Emma Hayes and Chelsea: The End Of An Illustrious Era

Chelsea made history in English football. Recently, they won the Women’s Super League title after beating Manchester United 6-0 at Old Trafford when the whole country counted them out.

Emma Hayes, who is now departing the club as the season has ended, got to end her tenure as a Blue with yet another trophy. The club legend leaves Chelsea having won silverware 16 times in just under 12 years as head coach.

Hayes joined Chelsea in August of 2012, during a difficult period for the club. It was not until 2015 when she got to earn her first silverware at Chelsea. That year, Chelsea won the WSL title, as well as the Women’s FA Cup.

Over the next few years, Emma Hayes continued to fill up the trophy cabinet. Under her leadership, Chelsea have won eight FA WSL titles (including the Spring Series), five Women’s FA Cups, two FA Women’s League Cups and one FA Women’s Community Shield.

Chelsea has been quite the dominant side these past five years, however, this season was far from easy for the Blues. Here, we will take a closer look at their season, the lows, the highs, and how they gave Emma Hayes an imperfectly perfect sendoff.

A strong start, but not just for them

The first 10 games of the season saw Chelsea consistently produce good results. In those 10 games, the Blues went 8-1-1. Notably, their draw and loss came from those that gave them competition for the title. In what was their second game of the season, Chelsea drew 1-1 to Manchester City. The defeat came from a London derby hosted at the Emirates, where they lost 4-1 to Arsenal.

While Chelsea had positive results in the first half of the season, they were not the only ones to. Manchester City and Arsenal also had solid starts to the season. In 10 games, City enjoyed 7 wins, 1 draw and only 2 losses. Their draw came from the previously mentioned game with Chelsea, and one of their losses notably came from Arsenal. As for their London rivals Arsenal, the Gunners had 7 wins, 1 draw and 2 losses.

Heading into January, it therefore appeared to be a three-horse race to the WSL title.

No Striker, No Goals

In January, Chelsea announced that prolific striker Sam Kerr would be sidelined for the rest of the season following an ACL tear. The Australian had managed nine goals in all competitions before the injury. In her absence, Mia Fishel stepped up and took on the role of central striker. But, to the Blues’ demise, Mia Fishel also sustained an ACL tear a month later.

In the games that followed, it was clear that Chelsea were missing the presence of a natural goal scorer in the final third. Luckily for the Blues, by the end of most 90 minutes, they were able to score goals and win. However, the difference between Chelsea and Manchester City was that the latter more often won games with ease.

A telling game was their return fixture when City beat Chelsea 1-0 at Kingsmeadow. This loss held heavy meaning. It was Chelsea’s first home loss since February 2021, ending a run of 33 games. It was also Chelsea’s first loss to Manchester City at home in the WSL for the first time since 2016.

At this point in time, City looked the most likely to be the victors of the season. The first six games of 2024 saw City be more consistent than Chelsea who had a loss, as well as Arsenal who had two losses in that run. Arsenal was no longer a strong contender for the title.

The final run

Heading into the final six games of the season, consistency was what the teams had to muster. In their third game of the final six, Chelsea had quite the blow. A 4-3 loss to Liverpool had Emma Hayes conceding the title to City. In her own words; “I’d love to win titles again for Chelsea, but that’s not going to be this year I’m afraid.”

Hayes was not bluffing, as the title did seem to slip out of their hands, and only a miracle would bring them back into a fight.

To Chelsea’s luck, a miracle in the form of a Stina Blackstenius brace brought the Blues back into the fight. In what was expected to be a decisive game, Manchester City were leading 1-0 against Arsenal into the final 10 minutes. However, a minute before stoppage time, Stina Blackstenius scored an equalizer. The Swede was not done scoring yet though, as she netted another goal two minutes into stoppage time. Not only had Blackstenius won Arsenal a big game, but she had also allowed Chelsea back into the title fight.

This was all the more important as Chelsea had just come off the back of an 8-0 victory against Bristol City, as well as a 1-0 against London rivals Tottenham.

Manchester City and Chelsea therefore went into the final game of the season, equal in points. Goal difference would be the title decider if both teams were to earn the same points on Saturday. Heading into the final season Chelsea’s goal difference was +47 while City’s was +45.

On a day when goals mattered though, it was Chelsea who came out on top. Whilst Manchester City struggled to earn a 2-1 win against Aston Villa, Chelsea was enjoying an easy win at Old Trafford. In ‘The Theatre Of Dreams’ Chelsea scored six goals and kept a clean sheet against Manchester United.

Columbian striker Mayra Ramirez who joined the Blues on a record-breaking fee had an incredible first half, managing two goals and two assists. Johanna Rytting Kaneryd, Sjoeke Nüsken and Melanie Leupolz also added their names to the scoresheet. Poetically, the last to score a goal for Chelsea that day was Chelsea’s all-time leading top goal scorer Fran Kirby on her last Chelsea game, who just like Hayes, is set to leave the club now that the season has concluded.

Women’s Super League Title Winners Since 2011

Chelsea’s victory at Old Trafford allowed them to add yet another achievement to the history books. Chelsea is now the first team in England to win five league titles in a row (WSL or EPL). They are the WSL’s most successful club since its inception in 2011 with eight league titles.

In a season where it looked like Hayes would be leaving trophyless, the Blues proved why they should never be counted out. The brilliance of Emma Hayes and her mighty Blues has been a marvel to watch. A true legend of English football is leaving on a well-deserved high.

Hayes will coach her first game for the United States Women’s National Team (USWNT) for a friendly against South Korea.

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