2015 a tough season for the Vixens ?

3 games into the 2015 season and it looks like it will be a tough one for Bristol Academy. It kind of remind of what happened for Arsenal Ladies last year. Lots of players leaving during the winter transfer window, disaster in the Champions League and a bad start of the League season. Hopefully the League won’t start as badly as it did for the Arsenal girls.

So far, the results have been poor as a result of a tough schedule assignment.

21/03 H Frankfurt 0-5 UEFA WCL quarter-finals

24/03 A Everton 1-2 FA Women’s Cup Round 5

29/03 A Frankfurt 0-7 UEFA WCL quarter finals

There is no doubt that having your first competitive game against a top European side was a difficult task as shown by the result. The FA then scheduling an away FA Cup game in the middle of two tough Champions League game is ridiculous but that’s the FA for you.

They are used not to care about English clubs in the UEFA Women’s Champions League, always scheduling game at the same time as the big European ties or between big games. As early as 2011 when the FA WSL started, the FA scheduled the competition opener Chelsea v Arsenal between the UEFA WCL semi-finals ties OL Feminines v Arsenal Ladies. As if it is not hard enough to play against OL let’s give the English team another hurdle to jump.

With the Champions League return game played yesterday and a 7-0 defeat, that’s 3 games played 1 goal scored and 14 conceded. Out of the FA Women’s Cup beaten by the lower division and out of the Champions League beaten by a superior team ( on the pitch and probably with 15 times the Vixens budget available) .

There was a huge gap between a Bundesliga contender and a semi-professional team like Bristol. We saw the same thing with the other British side in the competition with Glasgow City beaten by PSG 2-0 and 5-0 and spending 180 minutes chasing the ball and defending. Players and managers did  their best but they were competing about a team operating at a different level.

At least they now have a 4 day break to recover and regroup before the League opener at Stoke Gifford against a very ambitious Chelsea side. Then it is Arsenal away on the 15th of April, Sunderland away on the 18th of April, Notts County at home on the 25th of April and Birmingham away on the 29th to end up April.

As usual when there is a huge personnel turnover, the team needs time to gel on the pitch and learn how to play with each other, especially after implementing a certain style with certain players for many seasons. It is a tough challenge with games coming thick and fast.

The Vixens’ boss knows it will be a tough season and is preparing for it :

“Our main priority is to make sure that we are in the top division again next year,”

Advertisements

WSL2 Watford v Villa & Bees v Reading

This week-end I attended two games or rather one and a half as I will explain later.

First on Saturday, I went to Vicarage Road to watch a good game between Watford Ladies and Aston Villa. I previously tipped Villa to be the dark horses in the promotion race behind the 3 favourites alongside Yeovil. Well Villa were superb in the first half on Saturday.

Their attacking play found a lot of space time and time again behind Watford’s defence. Their front 4 of Robinson, Fergusson, Wilkinson and my player of the match Cottam created so many chances and were rewarded with four goals. They made a very good use of Watford’s turnover and had a lot of joy on their left side of the pitch.

Watford fans were very loud. As well as the PA that was extremely loud, I ended up putting my earplugs on. I think Watford have a young side and are rebuilding a bit. Their passing quality was not good enough and they gave the ball back to quickly to often in the first half to devastating effect.

The second half saw Aston Villa in control while Watford made a few chances without getting on the scoresheet. Still better than the Bees v Reading second half.

So today was my second week-end game. London Bees were improving as sees with their goalless draw at Millwall but they were simply abysmal against a strong Reading side.

Put it this way, they shot themselves in the foot. Their 4-1-4-1 system was just bizzare. A center forward at right back that lacks pace. Their regular CB pairing that are not the quickest either. Then 4 midfields including on defensive mid on the right and a central attacking midfield on the left. I find it absurd.

A super quick forward like Kirby roaming everywhere backed up by Bruton and Follis who aren’t slow themselves against 3 defenders struggling against pace, it is a bit of a mismatch. You can still prevent the through ball to happen if the midfield is tight and cut through the dangerous passes. But no, the poor defensive midfield was left chasing shadows on her own.

