WSL: How two midweek games could almost decide it all
Wednesday evening sees two key fixtures in the WSL – Arsenal vs Tottenham in the north London derby and Man City vs Birmingham – which could almost decide it all ahead of the final day.
After facing Chelsea twice in four days, Tottenham now take on another title contender and north London derby rival in Arsenal, with the game being played at the Emirates.
Postponed from March 26 due to Covid cases in the Spurs squad, the game could not have come at a more crucial moment in the season.
While Tottenham can no longer finish in the top three – although are still on course for their highest ever league finish – should they beat Arsenal, it will see Chelsea win the WSL trophy with a game to spare.
Emma Hayes’s side are currently four points ahead in first, but Arsenal will be looking to take the most exciting of title races down to the final day.
What the managers say
Arsenal manager Jonas Eidevall: “I don’t look that far ahead [to Sunday], I have massive respect for Tottenham. We need to focus on winning and if we can do that everything will be on the line on Sunday. We need to do it ourselves tomorrow.
“It is a massive game for us, going to the Emirates, it’s a north London derby. Let’s focus on that, if we don’t win then it’s all over and Sunday doesn’t matter. We need to do something tomorrow.
“I always say ‘it’s a derby so it is filled with emotions’. It is two very different teams. Both have been performing well in the season.
“For me, that is unrealistic thinking about Sunday now. It is Tottenham. I am so excited to go to the Emirates and play them. First we take that and then we’ll think about West Ham.”
Jonas Eidevall on Jordan Nobbs’ injury…
“Initially we have scanned it and unfortunately she is going to miss the rest of the season with Arsenal.
“But it is an injury with ongoing assessment during the week. We will know more after they have looked at it.
“We have to wait and see, but it is so frustrating for us, most of all for Jordan not being able to participate at the end of the season. We can just hope that it is as good as possible.”
Tottenham manager Rehanne Skinner: “It’s going to be a tough test, that’s kind of what these games are about and it’s important to rise to the challenge. We’re looking forward to it, that’s something that’s on the players’ minds that we want to get more points out of it for sure. They’re a tough team, but we’re going to make it as hard as we can and maybe we can cause an upset. Let’s hope that it’s the case.
“I think everyone we play is a big rival. I totally understand from a fans’ perspective, the north London aspect of it because it translates over from the men’s game a little bit more. The longer we’re in the league, the more that will become obvious as well. The last game we played in particular, it really was a more true fashioned north London derby.
“I think they were our biggest fans when we were playing Chelsea, but the tables have turned for Wednesday! The biggest thing for us is we want points out of games, we want to show how much we’ve improved over the course of the season, we want to make sure we stick to the game plan and make it really difficult for them and what will be will be with the title race. We’re just concerned with finishing as high as we can and getting as many points as we can out of these last two games.
“I’m really proud of the squad and I’m delighted with the performances and the improvements we’ve made this year. When I came here, we discussed that it was a journey for us and there were things we needed to put in place. It’s a ‘building a team’ process and it does take time to build top-quality teams that can compete at the top end of leagues.
How to follow the WSL on Wednesday across Sky Sports
Follow Arsenal vs Tottenham in our dedicated live blog across Sky Sports’ digital platforms, plus the latest score from Man City vs Birmingham.
Watch free match highlights from both games on Sky Sports’ digital platforms from midnight.
“We’ve made some really positive progress on and off the pitch over the course of the season that has contributed to the performances. We know the next steps that we need as well, which is probably a good place to be, and we’re in action trying to get those things ready for next year as well. Finish on a high and start again in a positive place.”
Last time out…
- Arsenal have won three of their four FA Women’s Super League matches against Tottenham Hotspur (D1), although they drew 1-1 earlier this season at the Hive.
- Tottenham Hotspur are winless in six FA WSL matches (D2 L4), their worst such run since failing to win 10 matches in a row between January and May 2021.
- Tottenham’s Rachel Williams has been involved in nine FA WSL goals versus Arsenal (6 goals, 3 assists), the joint-highest total by a player against the Gunners in WSL history (also Toni Duggan).
- Arsenal’s Vivianne Miedema has scored six goals in four FA Women’s Super League appearances against Tottenham Hotspur, scoring in all four games. She could become only the second player to score in each of the first five fixtures between two sides in WSL history, along with Danielle van de Donk (Arsenal vs Brighton).
