Sarah Fitzpatrick previews the crucial weekend in the FAWSL.
upcomingLast season it was all too easy for Liverpool in the FA Women’s Super League as they won the league by five points and seemed like clear favourites throughout the season. Liverpool were favourites to retain the title again this season but it has been unbelievably competitive in 2014 with three teams still in the title race as we enter the final weekend of the season.
The increase in competition and quality in the FAWSL has been due to the league turning professional and the higher standard of coaching and training facilities that the women’s league now has available. This has led to the players of the Super League being able to train and develop every day as well as being offered support and advice from Premier League clubs. One example of this is how Liverpool have invited the Liverpool Women’s side to train at their Melwood training ground on a few occasions and have even trained with the Liverpool first side on occasion.
This increase in support and resources for the FAWSL as well as the league turning professional has benefited many sides as it has been highly competitive and has created many entertaining games for the fans of the league.
Chelsea finished second last in last season’s campaign but now find themselves on top of the table by two points while Birmingham finished 18 points away from the top spot last season but are now second in the league but only a point ahead of current champions Liverpool. It is Chelsea’s title to lose as if they don’t manage to win their final game away to Manchester City then they will allow Liverpool and Birmingham to have a go at snatching the title.
Let’s have a look at the three teams in contention for the title and how they have progressed through the 2014 season.
Chelsea are currently sitting at the top of the FAWSL league table with 26 points after winning 8 of their games, losing 3 games and drawing twice this season. They are the side with the most goals scored this season with 22 goals just one ahead of the Arsenal women’s side while they have the fourth tightest defence behind Notts County, Liverpool and Birmingham.
The idea that it is Chelsea’s title to lose has been reiterated by Chelsea goalkeeper Marie Hourihan.
“It’s in our hands and that is all that anybody wants, so at the end of the day if we don’t win this league we’ve only got ourselves to blame. Equally looking at Liverpool they won the league last year and they know what it takes. Having been at Birmingham I know the character that they have got in their team and they have got that tenacity, that fight and that spirit.”
Chelsea striker Eniola Aluko is the player to watch out for as she is currently the joint top goal scorer at the club alongside Ji So-Yun. Aluko also has experience as well as an impressive goal scoring ability as she has also played at Birmingham City, Charlton and even had a stint in America before returning to England.
Eniola Aluko also has football in her blood as her younger brother Sone Aluko is currently a Hull City player while the law graduate also became the first woman ever to appear as a television pundit on the BBC’s Match of the Day on 28 September 2014.
The experienced England international is key to this current Chelsea side and herself and fellow striker Ji So-Yun will want to ensure a title win for Chelsea when they face Manchester city away on Sunday the 12th of October 2014.
Birminham City are sitting in second just two points behind Chelsea and one point ahead of Liverpool. They will be hoping for a Chelsea slip up so they can have a go at stealing the title from the Londoners. Birmingham face Notts County at home in their final fixture and will be hoping home advantage will lead them to a win. This could lead to them being champions if luck is on their side on Sunday.
So far this season, Birmingham City have won 7 of their games, lost three and had three draws but looked like a much more stable and united team compared to last season when they finished 18 points off the mark. Karen Carney has been Birmingham’s top goal scorer this season and has been so important to their progression in 2014 as she has scored an impressive 9 times in her 20 appearances. Carney has plenty of experience at successful clubs such as her time at Arsenal and Chicago Red Stars but the winger could prove to be a Birmingham hero if her team end up lifting the FAWSL title this season.
Birmingham boss David Parker has claimed that his side will give everything in the final stages to try and claim the title as he stated,
“We will give it our all and hope things go our way. All we can do is leave everything out on the pitch and have no regrets. The three games this weekend, like always, are not cut and dried for any team. I fully expect another twist.”
Liverpool cruised to glory in the FAWSL last season as they were consistently the strongest team but 2014 has proven to be a lot more difficult for the Reds. They are currently sitting third in the league, 3 points behind Chelsea and a point behind Birmingham City.
Liverpool have still proved to be a difficult side to break down as they have only lost twice in 2014 but it has been draws that have stopped them from running away with the title again.
Liverpool are the outside bet for the title at the moment as they need to beat Bristol Academy and then hope that Chelsea lose and Birmingham lose or draw. Liverpool captain Gemma Bonner has claimed that Liverpool have the winning mentality to retain their title as she stated,
“One thing in our favour this year is that we have the experience of winning it last year and I’d like to think that will help in the big games at such an important time of the season”.
This winning mentality has been shown in important games this season such as their dramatic 2-1 win over Birmingham City when Liverpool and England star Fara Williams scored a fantastic goal from the half way line in the 88th minute to earn Liverpool all three points. Liverpool have some great players so they will be out to earn all three points against Bristol in hope that Chelsea and Birmingham have a tough day at the office.
One of these great players is Natasha Dowie who was last season’s FAWSL top goalscorer while she has scored 9 times this season making her Liverpool’s top goalscorer.
Dowie is a great striker which she has shown through her stints at Fulham, Charlton and Everton but proved to be the goal machine of women’s football last season when she scored 19 times in 21 games. The niece of former Crystal Palace boss Iain Dowie will want to have a say in the final weekend of the FAWSL 2014.
Sarah Fitzpatrick, Pundit Arena.