When the boat has holes, you prevent it from sinking. The Bees rarely managed to get out of their own with the ball at their feet. The lone forward was left up front on her own. You have to question why Anderson who was excellent against Millwall when she came was exiled on the right. You have someone who reads the game so well defensively and can fluidify your attacking game as well and she is stuck on the wing ?

And at the same time your lone defensive midfielder is overcrowded, why not use a double pivot ? Bees could gave gone  4-2-3-1 when they were two nil down after twenty minutes.  But no changes and three more goals duly came.

Suffice to say I did not stay for the second half. Reading were superb on the day finiding holes in a gruyere Bees defence but I don’t find it interesting to watch such a non competitive game. And I have been watching some of the Bees girls for many years when they were with the Arsenal youth teams abd sometimes first. They did not deserve that kind of humiliation, so I just went home at half time in protest at the bad team management.

Reading first fourty five minutes were in contrast :  superb. The forward line interchanging place regularly with Bragg, Bruton and Kirby movement creating trouble on every occasion. Follis and Jane combined superbly on the right as well. A top performance and deservedly top of the League.

The FA WSL 1 table after Matchday 1

Arsenal and Bristol have a game in hand due to the Champions League quarter finals tie involving the Vixens.

1. Chelsea 3pts +1
2. Sunderland 3 pts +1
————————-
3. Birmingham 1 pt 0
4. Man City 1 pt 0
5. Arsenal 0 pt 0
6. Bristol 0pt 0
7. Liverpool 0 pt -1
——————————
8. Notts County 0 pt -1

The FA WSL 2 2015 table after Matchday 2

Here is the table after Matchday 2

1. Reading Women 6 pts + 9 pl 2

2. Doncaster Belles 6 pts  +4 pl 2

————————————

3. Everton Ladies 4 pts +1 pl2

4. Aston Villa Ladies 3 pts +2 pl

5. Durham Women 3 pts 0 pl 2

6. Oxford United 3 pts -2 pl

7. Millwall Lionesses 2 pts o pl2

8. London Bees 1 pt -7 pl 2

9. Yeovil Town 0 pt -3 pl2

10. Watford Ladies 0 pt -4 pl2

Reading and Doncaster starting a two horse race already while Yeovil and Watford are still without a point.

FA WSL 2 Matchday 2 statistics

Watford Ladies  1 v Aston Villa Ladies 4

Goals : M Wynne; K Welsh, A Robinson x2, K Wilkinson

Yellow card : S Mayling

Red card

Doncaster Belles 2 v Yeovil Town 1

Goals : C Sweetman- Kirk x2; P Stewart

Yellow card : –

Red card : –

Durham Women 3 v Oxford United 0

Goals : A Pereira, R Beech, C Corrie

Yellow card : C Bruce, S Osborne-Ricketts, G Simmonds

Red card : –

London Bees 0 v Reading Women 7

Goals : F Kirby x5, B Horwood, L Bruton

Yellow card : –

Red card : –

Millwall Lionesses 1 v Everton ladies 1

Goals : R Ayane, J King

Yellow card :-

Red card : –

FA WSL 1 Matchday 1 preview

Liverpool 1 Sunderland 2

Arsenal v Bristol P-P

Birmingham v Manchester City

An early test of the credentials for both teams. Their first competitive games ended up with a win, against Liverpool for the Blues and against the Belles for the Citizens funnily enough on the same scoreline. The big question is how quickly the City squad has gelled as a team and can they produce quality football straight from the start of the season. Blues will be without Chelsea Weston on a long term injury and Karen Carney still suspended after her incident with Natalia Sanchon while City will miss Abbie McManus who was sent off for violent conduct against Chelsea in the final League game was season.

