End of season review

This is review based on what was expected at the beginning of the season. Rating A way above expectation B above expectation C as expected D below expectation E way below expectation.

Let’s start with the 2 teams way below expectation :

E for Chelsea Ladies who started the season with a lot of new foreign signing and a team with a certain number of players expected to train on daily basis supplementing those who train twice a week after a work. It clearly failed, the team never seemed to gel properly and the second half of the season saw the introduction on more homegrown players and all but one foreign players gone. Finishing 7th is poor for Chelsea Ladies.

E for Lincoln Ladies a team with a big budget and boasting 4 England international stars. Things clearly went wrong as they spend nearly all season fighting with the Doncaster Belles for the bottom place. 6th place is poor as well. They are in the conti cup final and might win a trophy before moving to a new team Notts County Ladies.

D for Birmingham City Ladies following 2 seasons competing for the Champions League place, Birmingham City went the youth way by playing many young girls throughout the season and that investment might pay off in the next seasons especially if senior players leave during the winter window. 4th place is disappointing but reflect their season quite well. Best team of the chasing pack.

D for Arsenal Ladies. Finishing outside top 2 is indeed a failure and clearly missed the champions league target.
Although it has to be said that the 3 points deducted cost Arsenal a Champions League place and 2 home 0-0 draw cost them the title while they were in the driving seat. Next season will be tough with the rebuilding of a side and no champions league to offer to tempt players during the winter window. The big question is how many players will retire and how many will leave.

C for Doncaster Belles who finished at the bottom of the table as expected. The fact that the FA relegated them after 1 game will leave a bitter taste and was clearly a huge mistake to announce so early in the season. They did battle well and hard for the 14 games. Big respect for John Buckley and his girls to keep such a fight in difficult conditions.

C for Everton Ladies who lost many players during the winter and change manager as well with Marley leaving. Andy Spence rebuilt a side and included a lot of homegrown players and credit to him to give them all a chance. They finished a creditable 5th as they clearly lacked experience and forepower at time. But the future will be great for that group of young players.

B for Liverpool Ladies winning the title for the 1st time ever after finishing bottom in the 2 previous season. They managed to do as expected ie qualify for the champions league and do one better by winning the title. Congratulations to the new champions. Matt Beard did well to make his team gel by nearly never changing his starting 11 except the goalkeepers and it was a winning formula as they only lost 2 games and won 12 out of 14.

A for Bristol Academy because when they lost the player of the year Jess Fishlock before the season started they simply were destined for the bottom half according to all the predictions including mine. They had an exceptional season and were rewarded with a 2nd place and champions league football. They worked hard and entertained everybody with the attacking football and hopefully will go further away this time that a couple season ago when they got 4 UEFA points only.

Overall a very entertaining season with the final table :

1. Liverpool Ladies
2. Bristol Academy
3. Arsenal Ladies
4. Birmingham City Ladies
5. Everton Ladies
6. Lincoln Ladies
7. Chelsea Ladies
8. Doncaster Rover Belles.

The FA WSL 2014 will see 2 new franchises arrive in Division 1 : Manchester City Ladies and Notts County Ladies that will replace the Belles and Lincoln Ladies. The Belles will play in WSL 2 while Lincoln Ladies will disappear.


The big game preview : Liverpool v Bristol

On Sunday we have a title decider between Liverpool and Bristol. How lucky is the FA to have that game on final day considering how unlikely Bristol was to be there at the end of the season. If anyone had predicted Bristol to finish better than 4th after Fishlock’s departure, I want their lottery and coupon prediction right now.

So what should we expect : 2 attacking teams with many foreign players as the English players will certainly be a minority on the day. Unless someone is injured on international duty, Liverpool will have the regular starting 11 that Matt Beard has used throughout the season. He has been very consistent in using the same 10 outfield players whenever possible.

So Liverpool should look like Laws, Bronze Bonner Engen Schroder, Omarsdottir Williams Da Costa, Fors Dowie Rolser. That team is well organised and roles perfectly defined. 2 attacking full backs, 2 solid center backs led by super talented Whitney Engen. A few weeks ago there was a mention Engen could join Tyreso after the international break but surely this can’t happen. A typical defensive midfielder Omarsdottir, a quaterback Williams a playmaker Da Costa is the midfield trio and up front two creative wingers Fors and Rolser combining with a powerful center forward Dowie.
They have scored 44 and conceded 19 so we will see a very attacking Liverpool team even if they only need a point to be crowned champions.

Bristol have scored 30 and conceded 18, they need a win so will try to attack although I am sure they won’t go with all guns blazing because of Rolser and Fors face linking with Williams and Da Costa passing accuracy. Predicting a starting 11 is more difficult as Mark Sampason has many many options especially in midfield and up front :
Chamberlain, McCatty Rose Matthews Yorston, Vega James Windell , Harding Pablos Sanchon Del Rio.
Heatherson and Watts can also start in attack depending on Del Rio’s fitness. Curson can also start in midfield as she has done in previous games. Bristol will look to use Harding’s pace on the wing, Del Rio trickery to create chances and Pablos Sanchon does not need much more than a half chance to score a goal. Bristol will we working really hard and might create opportunities from winning the ball back very high or from midfield positions and transfer the ball quickly to the attacking players.

As usual the referee will have a crucial role, you really don’t want the title to be decided by a dodgy decision. A game of that magnitude need quality refereeing and as it is broadcasted live, it will be there for all to see if something goes wrong. BT Sport will show the game on Sunday and it is great for the sport exposure.

