Mewis muscle gives City superiority
Manchester City and Arsenal gave us a great, dramatic match, from the moment the Gunners took the lead after two minutes to City’s winner in stoppage time,. It was great to see the return of the old City, galvanised by Sam Mewis, the team’s driving force both in terms of her physical power and her leadership. Mewis’s battle with Arsenal’s Katie McCabe was one meaty match-up, two physically strong players but technically excellent as well. I’ve said a few times this season that City have looked disjointed, not really themselves, but this could be a turning point for them and put them back in the race for the title, or at least for the Champions League places. Caroline Weir got three assists against Everton last week and this weekend she scored the late winner against her former club.
I actually went on tour with her during a few months I spent with Arsenal many years ago. She was just a teenager then but you could tell she’s a special player, and she has made good all that potential. She’s not massively strong, but she has so much quality from set pieces and open play, the ability to have a touch, lift her head, see a picture and execute that spot-on pass or shot. The precision of what she does sets her apart, and her craft combined with the physical wrecking machine that is Mewis is reigniting City’s season.
United finally find the key to Reading’s defence
Manchester United are top of the league, unbeaten in nine, with five wins in five away games. Reading came into the game on the back of four games unbeaten – all of them 1-1 draws – and had definitely found some form. I think Jess Fishlock had been essential to that, and has become key to everything they do since arriving on loan in the summer, because she is technically good but also a real vocal leader on the pitch. With Fara Williams injured, that has definitely been what Reading have needed this season. They lost this game narrowly, though it might have been different if Kristine Leine, Reading’s right-back, had got the second booking I thought she deserved for raking the heel of Leah Galton, who has been playing at left-back recently but was moved to left wing for this game and gave a real demonstration of her skills.
Instead Reading equalised with nearly an hour played and they gained a lot of confidence from that goal. But United just keep doing what they’ve been doing all season – finding a way to win. I can’t think of another team where if you look across their squad they all look so close to their physical peak. Every player looks brilliant, they have a physical edge over lots of other teams, and you can’t write United off until the final whistle has gone. There have been better team performances from them this season, but when they need to be they are dogged, and they get over the line.
Hammering a serious blow for Bristol
The weekend’s other key game came at bottom-of-the-table Bristol, whose visitors West Ham were only two points away at kick-off. A 4-0 win later the Hammers have a five-point cushion and that might already be enough, because I can’t really see where Bristol are going to pick up points. Their squad just doesn’t have the depth of many others, and they have struggled with injuries and with Covid. Of the WSL sides only Birmingham, Bristol and Reading aren’t aligned with men’s Premier League sides, and I feel that financially, given the challenges that have been thrown at their clubs this year and the difficulty sustaining a fully-professional squad, they are struggling. It was good to see West Ham click: Matt Beard used his experience and his reputation from coaching abroad to attract players from lots of different countries, but then struggled to get them to gel and play consistently before his departure last month. With their squad they should be doing better, and every West Ham fan will hope that this is a marker in the ground for them, and a time for them to kick on under whoever takes over.
Chelsea’s invincibles keep their run going
Two of Chelsea’s stars combined for the only goal of the game at Brighton, where Sam Kerr headed in Pernille Harder’s cross after 20 minutes. For all that the home side did not have any corners or shots on target this was an uncomfortable afternoon for Chelsea, who with their attacking quality should have been a bit more clinical and put the game to bed. They are United’s closest challengers, trailing the leaders by three points but with better goal difference and a game in hand, and by the time the top two meet next month – and assuming Chelsea do not lose to Tottenham or Reading in the meantime – it will be more than two years since Emma Hayes’ side last suffered a league defeat.
Morgan on the spot again as Skinner spurs Tottenham
After a poor start to the season Tottenham have successive 3-1 wins in their first two games under new manager Rehanne Skinner. They are also the first two games that Alex Morgan has started, and the American has scored from the spot in both of them, winning and converting the penalty that set Spurs on their way to victory over Aston Villa. I had no doubts the superstar would flourish, despite it being only seven months since the birth of her child. She is dynamic, she draws challenges and she has given her side exactly what they needed after the torrid opening to their campaign ended with the dismissal of co-head coaches Karen Hills and Juan Amoros. Spurs are already 10 points behind third-placed Arsenal but will be looking upwards now and can still challenge for the top five if they can continue this kind of form.