal do have a squad that can challenge Chelsea. Although The Blues do have a better squad if we compare them head to head and also they have the winning experience & that counts for a lot but the squad at Arsenal, as they always do, have a close knit chemistry and that can come into consideration again. Even when Arsenal were leading the WSL (even if it was with a game in hand), Chelsea managed to win all the last eight games to clinch the title. The margins are very thin and we can expect the battle to go to the last matchday even this season.