Kirby shines among stars at Chelsea
I was at the game between Chelsea and Manchester City, and had goosebumps before kick-off just looking at the names in the starting XIs. There were 11 different nationalities across the two teams, all with senior international caps, and half a dozen international captains – a demonstration of the strides taken in recent years by the WSL and by teams. Chelsea started on top, finished on top, and thoroughly deserved their win – even if they took the lead with a controversial penalty, when the referee penalised Ellen White for handball even though Demi Stokes had got in the way of the ball first, and without using her arm.
For all the international stars it was a thrill to see Fran Kirby back at full fitness and at the top of her game. Her struggles with pericarditis have been well documented, but having recovered she now looks sharp, scored Chelsea’s third and created their second, a thing of beauty and wonder: a ball from Ann-Katrin Berger in goal to Ji So-yun, who took it on the half-turn, spotted Kirby’s run down the right and played a perfect 40-yard pass into her path, Kirby whipped it into the area first-time and Sam Kerr finished – it was absolute perfection. There were some positive signs for City, but as so often when their performance doesn’t quite hit the heights you look at the teamsheet and Jill Scott is either missing or on the bench. Sam Mewis looks the real deal but I think City would benefit for having both her and Scott on the pitch.
Brighton brace earns Miedema place in record books
Vivianne Miedema continues to be unstoppable – she has now scored 49 WSL goals, equalling Nikita Parris’s all-time record, is already the Netherlands’ all-time leading scorer, and is only 24. I’m liking the ruthless streak Arsenal are on: they aren’t just beating opponents, they are battering them, with a goal difference of +20 after four games making their 5-0 win on the south coast pretty much par for the course, and that goal difference has been enough to put them at the top. Their team is largely unchanged from last season, but there is a bit of added depth. Lotte Wubben-Moy, for example, has come back to England after three years in Americaand must be so inspired by the inspirational environment they are in. It was great to see her on the scoresheet. This was a wobble from Brighton, who have been competitive in their other games, and got a good draw at Manchester City last month. Under Hope Powell they will be very well-drilled – their objective is to finish mid-table, to make progress on last season’s ninth-placed finish, and despite this result that looks achievable for them.
Spurs suffer from missing Morgan
A tale of US internationals: Tobin Heath set up Manchester United’s winner, while there is still no sign of Alex Morgan at Tottenham. She has already proved her value in marketing terms – in the days after Spurs announced her signing they sold more shirts with her name on than anyone else, at least until Gareth Bale joined – but we haven’t seen her on the pitch, as she continues to work on her fitness. She has spoken about how people react to her just walking down the street in her Tottenham gear by quietly booing or cheering – “It’s fun to see how people are so invested in their teams,” she said – and for players coming from the US, where women’s franchises don’t always have male teams, and often don’t have international community recognition, this must be a big change. Spurs could do with getting Morgan on the pitch as soon as possible – they didn’t have a shot on target against United, and are absolutely crying out for a player with her speed, nous and positioning. They need an out player, someone to release the pressure. United played with a high line and space in behind, but Spurs did not have an attack capable of opening them up. Morgan would provide that.
Everton’s juggernaut keeps rolling
Everton are the only side managing to keep pace with Arsenal, after four wins from four – though it is not a coincidence that the teams they have played so far occupy the bottom four places. For the first time this season Lucy Graham did not start, but she came off the bench to score the two goals that sealed a 3-1 win – she has good speed, good technical ability, and is a leader on the pitch when they need one. Another player who is really standing out is Izzy Christiansen, who has come back from a spell at Lyon where she did not get as much playing time as she wanted and is fully fit, integral in a successful team, back in the England squad. I’ve not seen her without a smile on her face the whole time she’s had the blue shirt on. The same isn’t true of many players at West Ham, who seemed to have high ambitions in pre-season but so far have just one point from their four matches.
Birmingham show special spirit
Birmingham got their first points and their first win at Reading, and though Claudia Walker’s goal came against the run of play it was nevertheless an impressive performance. Nobody, including myself, gave Blues a chance this season, but after coming in just a few weeks before the start to a team that at that time only had a handful of players Carla Ward has established a competitive squad bursting with unity and belief. They know they will struggle against the big sides, but if their attitude and work ethic is right they feel they will nick enough points to stay up. Reading will say they should have won that game, but to take 22 shots and have only four on target shows they just weren’t on it, and Birmingham will pick up points when their opponents have an off day and they are at full tilt. It will mean so much for them to get these three points, and in what looks like being a tight league this year they could be invaluable.
Watch the biggest season of women’s football yet on BT Sport, with at least 22 live Barclays WSL matches – including Arsenal v Tottenham on 18 October, BT Sport 1 from 2pm.