The FA Cup 5th round draw

Barnet v Doncaster Rovers Belles
Birmingham City v Liverpool
Bristol Academy v Leeds United
Charlton Athletic v Blackburn Rovers
Chelsea v Brighton & Hove Albion
Keynsham Town v Sunderland
Lincoln v Arsenal
Manchester City v Everton

(Ties to be played on March 11th 2012)

There are some very tasty ties and many potential banana skin for the WSL teams. We have to remember, this will be the first competitive game of the season for the WSL side and we saw last year that a few team where found out on the day.

Barnet v Doncaster is one of those tie where the underdog Barnet could well. Cherie Rowlands the Barnet goalkeeper is currently on a 6 clean sheet in a row streak and her confidence as well as her defence is pretty high. Doncaster struggled in the WSL and has started the rebuilding process so there is no guarantee that the team would have gelled enough especially with all the internationals at the Algarve/Cyprus tournament.

Birmingham City v Liverpool Unless Liverpool has signed some quality players and kept it under wrap. This is likely to be one of the most one sided tie of the draw except if Liverpool can repeat their WSL defensive performance when they came  away with a 0-0 draw. Birmingham has strengthened (?) their squad by signing Aluko and Unitt and should prevail.

Bristol v Leeds Another difficult tie for the WSL side with high-flying second in the WPL team Leeds visiting the superb Stoke Gifford pitch. Bristol seem to have lost a few players and signed a couple of forwards. Leeds is an experienced physical battling side and an upset might be on the card as well.

Charlton v Blackburn national division v northen division. Blackburn is in form and managed to beat Forest 3-0 away something that Arsenal couldn’t do a few days later. Charlton is currently in 3rd place in the national division and should prevail but in a cup game everything is possible.

Chelsea v Brighton and Hove a game between friends as many players have played for both side with Perry and Davies on loan during the winter at Brighton and Barton Found Jacobs Lamb Rabson and Vickery listed as Brighton players and all ex Chelsea. The home side has signed many players to win the WSL and should win that tie.

Keynsham v Sunderland Two in form teams with Keynsham playing a better football than its current second from botton in the Southern division suggests. Sunderland leader of the National Division and currently flying. Spectators at the game will be guaranteed goals ( more than 6 imo)

Lincoln v Arsenal home side slight favorite for me at the moment because the Arsenal squad is extremely thin in numbers and there is a champions league quarter final against Goteborg 3 days later. Domestic competition last year cost Arsenal the chance to reach the London final so we will see if the same problem happens this season. Of course shoudl Arsenal and Lincoln sign big players in the next few days, that would have a big influence on the forthcoming result.

Manchester City v Everton another potential banana skin for a WSL side. Manchester city is likely to be promoted to the National division. Everton have kept the same squad as last year bar one player and have probably improved in that position by promoting the reserves captain and  promising player Alex Greenwood. Everton’s big game experience should  prevail but it could be really tight.

 

 

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England fans player of the year award : Ellen White

A well deserved award for Ellen who had a fantastic season establishing herself as the first choice at center forward in Hope Powell’s starting 11. This is an achievement in itself because many players tried for years but all have failed despite their brilliant pedigree.

Ellen is a hard working goalscoring center forward versatile enough to be able to play on the wing if needed and she does what every striker should do, she scores goals. Vital goals, decisive goals, spectacular goals as well. She also guarantees she will give 100% for the team running for 90 minutes.

In second place came Jill Scott my favorite for the award, simply because she has been consistent and raising her level for England for the last two season and is now a world class player. If Ellen has had a fantastic year, Jill has been exceptional and deserved the award IMO. She has a great engine, works really hard, is very intelligent and adapts very well to the different positions she has been played on the pitch and reads the game well.

In 3rd place is fan’s favorite Kelly Smith who has not had her best year with the England shirt. She scored her penalty despite being injured in the shoot-out against France but that’s about it really.

And to finish, I will have my usual moan : why do we know that Scott Parker received 17% of the 15 000 votes but we don’t get told the figure for the women’s vote ? See one of my previous blog about the information given by the FA.

The difficult act of maintaining a team’s tactical balance

I was lucky to be invited yesterday to the Arsenal v Tottenham game yesterday. The most interesting thing for me happened at half-time.
Obviously Spurs took the lead 2-0 and Arsenal managed to come back level just on the stroke of half-time and had the momentum.
According to MOTD pundits Arsenal midfield won the battle and the statistics at half time concurred with that idea.
If you look at any coaching book, they all recommend reducing the defensive uncertainties by making the most compact defensive block possible. Hence Harry putting on Sandro and Van der Vaart for the unlucky Saha and Kranjcar. He therefore switched to 4-5-1 to match up the midfield numbers but in doing so, he simply negated the Spurs threat that was absolutely huge on the break. If you have a look at the first half entirely, you will see a number of situations were Arsenal were caught on the break with many players way too high on the pitch Adebayor and Saha one on one with defenders, Bale coming from midfield on the left wing and Kranjcar and or Walker having free reign on the right wing.  So Harry started the second half with the lone striker Adebayor with absolutely no support a midfield that ended up being overrun and Walker at right-back who had a knock unable to provide width. The Arsenal players ended up being free to attack in mass numbers as they knew the center backs would deal without problem with Adebayor and Spurs just invited pressure that way for 45 minutes with the final 3-0 second half result.