Notts County v Chelsea Ladies

Another game with two teams expecting to compete for a top two place. Both side have recruited well during the winter and have won their FA Women’s Cup tie last week-end. As they have big ambitions, this another game where loosing is not a real option if they want to win the title.

As a reminder, the previous FA WSL champions were crowned three times with only two defeats and the other time with an unbeaten side.

We actually might see two draws this Sunday and Sunderland might still be top of the League by Sunday evening.

FA WSL 2 Matchday 2 preview

Saturday

Watford v Aston Villa

The game will be played at Vicarage Road and with both teams defeated on matchday 1, they need to kickstart their season.

Both will be looking for a win to get their promotion hopes back on track

Doncaster v Yeovil

Doncaster are the early leaders and will look to consolidate their place at the top of the table while Yeovil will try to upset one of the promotion favourites, having failed to do so on Matchday 1

Sunday

Durham v Oxford

Durham are currently bottom of the table while Oxford had a good win on Matchday 1 and seem to have found their feet quicker than last season. It should be a close game.

London Bees v Reading

Reading will look to consolidate their top 2 place while the Bees will be trying to better their result from the previous season. The Bees have improved defensively and will try to snatch a point or more.

Millwall v Everton

Everton will also be looking to consolidate their promotion push while Millwall will try to bounce back from their defeat in the Cup.

Liverpool 1 Sunderland 2 The armchair view

A big upset to start the 2015 season. It was a curious with a well drilled Sunderland team and a sub par Liverpool side that struggled to break them down.

Having missed the pre-game due to having my dinner and IT problem, I actually didn’t clock for the whole game that the Reds were playing with a back 5. I did wonder why they had 3 full backs on the pitch and thought they were playing a back 4. They probably told us during the commentary but I didn’t put the sound on due to another IT problem.

People in the ground will certainly have a more realistic and true to the game picture as the tv focuses on part of the pitch around the ball. Check the match report from @lfcladiesfans and @girlsontheball.

So what did I see on tv or what I did not see ?  I struggled to understand Liverpool’s attacking pattern. Their structure seemed clearer when I saw them against the Belles a few weeks ago. Besides Dowie in the 9 slot and Williams in her usual 6, the other players seemed to be popping all over the place.

At that early stage of the season, Sunderland squad stability seems a important advantage and they looked more compact as a team and found spaces between Liverpool lines easily at times.

Rebuilding an attacking system with new players and different profiles is a slow process. Arsenal struggled earlier last season with the same process and you would expect Bristol to follow suit.

Sunderland’s gameplan worked very well. You could see they had done some good analysis as they prevented Liverpool from taking some short goalkicks by pressing the defenders especially the full backs. Credit to them for hitting the ground running and getting 3 big points.

It was nice to see Lucy Staniforth come back after her double ACL injury. I also enjoyed watching the former Arsenal Academy player known as Trev in the winning team. And when there is talk of homegrown players lack of chances in England, you can see it as a positive that the England U17 full back Pacheco that I saw in a recent friendly got a game yesterday.

On the 3 goals :
The first one is bizzare as both the goalie and the center back miss the ball while Mead with her scoring instinct is perfectly placed to head it into the net.
The second one comes from physical play. Someone actually mentioned on twitter that it is the second penalty she gave away in a week. It was a superb shot from Chaplen, you will not see many better penalties taken.
The third one, I thought there was an obstruction on Laws as there is a Liverpool body on the line that prevents her from catching the ball. If the goalie’s movement is hampered, it must be a foul….or not ? I will check the Laws Of The Game for this one. It was an intelligent flick from Smorsgard to set-up Murray. Credit to the Norwegian forward.

Overall a deserved win for Sunderland and clear indication that the battles for champions league places and relegation will be very open this season.

Has the gap between FA WSL 1 and FA WSL 2 teams widened this season ?

Now that nearly all the teams in the top division train everyday ( while it is not the case yet in WSL 2 ), has the gap widened between the two divisions ?

