Women’s Super League: talking points from the weekend’s action

United handed a harsh lesson
Manchester United’s 6-1 home defeat by Chelsea was a stark reminder that there is no scope to coast for clubs in the Women’s Super League. United landed on the scene with big promises and big ambitions in 2018, they launched with a statement and no-nonsense manager in Casey Stoney and last year recruited the services of the US forwards Christen Press and Tobin Heath to aid the team’s bid to break the stranglehold of Chelsea, Manchester City and Arsenal. Stoney is gone, frustrated by United talking the talk more than they walked the walk when it came to facilities and support, Heath and Press have left without like-for-like quality or numbers replacing them, and, ultimately, United have stood still. Victories against Reading and Leicester under the new manager, Marc Skinner, masked the cracks that Chelsea blew apart and with teams around United having upped their investments and recruited with intent, the club’s more frugal approach could lead to them being left behind.

Eidevall shows an ability to adapt
Arsenal played some stunning transitional football in their 5-0 victory against Manchester City but it has been the pragmatic approach to games against title rivals that has really shone through during the tenure of the new manager, Jonas Eidevall. Under Eidevall’s predecessor, Joe Montemurro, the focus was very much on maintaining possession and dominating the ball, but against City and Chelsea, two teams that like to press high up the pitch and have their fair share of control, Arsenal struggled. Eidevall’s aim has been to make the team as effective out of possession as they are in it, and it has worked. Despite City having 65% possession, Arsenal rarely looked troubled and instead exploited the holes left by City’s characteristic high line. “It was something we talked about,” Eidevall said. “We knew it could be a reward if we pressed them high and won the ball or played out from their high pressure.”

Summer signings shine for Everton
Everton had not lost three successive home games since April 2019 and they headed into their match against Birmingham on Saturday with two consecutive home defeats, against Arsenal and Manchester City respectively. Willie Kirk’s summer recruitment ensured they did not repeat history as Leonie Maier and Hanna Bennison scored in the 3-1 win. Maier, on debut, came close to getting another with a header that just went wide. Bennison cancelled out an equaliser from Jade Pennock with a stunning strike before Rikke Sevecke’s goal in stoppage time sealed the points for Everton and gave them a platform on which to build.

Gielnik knocks Brighton off perch
Brighton were top of the table heading into round three but now find themselves fifth following defeat against Aston Villa. The only goal of the game came from the Australia international Emily Gielnik, who as well as scoring the first goal Brighton have conceded this season also delivered an excellent display for Villa. “We weren’t at our best and Aston Villa deserved to win,” Brighton’s head coach, Hope Powell, said. “They stifled our play and made it a bit of a scrap so credit to them. We didn’t move the ball as well as we have done in the last two games. We looked a bit unsure at times and didn’t execute our game plan.”

Moloney stars despite defeat
Reading lost 1-0 against Tottenham but it could have been a lot worse for them had it not been for the goalkeeper Grace Moloney. She kept out several Spurs efforts, most notably from Kit Graham, Chioma Ubogagu and Ria Percival in the first half. There were more saves from Moloney as the onslaught continued after the interval and it looked like she was going to earn her side a point, but then Jessica Naz broke the deadlock in the 85th minute to maintain Tottenham’s perfect start to the season. Nonetheless the Reading manager, Kelly Chambers, should be incredibly proud of her goalkeeper.

Own goal nightmare
Leicester City’s season went from bad to worse as Ashleigh Plumptre scored a shocking own goal in the newcomers’ 4-0 defeat against West Ham. The ball was fired into the area, it missed every West Ham player but not Plumptre, who took one touch to try to clear the ball but instead hit it straight into the net. That mishap made it 3-0 to West Ham and they then added a fourth thanks to another own goal, this time from the Leicester goalkeeper Kirstie Levell. Leicester are one of three teams on zero points, alongside Reading and Birmingham, with only goal difference keeping them off the bottom.