The lesson from this is finding the balance between attack and defence is a difficult act and even top class coaches can get it wrong. The Arsenal team was not balanced either to be fair. Gibbs was playing high at time and got caught up a few times when Sagna was attacking simultaneously. Also Benayoun was excellent combining with Rosicky coming into the central area, it did mean Gibbs was on the end of 2v1 frequent situation against Walker and Kranjcar. So Wenger gambled on his attack scoring more goals than his defense would leak. It did work and made it an entertaining game, but the Arsenal forwards won’t always be as clinical as they were yesterday and the opposition won’t always pick the wrong option at half-time.

FA WSL transfer window February

February transfers are  in bold, all those transfers are officially announced by the teams

Arsenal

In :

Out : Rebecca Spencer (ASJ Soyaux ),  Meaghan Sargeant ( Lincoln)

Birmingham

In :  Eniola Aluko ( Sky Blue FC),  Rachel Unitt ( Everton),  Callan Barber ( Coventry), Chrissy Torkildsen (Coventry)

Out :  Stephanie Curtis ( Bristol),  Dunia Susi  (Chelsea)

Bristol

In :  Stephanie Curtis ( Birmingham ),  Nikki Watts (Reading)*

Out :  Katie Sherwood ( Chelsea ),  Anouk Hoogendijk ( FC Utrecht),  Helen Bleazard ( Chelsea)

Chelsea

In :  Katie Sherwood ( Bristol ),  Suzanne Lappin ( Glasgow City),  Sophie Ingle (Cardiff),  Dunia Susi (Birmingham )Helen Bleazard ( Bristol ), Victoria Williams ( Doncaster Rover Belles)

Out : Naomi Cole (Lewes),  Leanne Champ ( Millwall)**,  Emma Plewa (Spurs)**,  Rebecca Jane (Reading)**,   Shelby Hills (Watford)

Doncaster

In : Sue Smith , Leandra Little ( Lincoln ),  Julie-Ann Russell (Peamount), Shelby Hills ( Watford), Tanya Oxtoby ( Perth Glory)

Out : Helen Alderson*** ( Sunderland), Abbie Prosser*** ( Barnet),  Shelly Cox*** (Porstmouth) , Vicky Exley,  Precious Hamilton (Lincoln), Victoria Williams ( Chelsea)

Everton

In :

Out : Rachel Unitt ( Birmingham)

Lincoln

In : Laura Alleway ( Brisbane Roar ) , Collette McCallum ( Perth Glory), Meaghan Sargeant ( Arsenal),  Precious Hamilton ( Doncaster)

Out : Sue Smith, Leandra Little ( Doncaster )

Liverpool

In : Aroon Clansey (Canberra United)

Out : Suzanne Lappin ( Glasgow City)

 

*Scored two goals with Bristol against Spurs in a recent friendly, I have been told she is signed but no confirmation from Bristol ?

** No  longer on Chelsea website in the players squad list

*** No  longer on Doncaster website in the players squad list

The relegation battle FA WPL Southern division

Again only one game played today in the Southern division but another decisive one as it involved to relegation places  contenders.

Plymouth 1 QPR 3 massive points for QPR while Plymouth have more chances to save their bacon.

QPR now nearly safe with 16 points 3 games to play and a -10 goal difference.

Plymouth has 14 points 3 games to play and a -16 goal difference

Millwall in deep trouble and could relegated for the second season in a row !

They have 14 points 1 game to play and the worse goal difference -14

Keynsham in deep trouble as well with 14 points 1 game to play and a -8 goal difference.

 

QPR need 2 points out of 3 games and Plymouth 4 out 3 games.

The next games will be played on the 18th of March.

 

 

The relegation battle FA WPL Northen division

There was a huge decisive game today in the Northen Division.

Rochdale beat Rotherham 2-1 and this is a massive blow to Rotherham chances of staying up.

Basically there are 3 teams fighting for the 2 relegation place

Rochdale has 14 points , 4 games to play and a -5 goal difference

Rotherham has 9 points 2 games to play and a -21 goal difference

Leeds Vixens have 0 point and 5 games to play and a -65 goal difference.

Rochdale just need 2 point out of 4 games to send Leeds and Rotherham down.

The FA Premier League Cup episode 2

Well this competition is ran in parallel with the FA women’s cup and the more local county cups which means rearranged games and postponements. As a reminder the top 2 sides from the 7 groups qualify as well as the best 2 thrid placed teams. No idea of of the criteria to select the best 3rd placed team though as no official communication from the FA.