We will be able to analyse the results from the FA Women’s Cup and the Conti Cup and see if there is a trend. Last season Reading beat Arsenal 2-0 and Doncaster beat Man City both games happened in the Conti Cup. Yeovil also managed a draw against Bristol. This season Aston Villa beat Sunderland 2-1 and Everton beat Bristol 2-1 after extra time.

Season 2014 including FA Women’s Cup* and Continental Cup ( WSL 2 against WSL 1 team )

1. Reading Women  3 points P3 W1 L2 GF 4 GA3

Man City 2 Reading 1*

Reading 1 Chelsea 2

Reading 2 Arsenal 0

2. Doncaster Belles 3 points P4 W1 L3 GF 6 GA 10

Birmingham 3 Doncaster 1*

Doncaster 2 Man City 1

Everton 3 Doncaster 1

Liverpool 3 Doncaster 2

3. Yeovil Town 1 point P3 D1 L2 GF 1 GA6

Yeovil 1 Birmingham 2

Bristol 0 Yeovil 0

Yeovil 0 Notts County 4

4. Watford Ladies 0 point P2 L2 GF 1 GA 8

Arsenal 3 Watford 0

Watford 1 Chelsea 5

5. Aston Villa 0 point P3 L3 GF 1 GA 9

Notts County 5 Aston Villa 0

Aston Villa 0 Birmingham 2

Bristol 2 Aston Villa 1

6. Millwall Lionesses 0 point PL 2 L2 GF 0 GA 8

Chelsea 4 Millwall 0

Millwall 0 Arsenal 4

7.Durham Women  0 point P3 L3 GF1 GA 13

Everton 3  Durham 0

Durham 1 Liverpool 7

Durham 0 Man City 3

8. Sunderland Ladies  0 point P4 L4 GF 0 GA 12

Sunderland 0 Liverpool 2*

Liverpool 6  Sunderland 0

Man City 2 Sunderland 0

Sunderland 0 Everton 2

9. Oxford Women 0 point PL3 L3 GF2 GA 15

Bristol 9 Oxford 2

Oxford 0 Notts County 4

Birmingham 2 Oxford 0

10. London Bees 0 point PL2 L2 GF 0 GA 20

Arsenal 7 London Bees 0

Chelsea 13 London Bees 0

Season 2015 including FA Women’s Cup* and Continental Cup ( WSL 2 team by team)

Everton

Everton 2 Bristol 1 aet*

Doncaster

Man City 3 Doncaster 1*

Reading

Aston Villa

Aston Villa 2 Sunderland 1*

Yeovil

Durham

Watford

Chelsea 6 Watford 0*

Oxford

Millwall

Millwall 0 Arsenal 7*

London Bees

Notts County v Aston Villa in Round 6 of the FA Women’s Cup will give us another indication on the current trend.

Goalkeepers’ interviews from the FA WSL launch at BT Sport

WSL Group Shot

I was invited to the FA WSL launch last week. I was able to meet and interview players from Arsenal Ladies, Chelsea Ladies, Notts County Ladies,  asked them about the upcoming 2015 season.  The FA WSL, which is exclusively live on BT Sport for a second successive season promised to be as exciting as last season with many teams signing quality players during the winter break.

The FA WSL season kicks off on tonight with defending Champions taking on Sunderland in a game that will be broadcast live on BT Sport, kick-off at 7.45 pm

Siobhan Chamberlain ( goalkeeper for  Arsenal Ladies)

Siobhan Chamberlain

What are the Arsenal’s target this year ? Do you think the team can achieve champions league qualification as it has been 2 years now without champions league ?

Everyone wants to play in the Champions League that is definitely a major target for the side. We know that we can improve on last season at fourth . Fourth position is not good enough for Arsenal, we know hat we have got a squad that is capable of succeeding and doing really well . We need to make sure we compete week-in week-out to be in the best position at the end of the season.

