Women’s Super League: talking points from the weekend’s action

Suddenly Champions League place looks possible for City

Manchester City’s dominant 5-0 defeat of Aston Villa was their third win in eight league games. After suffering a tough 4-0 loss to Chelsea at the Academy Stadium and then a League Cup defeat to Manchester United on Wednesday night, the second-half goal-fest against Villa could be the start of a turnaround in the club’s fortunes. However, the biggest wins for Gareth Taylor’s under-pressure side this weekend came elsewhere. The defeats suffered by Brighton, Tottenham and Manchester United mean last season’s runners-up sit just five points off third and only two behind their derby rivals. Suddenly Champions League football seems tantalisingly close. If City can come back from the international break fired up by having closed the gap on the teams just above them, and hang in there until even a couple of their injured stars return to action, then claiming third is a real possibility.

United need January reinforcements to halt their slide

Marc Skinner was frank about the need for more spending after Manchester United’s 2-0 defeat to Arsenal. “Our players will need reinforcements if we’ve got tough games like this. It was always going to be tough going today, but I’m not overly concerned, we will keep investing,” he said. With the January transfer window on the horizon Skinner has the opportunity to put his stamp on the club’s recruitment and bring in players that will help enact his vision for the way the team should play. It is not just necessary from a tactical point of view : if United want to arrest their slide, having not won in four league games, they need bodies to help the stretched squad cope with the workload of three games in a week. What Skinner needs is time and patience and he said as much himself: “There was a gap [between us and Arsenal] in moments, but also we’ve been in the game long enough to know that comes from investment, continued investment and time.” Whether the club and fans can see enough of his bigger picture to afford him that time is the big question.

Can Carter turn the tide at Birmingham?

Birmingham City sacked their manager, Scott Booth, last week and after another chastening day at the office, a 5-0 defeat against Chelsea, the club announced that Darren Carter would take over as interim manager. “It is a challenge that I could not turn down in all honesty,” he said. “It is a fantastic chance to prove our doubters wrong and build all the things I have talked about.” The Blues sit second from bottom so the pressure is there from the beginning and City looked low on confidence, defensively static on Sunday, surrendering too easily to Chelsea’s prowess. Worryingly, Carter’s first game in charge is against Manchester City after the international break. Chelsea, meanwhile, continued their terrifying form with the Fran Kirby and Sam Kerr show as strong as ever. The latter scored a first-half hat-trick and Kirby added two goals.

Arnold’s excellence ensures landmark win for Hammers

West Ham won their first top-flight London derby against Spurs, who were shut out by the magnificent Mackenzie Arnold in goal for the Hammers. West Ham are now just two points behind fourth-placed Spurs after a victory that showed the importance of having a high-quality goalkeeper. Arnold was tested throughout the game and made great saves from Rachel Williams and Ashleigh Neville among others to secure the points. The Hammers manager, Olli Harder, was full of praise for the Australian international. “It’s the sign of a good goalkeeper when you’re not so busy,” he said. “But when you’re called upon and do it to a high level, Mackenzie does that. I’m really pleased for her.”

Reading’s fast start accelerates climb away from danger

Reading and Brighton had been on good runs of form prior to this meeting, both having gone three games without defeat. But Brighton were frustrated by a Reading team who were essentially gifted their first goal. Fliss Gibbons’s long-range shot was saved by Megan Walsh but the Brighton keeper parried it straight out in front of her. Natasha Dowie was quick to latch on to the rebound and fired home inside the opening three minutes. Emma Harries scored late on to seal victory over Hope Powell’s surprise high-flyers and continue Reading’s climb away from the foot of the table.

Pointless Leicester fall victim to a late goal … again

It’s becoming a depressing recurrence for Jonathan Morgan’s side, who conceded yet another goal late in the game. Everton’s Simone Magill cunningly took the ball around Leicester goalkeeper, Demi Lambourne to slot home the winner in the 81st minute. Lambourne did well after stepping into the shoes of Kirstie Levell, who will out be out with a long-term knee injury – in particular with a lovely close-range one-handed save from a Kenza Dali shot. But Leicester have now conceded seven goals in the last 15 minutes of games this season and conceded 19 in eight games overall. It’s a trend that continues to deny them their first points in the WSL.