After two seasons of promotions from wsL 2 to wsl 1, I thought it would be a good idea to see if promoted teams do well or are struggling when they move up.
Season 2015 finished 4th 20 points PL 14 W6 D2 L6 24-24
They beat Liverpool, Bristol x2, Birmingham, Notts County, champions Chelsea. Bristol were relegated. The first nine games returned WLWLLWWWW and the last five games DDLLL. Sunderland struggled with injuries towards the end of the 2015 season.
No League win between the 25/07/2015 and 09/07/2016
Season 2016 finished 7th 10 points Pl 16 W2 D4 L10 17-41
Their two wins were against promoted team Doncaster Belles who ended up relegated.
Season 2016 finished 8th 9 pts PL16 W1 D6 L9 15-26
Their only win was against Doncaster Belles who ended up relegated. They drew against Sunderland x2, Notts County x2 , Birmingham x2.
Those six draws kind of kept them up as they lost on final day to the Belles, when things were already settled.
Season 2016 finished 9th relegated 3 pts PL16 W1 D0 L15 8-48
15 defeats in a row before a last day win a Reading Women, too little to late. Worse attack, worse defence in the League.
It is quite obvious that the promoted teams have a tough time and struggle overall when moving to WSL 1. Sunderland in 2015 being the exception to the rule, this is probably due to their excellent defensive block positioned quite low on the pitch and clinical finisher in Beth Mead, who finished the League as top scorer that season.
So why do those promoted teams struggle ?
If we discount the succesful Sunderland 2015 season, in term of goals in 2016 : Doncaster 8, Reading 15, Sunderland 17. Note that Notts County scored 16 only and got 16 points while Birmingham scored 18 and got 27 points. Obviously Doncaster did not score enough goals . If we look at defences Doncaster conceded 48, Sunderland 41 and Reading 26. Notts County conceded 26 like Reading and scored only one more goals but got seven more points overall. Doncaster obviously did not have neough offensively and defensively, while Reading was in line with near mid-table teams on that respect.
There is a huge jump in quality between FA WSL 2 and FA WSL 1 as most of the teams are not training full-time in FA WSL 2, while it is the opposite in FA WSL 1 .
I believe only Doncaster and Reading did not have an entire squad doing full-time training with those two sides having full-time players and part-time players with a normal job activity. Reading having probably double the number of full-time players than Doncaster.
As horrible as the FAWSL licensing criteria are ( I mean the football side is one of least important criteria), they certainly set a minimum standard for infrastructure and marketing that are needed in the top division. Unfortunately, it means selecting teams on money criteria rather than sporting criteria, which should the base criteria in any sport. What it means is Bristol and Yeovil will have to provide good enough facilities and support off the pitch to be able to compete on the pitch.
We know that Bristol made the change towards that improvement when they moved from their Bristol Academy brand to become Bristol City Women. That back-up from the men’s club being crucial and of course their facilities as well as training full time this season means they are prepared for when they will get back to FA WSL 1 in September.
Yeovil will discover the FA WSL 1 and there is a very interesting interview from the chairman Stephen Allinson in Sommerset live.
“Manchester City are full-time and what I mean by that is they’re paid full-time and train five times a week. It’s not going to be possible to do that and of course most of our girls have other jobs.
“But it is our intention that some of our players will be full-time and one of the ways I think we can be clever is if they have job as soccer coaches in colleges or community programmes, then they can effectively be down here training and teaching and we can look at a pay share arrangement that way.”
Yeovil’s success and promotion is the proof that smaller clubs can make it to the top division and hopefully will be able to stay up with a different business model than the clubs coming with the money straight from the coffers of a rich men’s team. There is nothing wrong with a men’s team giving a lot of oney and facilities to their women’s side, it does help raising the football level. Now, if all the teams had GPS and cryotherapy as an example among other facilites, that would certainly help smaller teams, along with good logistics and costs travel.
On the footballing side alone, success for Sunderland in 2015 and relative success for Reading in 2016 were based on solid defending, being difficult to beat, the normal underdog modus operandi. Sunderland and Doncaster poor defending in 2016 with 41 and 48 goals shipped, shows that proper defending is priceless for teams trying to avoid relegation. Not many teams fighting for survival can allow themselves to play a proper expansive attacking game.
It will be a tough ask for Bristol and Yeovil to stay up next season, they will need to recruit the right quality players in key positions and the right tactics as well as a lot of work done off the pitch.