Chelsea retain WSL: How the trophy was gained and misplaced by Arsenal in tightest of title races

Chelsea retain WSL: How the trophy was won and lost by Arsenal in tightest of title races

After Chelsea retained the WSL title with a 4-2 win in opposition to Man Utd on the ultimate day, we glance again at the place the trophy was gained and misplaced in a nailbiting race to the end.

It was 9 lengthy months in the past that Arsenal raised eyebrows with an opening-day win over the reigning champions on the Emirates Stadium, with new Gunners boss Jonas Eidevall saying his arrival in fashion, and his celebrations on the full-time whistle sufficient to harass a number of the Chelsea backroom crew.

That further chunk has lived on all through the season, with a respectful however bitterly-fought title race going virtually to the wire till the ultimate day, the place Chelsea beat Man Utd 4-2 to win their third successive title by some extent over Arsenal.

Chelsea’s sensational run

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Highlights of the Ladies’s Tremendous League match between Chelsea and Manchester United as Chelsea clinch the WSL title

After shedding to Arsenal on the opening day of the league season, Chelsea have gained 18 of their 21 video games since. Though they had been overwhelmed by Studying in December, Emma Hayes’ aspect have been in relentless type as the warmth started to rise within the title race, profitable their final 9 league video games straight after holding Arsenal to a 0-0 draw at Kingsmeadow in February.

They’ve dug deep to search out victory at occasions, and created some memorable scenes when Sam Kerr’s 92nd-minute purpose gave them a 1-0 win over Aston Villa in March which saved the title race in their very own arms.

The ultimate day was no completely different both. They had been 2-1 behind at half-time in opposition to Man Utd and needing two gorgeous objectives from Kerr – together with Guro Reiten – to safe their third successive WSL title.

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We check out probably the most iconic Chelsea Ladies’s objectives of the season

Even spending virtually an hour with 10 gamers in opposition to Tottenham final month, when goalkeeper Ann-Katrin Berger was despatched off, could not cease them beating their outdated rivals 3-1 and persevering with their title cost.

“In disaster my crew do very well, there’s hardly ever occasions in the previous few years in crises we go underneath and I believed that was a tremendous, wonderful show of braveness, confidence, conviction, togetherness, camaraderie, all of the belongings you can’t understate,” stated Hayes after the sport.

There have not been many crises round Kingsmeadow underneath her management, and so they have persistently saved their cool – edging out Manchester Metropolis by some extent final season, and now seeing off Arsenal in a equally tight race this time round.

And with all that, they’ve dug deep sufficient to provide themselves the possibility to retain the Ladies’s FA Cup after they face Manchester Metropolis at Wembley on Might 15.

Rewind again to September although, and issues weren’t trying so rosy after that opening-day defeat at Arsenal…

Europe performs its half in WSL title race

Arsenal's Stina Blackstenius (left) and VfL Wolfsburg's Lena Lattwein battle for the ball during Champions League clash
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Arsenal’s Stina Blackstenius (left) and VfL Wolfsburg’s Lena Lattwein battle for the ball throughout Champions League conflict

The Champions League has had an impact at each ends of the season – Chelsea made it to the ultimate in 2020/21, shedding to Barcelona per week after the ultimate WSL recreation of the marketing campaign.

They then returned for an FA Cup fifth spherical win in opposition to Everton, earlier than various gamers headed to Tokyo to compete within the Olympics.

After all, Arsenal additionally featured within the fifth spherical and had various gamers representing their nations, however performed far fewer video games through the season, having missed out on European qualification.

This season, the Gunners had performed three aggressive Champions League qualifiers earlier than they beat Chelsea on the opening weekend, giving them a lead over the Blues they’d maintain till March. In that sense, it aided them to set the early tempo within the WSL.

 Emma Hayes Head coach of Chelsea FC reacts during the UEFA Womens Champions League match at Juventus Stadium, Turin. Picture credit should read: Jonathan Moscrop / Sportimage(Credit Image: © Jonathan Moscrop/CSM via ZUMA Wire) (Cal Sport Media via AP Images)
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Emma Hayes’ Chelsea had been knocked out of the Champions League within the group phases

Arsenal midfielder Kim Little informed Sky Sports activities in December: “Straight after the summer season and the Olympics, we had plenty of gamers away however barely completely different to most different groups, we got here straight again into it due to the Champions League qualifiers.

“So we had been capable of finding momentum and efficiency fairly early on within the season. We began very well, particularly within the WSL, after which going into the Champions League and FA Cup video games. Then naturally with that, as a result of there are such a lot of video games, we have not carried out in addition to we might have preferred, evaluating that to the August, September, October time.”

