The current champions of the Women’s Super League have begun their defence of the title in very underwhelming fashion. Chelsea Women have opened their league campaign with three consecutive 0-0 draws which leaves them languishing in 6th place; already 6 points behind Arsenal Women who have started the season like a house on fire. Emma Hayes and her side know that they can be better but what is hindering them so far this season? There are a number of reasons which I will delve into.
The turnover of the squad over the summer was huge, in fact unprecedented. Chelsea let go of over 300 appearances for the club as some of the old guard moved onto pastures new. Eniola Aluko, Katie Chapman, Claire Rafferty and others were in the fabric of the club and knew the identity of the club inside and out. They all contributed hugely to Chelsea’s success over the years. The fact they’re not around anymore will take some getting used to. Add to that the number of new players that have come in to replace them; it should come as no surprise that the Blues have started slowly. Chelsea fans shouldn’t fret though as the club has done its best to replace that experience; Sophie Ingle and Jess Carter come in with WSL experience and are potentially world class players. While Adelina Engman and Ali Riley bring their overseas flair to the league having had strong seasons abroad. Coupled with the capable squad already at Chelsea, the team will start turning those draws into wins.
Competitiveness of the WSL
While last season was a two-horse race between Chelsea and Manchester City fighting for the league title, over the past 12 months the competition in the WSL 1 has been improving. As stated earlier, the current league leaders are Arsenal and they have a genuine shot at being title winners this year under the stewardship of Joe Montemurro in his first full year in charge. Teams that would have been dispatched comfortably last year, have learnt from their mistakes and are now much tougher proposition. For example, Chelsea were able to get the full 6 points vs Bristol City last season, this year the Vixens put in an amazing performance to get a draw and can be considered unlucky not to have gotten all three points.
Breaking Teams Down
Chelsea’s slow start in the league is all the more surprising considering they have played in two other competitions so far this season and have won comfortably. Chelsea easily beat FK Sarajevo in both legs of their first Champions League tie of the year while they have also stormed to the top of their Continental Cup group by winning all three of their group games. Chelsea seem to find it difficult to break teams down in the league this year and are having less shots and subsequently fewer shots on target. In Chelsea’s most recent away game at Everton Ladies, the Blues had 20 shots in total with only 6 of them hitting the target. Comparing that with their first away game of last season, where they beat Bristol City 6-0, Chelsea had 29 shots with 12 on target. The Blues tested the opposition goalkeeper with 41% of their shots last season, compared to 30% this. Furthermore, Chelsea played title rivals Manchester City at home in the first match of this season. The Blues only mustered 14 shots, with City outshooting them. This is a stark decrease from the match between the two teams last season when Chelsea went up to Manchester. Chelsea managed to score two goals, dominating the game and having 25 shots at goal compared to City’s 8.
Chelsea Women welcome newly promoted Brighton & Hove Albion Women to Kingsmeadow this weekend, who have lost all three of their games so far this term, they couldn’t have picked a better opponent to help get them back in their groove.