The Women’s Super League (WSL) title race is going right down to the wire with both London clubs still on track to complete a league and cup double.
When Arsenal returned to the summit of the WSL on Sunday, after a resounding 5-0 thrashing of Leicester, they might have suspected that it might not be for too long.
Indeed, Chelsea would go on to match Arsenal’s impressive scoring exploits with their own 5-0 demolition of Reading later that afternoon, usurping their neighbours from the capital, as a result.
With just three matchdays to be played out, and an FA Cup semi-final thrown in for good measure, there is little to separate both these sides. I examined a range of factors that might just be the difference between ecstasy and disappointment come the end of the season.
Chelsea will be slight favourites; they have the points on the board and their noses in front. However, the final game of the season looks a bit tasty for the blues: at home to Manchester United, who may themselves need a win to secure Champions league football next season.
Arsenal, on the other hand, have a slightly easier run in. But, as defeat to the bottom side Birmingham earlier in the season illustrates, nothing can be taken for granted in football.
Although, Arsenal’s quarter-final exit from the Champions League in midweek, at the hands of German side Wolfsburg, may have knocked the Gunners confidence at a crucial stage of the season, they did not show any signs of it in their win at Leicester City on Sunday. On the BBC’s Women’s Football Show, former England International, Fara Williams described Leicester as the “perfect opponent for them to just get their confidence back”.
Pivotal to Arsenal’s hopes is the form of the mercurial Vivianne Miedema. So far this season, Miedema (the WSL’s all time top goalscorer) has found the back of the net 12 times and bagged 6 assists. Although, the 25-year-old Dutch forward has not been at her brilliant best this season, her Player of the Match performance against Leicester was a timely reminder of the talent that she has in abundance.
Chelsea may rue their opening day defeat to Arsenal, if they do miss out on a third successive league title. That defeat, coupled with a surprise reversal against Reading, has probably been the primary reason why the blues haven’t run away with the title this season.
In contrast, Arsenal have drawn too many games in the WSL, which may prove costly for them. Stalemates with the two Manchester clubs and Tottenham Hotspur, indicates that the Gunners may not quite be at the same level as Chelsea.
Boasting this year’s WSL top goal scorer, Sam Kerr, and 2019/2020 Player of the Year, Bethany England, Chelsea have the forward players to score a torrent of goals. Kerr’s constant pressing of defenders and uncanny knack of being in the right place at the right time has seen her help herself to a haul of 18 goals in as many matches.
Chelsea manager, Emma Hayes, has handed attacking midfielder Guro Reiten fewer starts this term. However the lively Norwegian, signed in 2019, is looking too good to leave out right now. Reiten’s ability to find pockets of space in wide areas, and capacity to deliver high quality crosses, could prove decisive in the tight games to come.
Where the 2021/2022 WSL title will end up remains uncertain. What is certain however, is that Arsenal are going to push Chelsea right to the bitter end.