So far this season, the FAWSL title race has been firmly between four teams: Arsenal, Chelsea, Manchester City, and Manchester United.
With City and Arsenal occupying the third and fourth spots in the table, this weekend’s matchup was huge in deciding which of the teams would stay within touching distance of the top two, and which would effectively be out of the title race. With Manchester City winning, they now have 30 points, two behind both United and Chelsea. Arsenal, on the other hand, remain in fourth with 23 points.
Here’s a look at how the game unfolded and what the result means for the title race.
Going into this match, City were in superb form, scoring 18 goals in their last three league matches. Arsenal, on the contrary, had not played a match since January 17th, a 1-1 draw with Reading.
It was no surprise that early in the game, City seemed to be in much better shape, with their earliest chance coming at the sixth minute when Manuela Zinsberger made a mistake that Ellen White could not capitalize on. Nearing the 20-minute mark, it seemed that Arsenal grew into the game, but as soon as they started gaining momentum, White was able to convert a half-volley chance into a goal.
???????????? https://t.co/dU0MSlvvL6— Man City Women (@ManCityWomen) February 7, 2021
With the goal, White became the FAWSL’s all-time top goal-scorer in the FAWSL, overtaking Arsenal’s Vivianne Miedema at the top spot.
???? @ellsbells89 ????Ellen White's goal against @ArsenalWFC put her back to the top of the all-time #BarclaysFAWSL top goalscorers list ⭐️#BarclaysFAWSL pic.twitter.com/GkEvhsOGko— Barclays FA Women's Super League (@BarclaysFAWSL) February 7, 2021
???? @ellsbells89 ????Ellen White's goal against @ArsenalWFC put her back to the top of the all-time #BarclaysFAWSL top goalscorers list ⭐️#BarclaysFAWSL pic.twitter.com/GkEvhsOGko
Despite going 0-1 down early, Arsenal didn’t lose their heads, and they constantly threatened Manchester City in the minutes after conceding. They had several chances that either lacked a good final pass, or were saved by Ellie Roebuck. With ten minutes before the half, Jill Roord finally managed to score, but the goal was called for off-side.
Roord got her opportunity to shine early in the second half, as she assisted Arsenal’s equalizer, which came in the 57th minute, courtesy of Caitlin Foord.
Roord ➡️ FoordWell worked goal from @ArsenalWFC! ????#BarclaysFAWSL pic.twitter.com/CpazOcwlOO— Barclays FA Women's Super League (@BarclaysFAWSL) February 7, 2021
Roord ➡️ FoordWell worked goal from @ArsenalWFC! ????#BarclaysFAWSL pic.twitter.com/CpazOcwlOO
After the goal, Arsenal appeared to find their groove, and it looked like they were going to pull off the win, with Vivianne Miedema finally getting a few half-chances in front of goal. However, they failed to score, and City managed to grow back into the game.
By the 70th minute, it seemed to be an even contest and anyone’s game. But with a little over ten minutes to go, it was Manchester City who came out on top, with a fantastic diving header from Lauren Hemp.
What a header by Lauren Hemp! ????@Chloe_Kelly98 puts in a pinpoint cross and that's a HUGE goal in the #BarclaysFAWSL title race! ???? pic.twitter.com/jaG1iJBRz4— Barclays FA Women's Super League (@BarclaysFAWSL) February 7, 2021
What a header by Lauren Hemp! ????@Chloe_Kelly98 puts in a pinpoint cross and that's a HUGE goal in the #BarclaysFAWSL title race! ???? pic.twitter.com/jaG1iJBRz4
For the last ten minutes, it was all City, with Arsenal barely getting out of their own half. It remained that way until the final whistle.
Arsenal are now nine points off the top of the table. While they have a game in hand, it’s hard to see how they come back from this.
In fact, they’re quite lucky to only be nine points behind given that both Manchester United and Chelsea lost this week as well, losing to Reading and Brighton respectively.
While manager Joe Montemurro still has faith in his squad. for Arsenal to win this title, it’ll take an insane run of games, as well as well as a few key losses from the other three teams on top.
Asked Joe Montemurro if he thinks Arsenal are still in the WSL title race. He says: "I wouldn’t count us out just yet. I believe in the squad. We’re going to keep fighting." #AFC— Tom Garry (@TomJGarry) February 7, 2021
Asked Joe Montemurro if he thinks Arsenal are still in the WSL title race. He says: "I wouldn’t count us out just yet. I believe in the squad. We’re going to keep fighting." #AFC
As of right now, I think they need to focus on sneaking into the top three to secure a Champions League spot for next season, or they risk losing quite a few of their stars come the summer transfer window.
As for City, the win is huge for them, and their form over the past month or so should give them great confidence going into next week when they face United in the Manchester Derby.
A win against their rivals, and they’ll securely be in second place and in the thick of title contention.