FA WSL half season review

Day 7 out of 14 has just been played so let’s have a quick halfway point review.

Arsenal  16 pts 6 games
As far as the League is concerned, only 2 points dropped so far, the latest Birmingham win a confidence boost. Top of the League, 8 points ahead of 3rd placed team, which means Champions League should be there in 2013/14.
The cup form has been poor compared to the usual club standard with defeats to Lincoln and Chelsea and Champions League exit due to a defensive mindset especially in the away leg with no creative player in the midfield 3.

Birmingham  11 points 6 games
Unbeaten in all competition until last Sunday. FA Cup 2012 winners, in the semi-final in the Conti Cup. A season with silverware is so far a success. Champions League will be a discovery for a few players in September and not being seeded might prove difficult as Bristol found out last season.  With the final League game at home to Arsenal, the title should go down to the wire again.

Lincoln 8 points 6 games
Leading the chasing pack on goal difference. The Champions League place that was the original the target is well within their grasp. Continental cup has been a success with 9 points out of 9 in a group with opponents like Chelsea and Arsenal. Consistency will be needed to get a top two finish.

Bristol 8 points 6 games
A good season with up and downs like multiple suspensions early in the season or a poor televised game against Arsenal, but also excellent performances against Birmingham at home or Everton away. A very unusual side set up in a 3-4-3 system you don’t see very often. Topped their group in the Conti cup against the likes of Everton and Birmingham.

Everton 8 points 6 games
Everton were very slow in the starting block last year and it cost them a champions league place. This is definitely an improvement this year being only 3 points away from 2nd place. Cup results were disappointing.

Chelsea 8 points 7 games
The only side to have complete the half season schedule, Chelsea have shown great form at time and also the opposite. The team has changed a lot from last season and is slowly gelling to form an exciting attacking side.
As the other 4 chasing teams will need consistency to dislodge Birmingham and Arsenal off the top 2.

Liverpool 4 points 6 games
There has been an improvement in term of football quality compared to last year. Some shrewd signings and a a first win last week was a oncfidence boost. Liverpool will cause problems to any team if they can compete physically a little more and install their gameplan.

Doncaster 3 points  5 games
Many changes from last seasons in term of playing staff. They are clearly trying and working hard at developping a passing and attacking football. The only thing missing is sharpness is better movement and shooting accuracy, combined with defensive organisation. The other problem is discontent voiced by a forward about players selection towards the manager, she might have a point, but that story shouldn’t really have come out in the press surely? And I am sure other players are unhappy but  they don’t tweet it.

 

Overall, it is safe to say the League quality has  improved compared to last year, abit more entertianment, a bit more attacking football. The weather has been poor and some pitches have suffered. Let’s hope there will be some top quality foreign  signings after the Olympics to boost the League quality even more.

Team GB squad named

My initial  reaction was :  it could have been worse actually, this is  not too bad. It is a bit unbalanced but obviously many players can play in different positions.

The squad list  :

2 goalkeepers Bardsley  Brown

4 center backs Stoney, Bradley, Dieke* Asante*

1 right back A Scott*

1 left back Rafferty*

1 player covering all back 4 positions Houghton

1 defensive midfield, F Williams

1 central midfield  J Scott*

2 playmakers, Little* and Smith

1 right winger Carney*

1 left winger Yankey*

3 center forwards E White*, Aluko, R Williams

 

Center forwards are mono typed ie fast and like to play in space. No back-up option there with a different profile for a plan B, which is strange. The reserves have 1 goalkeeper Higgins 2 wingers Clarke and Susi,  and 1 striker Ross. I think 9 players in the squad are debatable choices  while the other 9 thatI have  starred out are quality players  and should clearly be in the starting 11.

On the questionable choices :

Bardsley does not seem to get many games with Linkopings and her performance level has not been great with England recently.

Brown has an history of mistakes at club and international level in important games and not performing well really. A puzzling choice although she has been in form with Everton in 2012.

Bradley has very good organising skills but could do better in term of ball passing and struggles against fast players.

Stoney has a lot of experience and splendid leadership but again she is not very fast and you cannot have two slow center backs together

Houghton is excellent at right back and center back. She can cover for left back as well, if she used in midfield her season with Arsenal there has shown she has work to do in term of final ball and creativity.

F Williams I don’t think her performance level has been very good  in the WSL 2011, 12 and with England for a couple of seasons.

K Smith is an exceptional player but selecting a player with  15 minutes of club football ( plus probably 90 against Chelsea)  in the last 6 months before a tournament where the team will play 6 games in 16 days, I believe this is a big gamble.

Aluko well 3 center forwards with exactly the same profile seems strange to me. She is obviously the less efficient one from the 3.  Her poor performance against Netherlands recently with a lack of composure in the finishing and the final ball doesn’t help. Her  0% chance conversion rate in 6 world cup games can only raise questions.