Group 1

1. Blackburn 3 pts Gd+3 gp 1

2. Man City 3 pts gd +2 gp 1

3. Preston 3 pts gd 0 gp 2

4. Rochdale 0 pt gd -5 gp 2

Rochdale already eliminated of the competition. Blackburn and Man City slightly favorite ahead of Rochdale to qualify in top 2.

Group 2

1. Barnet 6 pts gd 4 gp 2

2. Col U and West Ham 1 pt gd 0 gp 1

4. Watford 0 pt gd -1 gp 1

5. Spurs 0 pt gd -3 gp 1

5 teams all sides will play 4 games and Barnet has already completed half of their schedule.  They are looking good for a top 2 finish while all to play for for the other 4 teams.

Group 3

2 games played only Porstmouth – Plymouth 7-0 and Reading Keynsham 3-1.  Plymouth nearly out of it already due to that -7 goal difference because they need 2 big wins like 4-0 twice just to finish with 6 points and a +1 goal difference with games against Keynsham and Reading.

Group 4

5 teams again only 2 games played Charlton-Brighton 6-2 and Millwall -QPR 1-1 with Gillingham having not played a game yet.

Group 5

No game played so far !

Group 6

Only 1 game played so far Forest winning 2-1 at Leicester

Group 7

2 games played SC Albion – Cardiff 0-2 and Coventry- Sc Albion 2-1

SC Albion unlikely to qualify with 0 point in two games, could finish 2nd with 3 but would need a huge win against Villa to catch up on goal difference and hope that Villa beat Coventry and that there is a winner between Cardiff and Coventry.

Can we get the information please ?

I am one of those who likes to understand what happens in a football game. And I think this is were the FA  fails the fans with the Women’s team.  If you go to the FFF website and see what is available on the WNT and compare it what you get with England well. In terms of contents number and quality one team is miles ahead.
The other difference is the information passed on to the fans. Interviews pre and post games, final thoughts from the manager and players explaining what went right and wrong tactics etc…
I will take a very obvious example of lack of communication/explanation. France v England world cup quarter final. 3 controversial criticised substitutions blamed for England’s elimination. We didn’t get to the bottom of it didn’t we?
Rafferty on is very simple, Unitt couldn’t deal with Thomis pace. Absolute no brainer, correct decision spot on and clearly explained in interview.
Asante on for Yankey  Powell trying to close down the game with a 1-0 lead and 6 minutes to go. Spot on again, a defensive midfielder to help a defense under a lot of pressure. Very logical process. With hindsight, Kelly Smith could have been taken off as we saw in extra time she couldn’t play basically, but you can do everything right with hindsight.
So coming to the Houghton for Scott substitution, that came at the same time as the Rafferty one. First why Steph and not Dunia Susi who has been playing as Scott understudy for 2 seasons ? Then did an explanation ever come about that strange one ? I don’t recall anyone coming into the media (coaching staff or players ) explaining it actually? Considering an extra sub would have been useful in extra time, you do wonder why Alex Scott was subbed ? Well according to someone who was told about it, it was down to misscommunication with the bench who thought she was injured…Oh dear.

Another typical bad communication example is the La Manga January trip. We are all well pleased to know 47 players have been selected between the seniors and the U23 but any chance of actually telling us who travelled ? Was it a secret actually ? I mean I did manage to guess about 35 of those names thanks to social media but hey was there a secret agent ??
Another funny thing is the U15,17,19,22 squad lists. Sometimes they are not published on the FA website but available on clubs website??Very strange indeed.
I think sometimes explaining a bit more why players are selected and rejected would be also interesting because some choices are sometimes difficult to understand with regards to the players quality and performances.

So I think there is definitely a place for improvement from the FA with regards to communication to the fans with all the England women’s team.

Arsenal players called up for the international break

The training ground will be quite empty for 2 weeks :  (Yankey and F White not called up as they are injured)

Wales 3

 

Hayley Ladd, Angharad James, Jayne Ludlow

England 2

 

Steph Houghton, Ellen White

 

Ireland 4

 

Emma Byrne, Yvonne Tracy, Ciara Grant, Niamh Fahey

Scotland 2

Kim Little, Jennifer Beattie

England U19 2

 

Danielle Carter, Melissa Lawley

*************************************************************

ooops, I have forgotten Jordan with the U23 in La Manga…

 

FA Cup 4th round

Finally all the 3rd round games are completed so we know now the revised draw for the 4th round. The last round before the WSL teams come in. That round is played next Sunday the 26th with many international players on duty at the Algarve or the Cyprus cup.

Barnet v Sporting Club Albion
Brighton & Hove Albion v Larkhall Athletic
Cardiff City v Sunderland
Charlton Athletic v Derby County
Coventry City v Leeds United
Enfield Town v Manchester City
Keynsham Town v Sheffield FC
Preston North End v Blackburn Rovers

Can we have some upsets again next Sunday. There are 2 national division team duels. Can Larkhall and Enfield surprise everyone again and make it to the 5th round and play against a WSL side.  Let’s hope the underdogs can have their day and be rewarded with a big tie in the following round.