Thu. Jul 18th, 2024

Vilahamn persistence pays off for Tottenham

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Watch highlights of the Women’s Super League game between Tottenham and Arsenal

After a historic win for Tottenham against Arsenal, Spurs manager Robert Vilahamn’s assessment to Sky Sports was frank.

“7-0 against Man City, everyone might have thought I was stupid and that’s fair,” he said. “They tried a little bit against Man Utd, but we didn’t go for it. So I needed to restart with the Wednesday game because I will keep doing this until I stop working here.”

Spurs players have described his arrival as a ‘breath of fresh air’, with Vilahamn wanting his side to play out from the back, progress through the thirds to build their attack. Much like his men’s team counterpart Ange Postecoglou – who watched Spurs’ win from the stands – the Swede has sought to implement his ideas quickly and completely.

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Tottenham head coach Robert Vilahamn reflects on a successful North London Derby

And like Postecoglou, it has not always panned out as they would hope. Against the two Manchester teams, Tottenham attempted to persevere with Vilahamn’s style, but were ultimately heavily punished. But the Spurs boss has not waivered from his philosophy, believing his players were more than capable of its execution.

Some questioned his methods and whether Spurs had what it takes to compete among the WSL’s elite. But all of them were answered against Arsenal and their goal epitomises just what Vilahamn wants.

It began with impressive WSL debutant Barbora Votikova, playing through the phases before a fine finish from Martha Thomas. The goalkeeper’s inclusion from the start only helped with Spurs playing out from the back – something regular No 1 Becky Spencer has struggled to adopt.

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Player of the match Barbora Votikova reflects on a successful game against Arsenal

The winter break – and the teasing of new additions already on their way – will only improve their ability to play in Vilahamn’s style and have more famous days like they did this weekend.

For a team that began the year breaking a transfer record to sign Bethany England as they battled relegation, to ending with a first victory over their North London rivals, Tottenham are certainly heading in the right direction.
Charlotte Marsh

Arsenal’s hard work undone by derby despair

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Arsenal were beaten in the North London Derby six day’s after getting the better of Chelsea

There was so much to marvel about Arsenal’s performance against Chelsea last weekend.

The Gunners were masterful at times, scored four wonderful goals, and all of their cast of main characters came to the fore.

Kim Little’s command of the midfield was sensational, Lotte Wubben-Moy was an impenetrable rock in defence, while Alessia Russo sprinkled her magic at the top end.

Perhaps the most complete display of Jonas Eidevall’s tenure.

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Emma Byrne and Karen Carney analyse Arsenal’s performance in the North London Derby and where it all went wrong

So, just six days later, to surrender their momentum and advantage to Tottenham – of all sides – is almost sinful.

There’s no good time to lose a North London Derby, of course, but this felt particularly unwelcome. It’s a result that lets Chelsea back in. If the door was ajar before, it’s now swung wide open.

Eidevall was “disappointed with efficiencies” on Saturday, but sometimes you have to front up; this was far from vintage Arsenal and the cost could ultimately be ruinous.
Laura Hunter

Famous Liverpool win symptomatic of closing gap

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Captain Taylor Hinds netted the winner for Liverpool

Up until Sunday, Manchester United were the only WSL side Liverpool had failed to beat. The Reds hadn’t even managed to score past their north-west neighbours. They’d barely laid a glove.

That all changed in their latest meeting, where Liverpool roared back from conceding a third-minute opener to register a famous win.

Two well-taken goals did the trick, including a volleyed winner from captain Taylor Hinds – her first league strike since February 2022.

The manner of the comeback was impressive but also indicative of the wider narrative at play during this intriguingly open WSL campaign. Anyone genuinely can beat anyone. It’s what the fans want.

Alongside the growth of the game more broadly, a narrowing of the quality gap has begun happening in recent seasons, and it’s made for superbly competitive engagements week in, week out.

This Liverpool scalp, against the arch enemy, is only the latest instalment of the new unpredictability of the league, which continues to meander in so many different directions it’s hard to keep up.
Laura Hunter

Chelsea capitalise on Arsenal slip

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Chelsea will finish 2023 top of the WSL table with a three point lead over Man City and Arsenal

Chelsea must have thought Christmas came nine days early as Arsenal slipped to defeat at Tottenham. After their own dismal performance a week ago at the Emirates, the Blues were offered a lifeline to re-establish their WSL lead.

Never ones to pass up an opportunity twice, Chelsea were ultimately comfortable winners at Bristol City.

It must be said too that the comfort stems from an assured, confident Chelsea debut for Hannah Hampton. Bristol City had their chances too, but the 23-year-old was equal to them all. Don’t be surprised if she becomes Chelsea’s regular No 1 in 2024.

And some of those opposing chances were created by Chelsea’s own hand, especially in the first half. They looked to bear the weight of a heavy defeat and frustrating draw in the last week, with sloppy play gifting Bristol City openings.

But once they started to pass and play quicker, the rewards came. Let’s also not overlook two moments of superb quality from Lauren James and Erin Cuthbert in the first half too. That certainly settled some nerves, and it was all Chelsea for the remainder of the game.

It was good too to see Fran Kirby, Guro Reiten and Sam Kerr combining for the third goal too. All three have struggled with injuries and fitness since the start of the season, and showed a glimpse of their importance to Chelsea’s attack.

The Blues head into the winter break – although with one game left to play in the Champions League on Wednesday – top of the WSL table and offering a timely reminder that they are still the team to beat.
Charlotte Marsh

Man City are the quiet title contenders

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Man City are second in the WSL and are putting themselves firmly into title contention

Much of the discourse over the last week has focused on Chelsea, Arsenal and the WSL title race. One slips, another slips – but there is a contender who has been left out of the recent conversation.

Manchester City looked every much the title challengers in a professional, clinical win at Everton, aided by Khadija Shaw’s hat-trick. The striker is now the WSL’s top scorer this season with nine goals.

It was only a moment of sheer beauty from Aurora Galli that kept Man City from keeping a clean sheet too, but they did come away a fourth successive WSL win.

It has been the perfect response to the 1-0 defeat by Brighton. Since then, they have scored 16 goals and conceded just three – and the revenge tour does not look like stopping any time soon.

Man City had their critics last season and some wondered if Gareth Taylor was the man to help the team reach that next level. But over the last few weeks, they have played their best football in some time, which looks like a replica of the work done on the training pitch.

They finish 2023 sitting second in the WSL table with their free-scoring approach seeing them with the second-best goal difference in the league. Man City may feel a bit frustrated that the break has come at a time when they are the WSL’s in-form team.

But rest, recuperation and time on the training ground will surely be beneficial for a busy 2024, where they will find themselves deep in the title race.
Charlotte Marsh

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