R Williams it is good to see her getting a chance but she has the same tactical profile as Aluko and E White so trebbling up that position is just bizzare.

The 4 reserves player

Dunia Susi has been in great form and deserved a place in the 18

Emma Higgins is better than Telford and Chamberlain according to Hope Powell’s saying : “I took the associations out of the equation and it was just about trying to pick a squad of players that I felt would do the best job possible….I am not in agreement with that unless Higgins has improved a lot since we played Northern Ireland in the qualifiers and beat them 6 and 4.

Jane Ross is quality and I have seen her having a very good in a recent euro qualifier against us.

Jess Clarke currently injured and typically capable of having an excellent game or an awful one, you never know what level of play she will bring, a bizzare choice compared to other English wingers around.

 

And just for fun here is an alternative 18 of rejected players that looks as strong as the one selected : players that are  fit and have  more skills and form than some of those selected actually

Telford, Chamberlain

Rose Flaherty Bassett Harrop Ingle

Chapman Potter Fishlock Nobbs Buet

Lander Davison Taylor Dowie Beattie Sanderson

The FA WSL division 2 coming soon next to you….in 2014

So the news has come to me that there will be an FA WSL Division 2 in 2014. Why not earlier ? because the FA Women’s Premier league season overlaps with the FA WSL season. The 2012-3 WPL  season will start soon will end in May 2013 and therefore the teams selected will have about 10 month without any competitive football as did the original 8 WSL side.

So what do we know about the new format ? not much really so far, apparently 10 teams will be in it, the bidding will start at a later date with information provided to the clubs ….and fans maybe. Also, there would be no promotion relegation at the end of that first division 2 season in 2014. I hope it is just a rumour because we will end up otherwise with the same 8 teams for the WSL seasons 2011,12,13,14 and 15…

I am perplexed because there was so much selection criteria on marketing and money requested to be selected for the original 8 in the WSL that a WSL light version in a way would be a lesser version of the product ?? Why not accept another 2 entries in the main league or replace the bottom 2 with the best 2 from the WPL .

 

 

Team GB 3 players selected revealed…or not (article was incorrect)

This is an extract from article published in the Belfast Telegraph :

“Northern Ireland will have three footballers at the London 2012 Olympic Games — despite the Irish FA’s opposition to a Great Britain team taking part.

Northern Ireland women’s captain Ashley Hutton, goalkeeper Emma Higgins and Sarah McFadden, who plays her club football with Sunderland, will all be part of a history-making team, as GB has never been represented in women’s football at the Olympics before.

The trio have been told they will receive call-ups when the squad is named within the next few weeks.”

It is very interesting, we now know that it won’t be an all English side and also we can hope that a number of Welsh and Scottish players will be selected as well. If 3 places go to NIR and the equivalent number to Wales and Scotland that would leave 9 places for England and I think it is a very fair repartition actually. It is a lot better than having the old favorites selected over more deserving players.
Regarding the 3 players, we did beat NIR 6-0 and 4-0 in March 2010 and NIR has improved as the victory over Norway has clearly shown and I don’t remember seeing anything spectacular in those games besides a very compact and well organised defensive team …

——————————————–
Unfortunately that article was full of lies and those 3 players not in the squad as of today. Don’t trust papers they print a lot of rubbish…

Team GB squad list on 26th of June

Good news the squad list will be disclosed on the 26th of June. Who will be the lucky 18 players ? Will they all come from the England team or will there be any Welsh, Scottish or Northern Irish.

Any players on from or consistently good for years but still not called up ?

So let’s have a guess on who will be selected for the tournament :

First those guaranteed a place as they have been regulars with England :

Brown, Stoney, Unitt, Fara Williams, Alex Scott, Jill Scott, Yankey, Carney, Aluko, Ellen White.

Then those who are nearly there :
Chamberlain, Telford, Susi, Houghton, Rafferty, Bassett, Asante, Bradley, Moore, Rachel Williams

The currently injured Clarke, Bardsley, Kelly Smith. We already have 24 players for 18 places.

Let’s add a few scottish players like Evans who has just signed for Turbine Potsdam which indicates she is a top quality player, Corsie Beattie and Little. Plus a few Welsh player who do well currently like Fishlock, Ingle, Sherwood, Harries, Lander.

If you add all those England U23 players who could be in contention because they play well or those in form like Taylor, Potter or Davison, there is a pool of a lot of quality players to choose from and it won’t be easy to choose from those.

The way it has been set-up with last minute squad announcement and 1 friendly only, the core of the team will be english.
So here is a 22 players squad based on recent form + consistency over the 2 WSL seasons + experience because there is a need for old heads + skills ( currently injured players not selected )

GK : Brown, Chamberlain, Spencer
DF : Stoney, Rafferty, A Scott, Ingle, Susi, Flaherty, Beattie
MF : J Scott, Little, Fishlock, Potter, Asante, Nobbs
FW : Carney, Davison, Yankey, R Williams, E White, Lander

Clearly Hope Powell’s 22 will have about 12 different players :p

The FA WSL Conti Cup semi-finals

It was the final round of the group stage in the Conti Cup last week-end and there was some big upset.