- Katie McCabe has been involved in five goals in her last three FA Women’s Super League matches against Tottenham, assisting a goal in each of the last three. The only player to assist in four consecutive WSL appearances against the same team is Karen Carney against Sunderland (August 2015 – May 2017).
Despite an impressive result against Brighton and only losing 1-0 to Chelsea, the goal on Wednesday is simple for Birmingham – they must win to give themselves a chance of catching Leicester and avoiding relegation.
The Foxes are currently five points ahead with Birmingham having two games to play. Should they beat Manchester City, they will cut the gap to two points heading into Sunday’s fixtures.
Gareth Taylor’s side have enjoyed a resurgence after a difficult start to the season, and can overtake Manchester United in third with three points.
This would see them two points ahead of their City rivals heading into the final day, where Man Utd face a difficult task in stopping title-chasing Chelsea. Man City will play away to Reading.
Final day fixtures in the WSL – all games kick-off at 12pm
- Aston Villa v Birmingham
- Brighton vs Everton
- Chelsea vs Man Utd
- Reading vs Man City
- Tottenham vs Leicester
- West Ham vs Arsenal
What the managers say
Man City manager Gareth Taylor: “The players are in good shape. It’s very similar to what we had at the weekend. Vicky Losada and Jess Park will take part in some of training on Tuesday evening. This game is too close for them but they’re moving in the right direction, which is helpful.
“Confidence is really good. There’s high belief in what we’re trying to achieve. Everyone’s really contributing – whether they play or don’t play; start or don’t start.
“It’s a good situation for us to be in: everybody’s contributing, we’ve got different types of wingers and strikers… We look for symmetry and cohesion and it’s great for a manager to have those options.
“We didn’t have that earlier in the season. As long as everyone is competing, giving their best with their best attitude to help the team, that’s the most important thing.
“I think it probably provides them [Birmingham] with the opportunity to have the shackles off and go for it but who knows? It’s hard to predict. When we played them in December, it was a high-energy game – they really came out. Maybe it will be similar to that.
“I’ve been fortunate enough to come across Darren. It was his first game against us in December and he took over in difficult circumstances.
“You get a team who are playing for their manager, playing for their futures. Hopefully, there’s a bigger picture there in regards to keeping him there. If they can, it would be great because you can see the difference in the second half of the season.”
Birmingham manager Darren Carter: “The spirits are high. I think they’ve got a real resilience to them as a group, they’re very resolute as a group, especially since I’ve been in the building. We’ve had our fair share of adversity, but they’ve always picked themselves back up, dusted themselves down and gone again. That’s testament to them as a group.
“We’ve prepped for Man City and we’re ready to go. They’ve got an enormous amount of fight in them and they’re certainly not going to shirk that now. They’re going to stand up and be counted and we’re going to go to Man City and give it a right go.
“As good as Man City are and as good as they’ve been and the threats they pose, any game you go into, I’ve always said to them, you can’t be fearful. You have to be respectful of the opposition, but certainly not fearful.
“There’s a belief [that Birmingham can win their last two games] without a shadow of a doubt. You draw inspiration from games, certainly the Arsenal game and Sunday, going toe-to-toe with a fantastic Chelsea side. We’ve just to put that all together now in one performance and go and get three points.”
Last time out…
- Manchester City have won their last seven FA WSL matches against Birmingham City, scoring 20 goals and conceding only four.
- Having lost their first three home league games this season, Man City have won six of their last seven at the Academy Stadium (D1), including each of the last five by an aggregate score of 18-2.
- In 2022, only Chelsea (32) have won more FA WSL points than Manchester City (28), who have also scored the joint-most goals (31, level with Chelsea). By contrast, their opponents Birmingham have won the fewest points of any WSL side this year (7).
- Manchester City haven’t dropped a single point against any of the six sides currently in the FA Women’s Super League bottom half this season, winning all 10 games with 42 goals scored and just five conceded. They are only the side yet to drop a point against those six teams this season.
- Louise Quinn has scored three away FA WSL goals for Birmingham this season, the most of any Blues player. The last Birmingham player to score more than four on the road in a single WSL season was current Man City forward Ellen White (4 in 2018-19).
- Man City’s Ellen White has been involved in at least one goal in each of her four FA WSL appearances against Birmingham City for her current club (2 goals, 2 assists), scoring in their 3-2 win earlier this campaign.