Following the winter break, the 2021-22 Women’s Super League season resumes on Sunday with three games taking place.
The restart has been slightly delayed, with Chelsea v Tottenham and Aston Villa v Everton, scheduled for Friday and Saturday respectively, being postponed due to coronavirus cases, as has Sunday’s West Ham v Manchester United match.
The fixtures still on are leaders Arsenal playing at rock-bottom Birmingham, Brighton hosting Manchester City and Reading entertaining Leicester.
Here, the PA news agency looks at some of the key talking points as the WSL action gets back under way.
Arsenal, seeking a first piece of silverware since winning the WSL in 2019, look every bit potential champions having won eight and drawn one of their nine league games so far under new boss Jonas Eidevall, scoring 30 goals and conceding only three. They are currently four points clear of second-placed Chelsea, the 2020 and 2021 title-winners who they beat 3-2 in their opening game of the campaign, and it would be a major surprise if that has not extended to seven points by the end of Sunday.
As well as losing to Arsenal in September, Chelsea suffered a shock 1-0 defeat at Reading in their final WSL fixture of the year. But they have shown some ruthless form between those games, and any assumption that this will be the season they will fall short of claiming the league crown would certainly appear premature at this stage. February 13 is the date that Emma Hayes’ side – who completed a 2020-21 domestic treble in December by beating Arsenal 3-0 in the FA Cup final – are scheduled to host the Gunners in the league. Also worth noting is that Chelsea do not have Champions League football to cope with for the remainder of this season, having failed to make it out of the group stage, while Eidevall’s team will play in the quarter-finals in March.
The fight for third
Given they are currently just a point behind Chelsea in third, having played a game more, Rehanne Skinner’s surprise package Tottenham could possibly be regarded as part of the title race. In terms of trying to hold on to the final Champions League berth, their closest rivals at the moment are Manchester United and Brighton – Marc Skinner’s United are two points worse off having also played 10 games, while Hope Powell’s Brighton are five behind Spurs having played nine.
City look to salvage
Lying sixth with 13 points from nine games are last season’s runners-up Manchester City. Their hugely disappointing campaign to date, in which they have had to cope with considerable injury problems, has featured heavy losses to Arsenal and Chelsea as well as shock reverses against Tottenham and West Ham. It will be interesting to see how they fare in the new year as they look to get back up into the top three, with boss Gareth Taylor’s selection options being boosted by players returning – fit-again Steph Houghton and Lucy Bronze are in contention for the Birmingham game.
At the bottom it looks like a two-team contest to avoid relegation between Birmingham and promoted Leicester, both of whom have recently made changes in management. Birmingham replaced Scott Booth with Darren Carter in November, and Leicester subsequently axed Jonathan Morgan and brought in Lydia Bedford. The teams then met in their concluding fixture of 2021 and the Foxes ended their nine-game losing start to the season with a 2-0 victory at the King Power Stadium to send the Blues – who have one point – to the foot of the table. The rematch at St Andrew’s is due to take place on February 6.