In group 1 Birmingham beat Doncaster 2-0 which was expected but the Everton Bristol produced an astonishing scoreline. The biggest ever away win the WSL and probably the heaviest home defeat for the Toffees for a long long time. I dont think many teams have managed a 4-0 win at Everton in the past.

So Bristol topped the group with 7 points and Birmingham finished runner-up with 7 points as well. Everton and Doncaster are out of the WSL Cup.

In group 2 Lincoln beat Liverpool 3-2 in the early kick-off on Saturday, ensuring they finish top of the group with an 100% record a splendid performance that not many would have predicted before the start of the competition. In the other game, Arsenal easily dispatched Chelsea 3-0. A scoreline that was not expected after seeing the FA Cup semi-final a couple of weeks ago.

Lincoln top the group with 9 points Arsenal finishes runner-up with 6 points. Chelsea and Liverpool are out of the cup.

What the Conti cup has shown is the gap between the bottom 2 and top 6 still exists but also that those 6 teams are really close to each other and there is no more the margin of error for the former best two teams that existed in the WPL. A good point achieved by the WSL with the levellling of the teams.

The semi-finals will the be played on the week-end of the 01/02 of September and will see Bristol v Arsenal and Lincoln v Birmingham. I would think Arsenal will be slightly favorite after the recent 3-0 win at Stoke Gifford live on ESPN, the Bristol coaching staff  will surely have noted the deficiences on the day and try to find a solution to the problems.  Lincoln v Birmingham will be extremely open and with the pitch at Ashby Avenue not allowing to play much football sometimes, it could be a bruising encounter, let’s hope for a strong referee who hasn’t forgotten his card, a regular feature unfortunately in the WSL…

England v Netherlands

The group 6 decisive game is coming soon with England trailing Netherlands by 5 points with a game in hand. Netherlands has England then Serbia away, while England has Netherlands at home, Slovenia away and the final game at home to Croatia on the 19th of September.

If logics prevails Netherlands will beat Serbia and England will beat Slovenia and Croatia. Therefore there is a virtual 2 points lead for Netherlands. It also important to note that head to head record is the tie breaker in case of two teams  finishing level on points. With the away game having finished 0-0, a win would put England in the driving seat, a defeat would send Netherlands to the Euros. A scoring draw would mean England needing Netherlands to slip up and to finish with more points than them. A scoreless draw would mean another hope of a Netherlands slip-up but this time should the teams finish level on points, overall goal difference would be the tie breaker.

There is a new captain in Casey Stoney taking over from the now retired Faye White following her pregnancy news. Not a big surprise as she has experience, leadership knowledge and skill.  This is the full squad list :

Goalkeepers
Karen Bardsley (Linköping), Rachel Brown (Everton), Siobhan Chamberlain (Bristol Academy), Carly Telford (Chelsea)
Defenders
Laura Bassett (Birmingham City), Sophie Bradley (Lincoln Ladies), Claire Rafferty (Chelsea), Alex Scott (Arsenal), Casey Stoney (Lincoln Ladies), Dunia Susi (Chelsea),  Rachel Unitt (Birmingham City)
Midfielders
Anita Asante (Goteborg), Karen Carney (Birmingham City), Steph Houghton (Arsenal), Jade Moore (Birmingham City), Jill Scott (Everton), Fara Williams (Everton)
Forwards
Eniola Aluko (Birmingham City), Toni Duggan (Everton), Ellen White (Arsenal), Rachel Williams (Birmingham City), Rachel Yankey (Arsenal)

Hope Powell’s  pre-game comments are very interesting :

“It is a crucial qualifier,” said Powell. “We need to get three points.

“I saw them play against Slovenia and they have been playing with an air of confidence lately and I’m sure their new manager [Roger Reijners] has given them that belief. We are used to the Dutch being very defensive, sitting back and looking for the counter. Now they play higher up the pitch and they are more attack-focussed.

“It’s going to be a difficult game and I’m hoping we can get a decent crowd. We are going to have to be on top of our game because we are expecting it to be a challenging game.

“We did well in Holland, but we were probably a little too defensive. We have learned things from that game and we will look to address them in time.”

For those watching on internet or who were at the game, it was obvious that England should have gone for the kill and were playing too defensively. Especially when Netherlands was showing sign of weaknesses on the day.

To be fair, they were probably banking on a home win and that will be enough probably to qualify directly but a win other there would have made it easier. I also note this probably the first time I read an admission that they made a wrong choice in a game and it is an important step and a departure from their usual stance in interviewing with no explanation or acknowledgment of problems.