So Liverpool are clear favorite to win the title but big games are won and lost on small margins ( players mistakes, tactical substitution etc ). Both teams have clear game plans and it should be a fascinating encounter. It should be a great story should Bristol win it as a local paper publisehed an interview where it was stated Liverpool budget was about 10 times the size of Bristol’s one. I would be surprised if the gap is that big to be honest but the underdog winning would please many people.

Liverpool should be praised because their bold approach to women’s football as been rewarded. They invested massively ( still dwarfed by many european teams though) and are rewarded with Champions League football and a possible title. And a last interesting fact. Should Arsenal or Birmingham win the 2013/14 Champions League, England would have 3 teams in 2014/15.

A new beginning for England ?

So Hope Powell has now gone and Brent Hills has come in on a temporary basis. It is important to note that he has not made many changes as he used to be Powell’s assistant.

He has called up Natasha Dowie and Danielle Carter a very logical move considering they have both been in great form recently. He has removed 3 players from the Euro squad 2 of them are currently injured : Kelly Smith and Dunia Susi while Laura Bassett was not selected as she did not have much club playing time due to contractual dispute.

So can we talk of a new era with those World Cup 2015 qualifiers ? We won’t know until the new manager is named. The big question is : will the players that were blacklisted by Powell like Davison and Flaherty or “retired” like Potter, Chapman or Sanderson get a chance or the new manager will keep looking towards the past and keep the players that failed in 2011,12 and 13.

Some players have been there since 2005 actually and kept their place in the squads through the years while not always performing. 2 seasons is enough to rebuild a side looking to compete seriously in Canada with the current solid base of players. There is a core of players that are good enough while the youngsters that have been waiting for 2 to 5 years to have a chance are as good as those who failed miserably in Sweden.

We shall see who will get selected for the Wales game at Millwall, because if it is the same old tired squad with the same old defensive tactics, there will be no revolution and more disappointment in 2015. Make no mistakes England will qualify for the WC but it does not mean the team will be competitive in the future because that qualifying group is weak and offers maybe 2 to 3 tough games only.

End of an era for the Arsenal Ladies

For the first time since 2002/03, the Arsenal Ladies will not win the title. Bristol and Liverpool will compete head to head on the 29th of September 3 days after the last of the 2 games international break at the Halton Stadium in Widnes.

Question have to be asked on why the girls let the title slip after coming back so strongly from an awful start. To be fair, the results have been good : 1 defeat on opening day at home to Liverpool and 3 draws against Lincoln twice and Bristol.

But a 14 games league does not allow for many slip-ups and there was one too many. Put it this way a win against Lincoln would have seen the girls still in the race on final day but it was not to be. Liverpool and Bristol did better and congratulations to the team who will win the title.

Things are not entirely doom and gloom as there is still a chance for a Champions League place providing the girls win at Everton and things go our way on Merseyside. Basically a win is necessary with Liverpool to get a point of Bristol or should Bristol win the game by x, Arsenal need to beat Everton by 7-x ie Bristol win by 1, Arsenal to win by 6 to finish 2nd.

FA WSL Reserves 2013/14 aka WSL Development League (updated)

This was disclosed by the FA at the latest Wembley meeting :

Northern and Southern Divisions of Nine reserve teams each will be the format for the new FA WSL Development League.

Why 9 each : because there are 18 WSL teams from next season. I am very curious to see if the overall level will be better than the previous reserves season and what age group will be represented ie post COE 17-18-19 years old or older players looking for a FA WSL chance? Obviously the development league is part of the game changer plan.

The Development League will kick-off on the 6th of October .

Northern Division – Aston Villa, Birmingham City, Doncaster Rovers Belles, Durham, Everton, Lincoln / Notts County, Liverpool, Manchester City, Sunderland

Southern Division – Arsenal, Bristol Academy, Chelsea, London Bees , Millwall Lionesses, Oxford United, Reading, Watford, Yeovil Town

There will be 3 groups of 6 for the League Cup competition :

Group 1
Arsenal Chelsea London Bees Millwall Watford Yeovil Reading

Group 2
Doncaster Durham Everton Liverpool Man City Sunderland

Group 3
Villa Birmingham Bristol Notts County Oxford Reading Yeovil


The full fixtures list can be found here : http://full-time.thefa.com/ListPublicFixture.do?divisionseason=385168647&league=174683699

What’s up in Birmingham ?

Obviously the season is not going very well : 29 pts in 2011, 26 pts in 2012 and 15 points in 12 this year. There have been some very good performance from the youngsters ( Melissa Lawley, Kirsty Linett, Katie Wilkinson and Coral Haines) and Blues have been rewarded for trusting those girls but some starting line-ups are strange.

Take last week for example. Melissa Lawley played 70 minutes in the UEFA U19 final against France on Saturday but is given a start the next day against Liverpool.  Also no captain Bassett or Williams at all in the 18 players squad? Either those 2 players are injured ot they have been dropped for some reasons.

And this week Bassett and Williams are back on the bench but do not get a game at all. This is really strange to the least and there must be something happening there that prevent those 2 players from getting on the pitch. If I were another WSL team, I would make an inquiry on their availability.

In the meantime, it means all those young English girls get games so it is a positive thing in term of preparing the future but not for the short term results.

Liverpool closing on the title.

Tonight’s results :

Liverpool 4 Everton 2
Bristol 1 Birmingham 0

1. Liverpool 33 pts GD + 25
H to Bristol

2. Bristol 28 pts GD +11
A to Doncaster
A to Liverpool

3. Arsenal 27 pts GD +17
H to Birmingham
A to Everton

Liverpool could be crowned on Sunday, should both Arsenal and Bristol manage not to win their postponed game.

Arsenal will be out of the title race if Bristol win at Doncaster. If Bristol don’t win at Doncaster the title will be Liverpool bar a miracle circumstance.