Man United, Arsenal are ceding the WSL title race to Chelsea

Halfway by the 2022-23 Women’s Super League season with Chelsea high of the desk, is it too quickly to declare them the winners after the Blues’ closest rivals dropped factors once more over the weekend?

The proposition for the groups on the high of the WSL will all the time be to navigate the season with as few factors dropped as attainable, with the acceptance that profitable each single league sport is a stretch. However, we have seen groups go complete seasons with out shedding a sport — Arsenal in 2012, Manchester City in 2016 and Chelsea in 2017-18 and 2019-20 — and certainly, there’s a lot a staff can acquire from a draw, particularly if it is one snatched from the claws of defeat.

Yet, a draw can be a large blow. Arsenal followers would possibly keep in mind from their 2017-18 marketing campaign how a scoreless draw towards Yeovil Town dented their title probabilities and in isolation — as a result of ending a degree behind Manchester City — stored them out of the Champions League the subsequent season, regardless that it was one in every of simply seven video games they did not win.

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With stalemates for second-place Manchester United and third-place Arsenal on Sunday, it is affordable to marvel if, at this level within the season, this will likely be one draw too many for either side as they chase Chelsea on the high of the WSL desk. As the Blues held on to see out the final minutes of a nervy 3-2 win over Spurs earlier within the day, Arsenal’s frustration in entrance of purpose at West Ham might have simply put all title challenges out of attain for the season. Hours later it was Manchester United, sitting two factors behind Chelsea, who failed to attain towards a resolute Everton staff.

It’s value selecting out the sterling goalkeeper performances of each Courtney Brosnan and Mackenzie Arnold within the Everton and West Ham nets respectively. The two shot-stoppers labored laborious to maintain clear sheets and assist their groups earn a degree, which solely complicates issues for Man United and Arsenal respectively from right here.

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There is a lot to analyse over why neither United or Arsenal might rating after they posted 25 and 21 complete pictures — the Red Devils have been notably wayward, managing simply 4 efforts on course. To their credit score, Arsenal labored Arnold extra with their 9 pictures on course, fully tenting within the West Ham half and protecting the Irons from even having a shot of their very own after the tenth minute. Compare that with the 9 makes an attempt Chelsea managed towards Spurs — and three objectives from 5 pictures placed on body — and you’ll see three totally different matches with each Spurs and Everton in a position to go ahead towards their opponents.

On one other day, it is simple to anticipate totally different outcomes with each United and Arsenal discovering simply sufficient to get the higher of Brosnan and Arnold — as we all know, typically that is simply the best way it’s in soccer. Yet there is just one staff that constantly finds simply sufficient in every sport: Chelsea. Tottenham’s two objectives got here from two pictures on course and Chelsea have been genuinely sloppy on the again — the staff clearly misses the presence of defender Magda Eriksson when she’s not on the pitch. But the Blues did what they’ve so constantly since lifting their first WSL title in 2015 and located sufficient to get them over the road.

Indeed, Chelsea put the WSL on discover on the flip of the 12 months, when Arsenal had an opportunity to leap-frog each Chelsea and Man United and go high of the desk with a win over the Blues. In the 88th minute on the Emirates, the Gunners have been headed for a win and about to tie the reigning champions on the desk on factors, however then catastrophe struck: Chelsea ahead Sam Kerr nodded the ball over the lofted glove of goalkeeper Manuela Zinsberger. The outcome, a 1-1 draw, was a blow for Arsenal, however being simply three factors adrift of Chelsea with a sport in hand, it wasn’t the top to their title problem. However, with every passing week as Chelsea proceed to discover a method when their challengers cannot, each dropped level begins to matter extra.

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Sometimes, it is concerning the completely executed plan from Chelsea and the way they will exploit the weaknesses of their opposition. Others, it is a second of magic just like the one ahead Lauren James produced towards Spurs, or just the good thing about partnerships which were labored on week in, week out. The Blues are constant of their skill to attain objectives and financial institution factors even in video games after they look positively off color, like their draw towards Arsenal in January, after they did not have a shot on course till the final 10 minutes.

With 10 video games nonetheless left to play for Chelsea and United, and 11 for Arsenal, it feels far too early to be declaring anybody champions when Chelsea’s lead could possibly be dissolved in a single match day. Yet a stumble by no means appears to influence the Blues as soon as the end line is in sight, as their 4 WSL titles during the last 5 seasons would recommend.

Arsenal supervisor Jonas Eidevall could be rueing the membership’s lack of ability to have introduced in a “prolific striker” within the January window, and he has mentioned he needed, after the Gunners’ world document bids for star ahead Alessia Russo turned down by Man United. For all the standard within the Arsenal staff, with each single participant in a position to rating no matter place, it was that lack of medical end that price them towards West Ham on Sunday because it did towards Chelsea in January. The back-to-back league attracts won’t have been the nails within the coffin for Arsenal, however their title problem is in want of some medical consideration.

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As for United, who got here aside throughout the second half of the season final 12 months to complete in fourth, and who’ve needed to observe in Chelsea’s footsteps and win a few video games ugly already this season, there’s a rising want for the staff to discover a Plan B throughout irritating matches, lest they slip out of the working as soon as extra.

For now, Chelsea are high of the desk, with a small buffer between them and people chasing, which is strictly the place they like to be. For challengers like Arsenal and Man United, they must hope they do not look again on final weekend because the second they ceded the WSL race to Chelsea as a result of wrestling the title away from the Blues could be tougher than making an attempt to get the newspaper out of your canine’s jaws.