Chelsea took a bit extra time to search out their ft because the squad seemed to gel once more after a busy summer season, arguably with fatigue and Covid-19 absences enjoying their half. They had been additionally knocked out of Europe on purpose distinction within the group phases, with a 4-0 hammering in Wolfsburg of their last recreation seeing them knocked out by the Germans.

Arsenal's flawless start to the 2021/22 Women's Super League season
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Arsenal started the season in flawless vogue, and would go onto thrash West Ham earlier than they first dropped factors in opposition to Tottenham

“Our heads had been in all places, we’re human beings,” Hayes stated after Chelsea’s exit. “Just a few days beforehand we had two gamers caught down with Covid.

“If you end up in a crew surroundings, you realize it spreads like wildfire within the crew… It is throughout the sport in the intervening time. For me, it is a main cause behind the efficiency.”

Arsenal, in the meantime, had been nonetheless within the knockout phases on the finish of March earlier than Wolfsburg noticed them off too, with the sheer miles concerned including to the bodily and psychological pressure on Eidevall’s crew.

Sky Sports activities’ Karen Carney concluded: “The Champions League is likely to be an element come the tip of the season. Chelsea went out early, they might give attention to the league.

“Arsenal had been nonetheless in it and enjoying in opposition to actual prime opposition and needed to give attention to that. Their squad rotation needed to change, that they had accidents and that is likely to be an element.”

The place did Arsenal fall quick?

Arsenal's Leah Williamson (left) and Chelsea's Sam Kerr in action at Meadow Park
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Arsenal haven’t picked up as many factors in opposition to prime 5 sides as Chelsea this season

Whereas the Gunners pushed Chelsea all the best way – they had been prime of the desk at half-time on the ultimate day – Arsenal’s points have been plain to see in Eidevall’s first yr within the job.

Though the Gunners are the league’s prime scorers with 65 objectives and conceded a purpose lower than Chelsea, they’ve simply fallen quick as time has gone on in massive video games, dropping eight factors throughout the season in opposition to the groups at present sitting within the prime 5 – together with the 2 Manchester golf equipment.

WSL

The ingredient of shock performed its half of their early success which noticed them put three previous Chelsea and hit Manchester Metropolis for 5 within the early weeks of the season, as since then they’ve scored solely eight objectives in six video games in opposition to top-five opposition, or 16 in eight video games throughout the season.

Evaluate that to Chelsea, who’ve dropped solely 5 factors in opposition to top-five groups. Solely two of these had been after that opening-day defeat to Arsenal whereas additionally they scored 22 occasions in eight video games in opposition to their rivals. That allowed the Blues to fall to that shock defeat at Studying, and even draw with Brighton, whereas nonetheless rising victorious within the title race.

However maybe Arsenal’s greatest downfall was a shock 2-0 defeat to eventually-relegated Birmingham of their first recreation again after the winter break – the Gunners’ solely defeat of the league season.

Veatriki Sarri and her teammates celebrate after Birmingham take a 2-0 lead
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Birmingham beat Arsenal 2-0 in January in a recreation that had a big effect on the WSL season

It was backside versus prime at St Andrews with the Gunners heavy favourites for a significant victory that may have seen them prolong their lead on the prime of the WSL. However poor defensive play noticed the Blues take all three factors, and former Arsenal striker Kelly Smith believes the defeat outlined the season.

She informed Sky Sports activities: “Arsenal had been on the prime of the league for almost all of the season… They’ve performed such a incredible season, however they’ve simply fallen quick.

“The Birmingham consequence after they misplaced 2-0 and so they had been anticipated to win, that consequence might have modified the result of the season.”

Regardless of beating West Ham 2-0 on the ultimate day, the race for the title was finally out of their arms. Having spent 182 days on the prime of the WSL, Arsenal needed to once more accept a runners-up spot.

Beth Mead lashes a shot at the West Ham goal
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Arsenal beat West Ham 2-0 on the ultimate day, but it surely was not sufficient to raise the title

Eidevall informed the BBC: “It feels very empty proper now. I’m very pleased with the gamers how they dealt with the scenario. We’ve got been phenomenal.

“If you take 55 factors, you realize you’ll be able to win it. We simply really feel empty that we did not do it.

“Clearly you’ll be able to really feel the ambiance right here on the stadium. You are feeling the strain through the recreation. You like it and it is nice to see how the gamers reacted underneath the stress. I cherished that.

“After all, it is emotional. It is so laborious to summarise at this second. One a part of me is so proud with what we achieved. We had been fairly near being unbeaten all season. One other half feels so empty to not get a trophy. This can be a check for us. We have to maintain believing and up our recreation subsequent season.”

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