Sport Editor Lucy Blitz reviews the WSL season to date, and looks ahead to what 2024 might bring after the winter break

Sports Editor and Writer. Mainly talking about the WSL, the Premier League, and all things cricket.

The Women’s Super League has just one weekend remaining before the top-flight is set for its annual month-long break across December and January. While the absence of the WSL may leave a hole in the hearts of many football fans, the new year brings a complex set of challenges for each club as the title race continues. So, what has happened so far, what is to come, and what, if anything, can we expect?

‘Big four’ triumph, but Liverpool and Spurs are here to stay

With 2023 coming to a close, Chelsea, Arsenal, Manchester City and Manchester United are proving their strength once again. The Blues and the Gunners are locked into an intense scrap at the top of the table, while both Manchester teams are sinking opponents week in, week out to leave the third Champions League spot wide open.

Chelsea have had increased motivation since the announcement of Emma Hayes’ upcoming departure in May and have since enjoyed resounding success against Liverpool and Leicester. Yet while they may be leading the pack, the Blues are having to fend off an Arsenal side who are chomping at the bit to catch up. Jonas Eidevall has enjoyed the return of Beth Mead and Vivianne Miedema, with the Gunners set to take on more motivation when England captain Leah Williamson returns in the new year. 

…the Blues are having to fend off an Arsenal side who are chomping at the bit to catch up

Meanwhile, City’s recent 7-0 thrashing of Robert Vilahamn’s Spurs exposed the tenacity of Khadija ‘Bunny’ Shaw, who secured a 15-minute hat-trick before half-time to leave Lilywhite legs shaking. United put five past West Ham in early November, with five different goal scorers demonstrating the depth of Marc Skinner’s squad. The Manchester derby may have left Old Trafford visitors in despair thanks to the likes of Chloe Kelly, but the race for a third-place finish is set to go down to the wire.

However, the middle-order cannot be dismissed just yet, if at all. Liverpool slammed four past Brighton at Prenton Park to round off a mostly successful November, while Spurs are right behind them and on track to significantly out-perform their 9th-placed finish last season. Leicester’s campaign across the last two months has been mixed, but for a team that entered last season’s winter break without a point to their name, Willie Kirk’s side look revolutionised ahead of the new year.

Golden Boot race wide open

The race for the WSL trophy is firmly on, yet the race for this season’s Golden Boot is even closer, with Shaw, Lauren James, and Martha Thomas all in the running to take the top spot. All three have secured hat-tricks for their respective clubs so far this season – James’ came during Chelsea’s 5-1 victory over Liverpool at Stamford Bridge, while Thomas added three to her ground-breaking start to life in the capital against Aston Villa in October.

Yet all three are battling to maintain their place in the fight, with the likes of Jill Roord, Aggie Beever-Jones and Elisabeth Terland only a few steps behind. What is clear is the abundance of prolific goal scorers across the WSL – players such as Nikita Parris, Rachel Williams and Rachel Daly are also in the running. 

Shocks, shocks, and more shocks

Not yet halfway through the season, the women’s top-flight has already produced an abundance of surprising results to leave one thing clear in the minds of WSL fans: nothing is certain this season. Liverpool wasted no time in hammering home that message, with their 0-1 victory at the Emirates on opening weekend serving as a reminder of what the Reds have up their sleeve for the remainder of the season.

…the second half of the season could bring even more jaw-dropping moments as the title-race intensifies

Aston Villa’s flat start to the fresh campaign has left pundits scratching their heads, as they witness a team predicted for European qualification fall to the likes of Everton and Spurs. Meanwhile, Brighton are looking to overcome their historical cling to the bottom half of the table, with manager Melissa Phillips overhauling the Seagull’s style of play to snatch a 0-1 win against high-flyers Manchester City. There is no doubt that the second half of the season could bring even more jaw-dropping moments as the title-race intensifies. 

Looking ahead 

A sold-out Meadow Park will be the battleground for the WSL’s return in January as Arsenal host Everton, while Chelsea will meet Manchester United at Stamford Bridge for the first time in the two teams’ history. As matchday 12 arrives the week after, the cycle starts again as teams across the top-flight look to maintain or change their run of fortunes from previous fixtures.

Carla Ward’s Aston Villa will hope that a trip to Manchester at the end of the month will produce a result in their favour compared to the likes of the opening weekend at Villa Park. Meanwhile, Spurs will host Man City and look to avoid another 7-0 bashing, as Brighton take on Liverpool the following week in what is set to be a middle-table battle. A month may seem a long time to wait until the top-flight returns, but there is an abundance of fantastic football coming your way beyond the new year.

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