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Arsenal v West Ham today: the expectations

by Bulldog Drummond

The new season of the Women’s Super League opens today with champions Arsenal playing West Ham.   The game is live on BT Sport.

Last season’s table was a joy to behold not just because we were at the top with a seven point margin over the megamoney Man City, but also because we suffered an injury crisis through most of the season, and yet still played terrific flowing football.  Here’s the final table….

Team P W D L F A GD Pts
1 Arsenal 20 18 0 2 70 13 +57 54
2 Manchester City 20 14 5 1 53 17 +36 47
3 Chelsea 20 12 6 2 46 14 +32 42
4 Birmingham City 20 13 1 6 29 17 +12 40
5 Reading 20 8 3 9 33 30 +3 27
6 Bristol City 20 7 4 9 17 34 −17 25
7 West Ham United 20 7 2 11 25 37 −12 23
8 Liverpool 20 7 1 12 21 38 −17 22
9 Brighton & Hove Albion 20 4 4 12 16 38 −22 16
10 Everton 20 3 3 14 18 44 −26 12
11 Yeovil Town 20 2 1 17 11 60 −49 −3

Yeovil were deducted ten points.  Our review of last season is here

Arsenal are considered to be the favourites for this coming season, if nothing else than for the fact that surely the injuries won’t be so bad as last time, and the manager is clearly working on a plan that is only half complete.

We also have newcomers in the league including Manchester United who are expected to do quite well because they are throwing money at the squad, West Ham who we play in the opening game, and Tottenham, promoted for the first time from the second division.

Andrew managed to get an exclusive interview with Arsenal’s Joe Montemurro last season which is very much worth reading if you missed it first time around.    The point about Joe is that he used tactics to win through, famously saying that the positional layout of players  in a diagram is just for journalists and has nothing to do with how his team plays.

As for this season, obviously the arrival of Tottenham in the league, having come second in division two last season, nine points behind the leaders Manchester United gives us a local derby and hopefully a big crowd for the occasion.

“Our football’s more about midfielders getting forward than ‘hold-up’ strikers,” Joe said recently in an interview with the Guardian.  “It’s very difficult to track runners from deep and differing midfield combinations so we don’t play with two sixes who just sit. We rotate and our number 10s play as eights; it’s quite fluid.”

Interestingly, despite the arrival of Manchester United, the women’s super league remains primarily a southern based league, just as the original Football League was exclusively for northern and midland clubs, until Woolwich Arsenal joined.  Women’s football now needs the same initiative and drive that Arsenal showed in 1893 by bringing League football to London, in bringing the League to the south.  I wonder if they are up to the task.

Which brings us to the fact that one third of the league is based in London.   And that leads to the point that the main Chelsea interaction with their owner – who is still Roman Abramovich – this summer, was limited to a chat when the squad went on a pre-season trip to Israel.

If Mr A is going to continue to avoid actually visiting Chelsea and watching the games in England, that could in the long term be a disaster for the club as a whole.  With their new stadium cancelled and the club unable to sign any players for the men’s side, they could do with a motivating owner being involved on the ground.

Returning to the issue of Arsenal, a glimpse at last season’s top scorers table shows what lay behind Arsenal’s success.    Four of the players in the top 11 (it should be a ten I know but two players tied for 10th position) play for Arsenal: Miedema, van de Donk, Nobbs and Little.

If there is one thing that could challenge Arsenal’s position however it is the size of the ground and level of support.  There is talk of growing crowds throughout the league, while seven of the 12 clubs in the League have larger grounds than Arsenal, who play at Meadow Park where the capacity is 4502.  The largest ground in the league is at Birkenhead, where Liverpool play.  The capacity is over 16,000.

So there we are.  The game is on TV, or you can go to Boreham Wood’s ground, where Arsenal played some pre-season games and take a peek in person.

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