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by Andrew Crawshaw
The Women’s Super League kicks off this weekend after a chaotic and crazy summer which saw 15 of our team start out at the World Cup in Australia and New Zealand, have a brief break (no more than a week for many of hem) before returning to London for pre-season training (again just a bare week), travel to Sweden for the Champions League Round 1 qualifying tournament (we didn’t qualify). On to Germany for further pre-season training then they were back with their National Squads again for the UEFA Nations League matches which finished on Tuesday evening. Finally back to London on Wednesday before the WSL starts his coming weekend.
I’m pretty exhausted just typing that lot out – imagine how our players feel after all that travelling, changes of systems, getting used to new clubs, team colleagues, training methods etc. There is no wonder there are so many injuries to our key players.
Anyway the Women’s Super League (WSL) starts his weekend, all we’ve clubs are in action on Sunday.
- Aston Villa v Manchester United – 12:30 at Villa Park (capacity 42,682)
- Everton v Brighton – 13:00 at Walton Hall Park (capacity 2,200)
- Bristol City v Leicester – 14:00 at Ashton Gate (capacity 21,497)
- Arsenal v Liverpool – 14:00 at the Emirates (capacity 60,272)
- West Ham v Manchester City – 15:00 at Chigwell Construction Stadium (capacity 6,078)
- Chelsea v Tottenham – 17:30 at Stamford Bridge (capacity 41,798)
The first thing I must say is that 4 of the 6 matches are being played at the main stadia associated with the home club, the exceptions being Everton and West Ham. When I first started watching the Arsenal Women’s matches more than 10 years ago, a crowd of more than 1,000 was a good turnout and I could just turn up at Borehamwood and pay my money on the gate. Last season at the Emirates saw gates of more had 40,000 and a complete sell out for our last Champions League match. From 1k to 60k in 10 years – some growth.
We will play five games at the Emirates this season, our other 6 league matches at Borehamwood are already fully sold out. You should still be able to get seats for the five at the Emirates from the main Arsenal booking office.
You will already be aware that we failed to qualify from our Champions League Round 1 mini tournament. We beat Swedish side Lincopings in our first match but then lost to Paris FC (third place in the French League last season) on penalties after fighting back from 2 – 0 down in normal time and equalising again in extra time. Paris took excellent penalties, ours weren’t. We therefore won’t feature at the business end of Europe’s premier club competition this year and must instead concentrate on the three domestic competitions – the WSL, the League Cup and the FA Cup.
Realistically, the top English clubs are ourselves, Chelsea and the two Manchester Clubs. These are likely to be the teams competing for the WSL title. Aston Villa will be pushing hard to usurp one of these top four and may well have a good shout of getting to the finals of one of the two cup competitions.
What then would constitute a good, disappointing or bad season?
- In the WSL we must finish either first or second to avoid next season’s Champions League Round 1. In the last three seasons both Man City (twice) and ourselves have been shown just how difficult it is to survive beyond here early season competitive matches. First would represent a good season, second, somewhat disappointing, third bad and anything lower would be a disaster.
- In the FA Cup we should be looking to get to the final (and hopefully lift the trophy again). Failure to reach the Semi-final would be indicative of a bad season.
- In the League Cup we should win our group and qualify for the knock-out stage as an absolute minimum. Once through to the knock-out round our goals should be he same as for the FA Cup to get to the final and hopefully lift the trophy again.
Our squad has been assembled to enable us to get to the later stages of he Champions League. To already be out of that competition represents a serious blow to our hopes for the season and our chances of retaining our best players and even our manager come the end of the season. e now need a stellar domestic season to compensate for this opening disappointment.
Realistically only Chelsea have strength in depth that is a match for us, we should be looking for an unbeaten season in the WSL and he finals in the two cup competitions winning at least one of them.
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