Women’s Super League: Chelsea, Manchester City or Arsenal – who’s got the edge in the title race?

Women’s Super League: Chelsea, Manchester City or Arsenal – who’s got the edge in the title race?

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Man City are three points clear of Chelsea at the top; both Arsenal and Chelsea have a game in hand after competing in the Continental Cup final – we analyse an intriguing three-way title race, which promises thrills, spills and much more besides…

Chelsea, Manchester City and Arsenal are all fighting it out for the Women’s Super League title – but who is most likely to take the crown come May?

We take a look at each side’s prospects as the season enters its final two months…

How the table has changed

MAN CITY

Position: 1st
Points: 46
Goal difference: 37


Oh Manchester City. We are forever mourning what could have been. It’s almost scandalous that Gareth Taylor’s side have only one WSL title to their name, such is the talent within their ranks. Perhaps that’s testament to Chelsea’s uncontrollable relentlessness rather than City’s shortcomings, but it does feel like there have been a series of opportunities missed across previous campaigns.

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Highlights of the Women’s Super League match between Liverpool and Manchester City.

City play the most attractive football in the league, have done so for years. The way they tore into Chelsea mid-February was indicative of their approach: front-footed, intense, energetic, close to feverish. They stretch opponents brilliantly and have a scoring machine in Bunny Shaw, who became the club’s record goalscorer with the third in City’s 3-1 win over rivals Manchester United.

This term City have taken four points from two meetings with Chelsea and that might prove pivotal in the race. They’ve added a scrappiness to their game which has served particularly well in tight games.

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Take a look at some of the best goals from Khadija ‘Bunny’ Shaw

  • Advanced metrics explained: xG, xA, pressures and more

Nothing has been decided: let us not forget that City comprehensively beat Chelsea 2-0 last March before falling to three defeats in their final six games. Inconsistencies have plagued them.

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This City team, however, feels far more complete, and further along in their evolution. They only signed one player in the summer – Jill Roord – and she’s since been sidelined with a cruel ACL injury. But instead of hampering progress, that setback appears to have energised and refocused the rest.

Jess Park has stepped into Roord’s role admirably, while Shaw has been merciless in front of goal. No need to go into detail about wide pairing Lauren Hemp and Chloe Kelly because they are continually exceptional.

Perhaps not qualifying for Europe last season has actually been advantageous this time around.

CHELSEA

Position: 2nd
Points: 43
Goal difference: 36

A case for Chelsea is always strong: their status as champions in each of the past four seasons dictates that. In fact, since 2015, Emma Hayes’s side have only been beaten to the trophy twice – once by City (2016) and once by Arsenal (2019).

Familiar foes are also keen to derail this year’s bid and make no mistake, the title race is alive and kicking after threatening to meander towards a predictable conclusion a few weeks back.

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Highlights from the Women’s Super League match between Chelsea and Manchester City

If the Blues thought rivals were going to roll over and allow Hayes to cruise to glory in her final season as a WSL manager, they were mistaken. Chelsea fell to their most damaging loss of a near-perfect season against Man City on February 16.

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Highlights of the WSL match between West Ham and Chelsea.

When they were beaten by Arsenal in December, while significant, there was very little talk of title fallout, not least because there was half a season of football still to play.

“The team in the latter stages of the Champions League is in the least advantageous position to win the league,” believes Hayes.

She may well be right, and there is a legitimate case for Chelsea focussing attentions on European competition – the only trophy to evade Hayes – over a fifth straight WSL title.

 Lauren Hemp of Manchester City (R) tackles Ashley Lawrence of Chelsea
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Manchester City ended Chelsea’s 33-game unbeaten home record in February

Succeeding both domestically and in Europe would be extraordinary considering the spine of Chelsea’s team has been depleted by injury this term – Millie Bright and Sam Kerr, for example, have missed the majority of the season.

Hayes’ perfect farewell tour is still on a knife edge, but Chelsea are where she would want them, three points from the top of the table, with a game in hand to Man City, who beat Liverpool 4-1 at Prenton Park.

ARSENAL

Position: 3rd
Points: 37
Goal difference: 19

Arsenal looked close to infallible against Chelsea in December, winning 4-1, before losing the north London derby to Spurs a week later. At times, performances have been delightful and at others desperate – the latter appropriate as they were dismantled by Chelsea just over a week ago.

The Gunners have already amassed four league defeats this term and no side with the same record has ever gone on to win the title. But records exist to be broken, and Arsenal have got pretty good at breaking, nay shattering, them.

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Highlights from the Women’s Super League match between Arsenal and Manchester United

They tightened their grip on a return to the Champions League with a 3-1 victory over United in front of an Emirates sell-out in February. A result that consequently put them back in the title hunt, which they consolidated with a hard-fought 1-0 win over Spurs in the recent north London derby.

Jonas Eidevall made six bold changes for that game, dropping a few big names, and it paid off in spades. The fact he is able to do that is symptomatic of what has improved at Arsenal this season: strength in depth.

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Highlights of the WSL match between Aston Villa and Arsenal .

Injuries ravaged Eidevall’s side last year and it cost big. They simply didn’t have the players in reserve to replace the losses of Beth Mead, Vivianne Miedema, Leah Williamson and captain Kim Little all in the same period.

Now, that has changed and expectation has risen as a result.

Arsenal players celebrates after taking the lead against Manchester United through an own goal
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Arsenal’s strength in depth has kept them in this season’s title hunt

The only criticism to be levelled at Arsenal this season is a lack of goals. They’ve struggled to be clinical and kill games when they’ve had the chance – big summer signing Alessia Russo was dropped to the bench against United, for example, as Eidevall searched for a more potent combination up top.

All eyes were on a big meeting with Chelsea in March, but they were blown away at Stamford Bridge to all but end their faint title hopes. But with a trip to Man City in early May still to come, could there yet be another twist in this exhilarating race?

Predicted final table

Key WSL fixtures

May 5: Man City vs Arsenal, kick-off 1pm

May 18: Man Utd vs Chelsea, kick-off 3pm

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