What are your individual targets for the season  ? (as she did not get many games 6 overall with Emma Byrne being the number 1 goalkeeper )

Obviously everyone wants to play in every game and I think it is good that there is a lot of competition for every position . It is a very strong squad. I want to play more than I did last year but that’s out of my control. I just need to control what I can go out there train hard, work as hard as possible and I if do get an opportunity take it.

Carly Telford ( goalkeeper for Notts County Ladies)

Last year you were the number one team in the defensive statistics. Should we expect the same thing this year ?

I would expect so, we demand a high standard defensively. I think we lost maybe a key player in Rachel Corsie ( who has moved to NWSL side Seattle reign ). She was strong for us, captained the side when Sophie Bradley was injured. Obviously we are missing Sophie still, we have strengthened with Laura Bassett, we have also got Fern Whelan who can slot in there now she is fit and ready to go. I think we strengthened if anything squad wise  in defense. And hopefully now we are going to defend as well as last year and also score more goals to turn draws into wins.

Last year you were in the relegation battle for a while. You have new players in attack, do you think you will be able to play with less emphasis on defense this season ?

We started the season well last year, we dipped a lot in the middle. We lost Ellen White early, Jess Clarke was on her own most of the time and was scoring a lot of goals ( she scored 50% of Notts County league goals overall). She cannot do everything, we were asking a lot from her. She did her best and got us out of some deep holes. Now we have got Ellen back, Jess Clarke, Jess Siggsworth who just signed. We also have Rachel Williams and Fiona O’Sullivan that we signed mid-season last year. Offensively we are quite strong. And if we can keep watertight at the back it is a good combination.

So is it just a question of getting the right balance between attacking and defending this year ?  

Definitely, last year we knew we were low on attacking players, we knew it was  going to be hard to score goals. We had to make sure we defend our best and if we managed to nick goals and get draws it was a bonus for us.

What are the expectations for the team this year ? Is it qualifying for the champions league or the title or finishing top 3? 

We would like to build on last year. We finished mid table, we got two semi-finals. We want to reach a final, it would be lovely to get some silverware. FA Cup, Continental Cup or winning the league and from there we would like to into champions league. We were not far off in the end, 8 points with the deduction from the Bristol, we could have been ended right amongst it. I do not think we were far off and with the players we have signed we will end up competing.

Marie Hourihan (goalkeeper for Chelsea Ladies)

How do you manage to juggle your everyday accounting work and playing football at the same ? 

Chelsea have gone fully professional so all of our 20 players are in everyday. For me personally, it is just a case of seeing with the club what is the schedule training wise and speak to my employer who is pretty flexible and say “look these are the hours where I will be free”. Basically working around that, I am quite lucky that I do a lot of work remotely.

Do Chelsea Ladies train in the morning or in the evening ?

We train during the day, always during the day ( unlike other teams). Usually typically in the morning and if the afternoon, we will have a gym session. We also have recovery days at least once a week when I can fit my accounting work. By the end of the week, you are basically knackered.

The manager has brought foreign goalkeepers last season ( Endler) and this season ( Lindhal) how do you see that kind of competition ?

It is good, competition is good, it pushes you to improve. It brings different culture, different ways of playing. I am training with a different type of goalkeeper that I am used to. It broadens my horizon. This year, the new signing is the Swedish number one keeper, so you have to raise to your game to that level, if you want to compete to play. In every position, the competition is healthy, we have strength in depth and it bodes well for this year.

Are you going to try to win the title this year ?

After last year loosing on final day, we are all wounded from that. Our aim this year is to win some silverware for the club. The League is going to be very difficult of course, all the other sides have strengthened, every year it gets harder but we are hoping to be in that mix certainly.

Regarding the Champions League 2015/16, will you try to win it ?

September is a long time away, it is a great competition very different to what we are used to. The way Chelsea Football club is we want to win everything.

Does the manager ask you to go up on attacking corners ? ( Lindhal went up five time against Watford in pre-season and nearly scored with a header) 

It was just a unique scenario, something the manager wanted to try during a game.