The Women’s Super League Title Fight

The 2023/24 season of the Women’s Super League is almost over. Since the start of the season back in October, there has been a title fight brewing. For much of the season, it involved title defenders Chelsea, as well as Manchester City and Arsenal. However, as things stand now, Arsenal is more on the back foot, with Chelsea and Manchester City still standing tall in the fight for the most prestigious title in women’s English football.

This season’s top scorers come from City and Chelsea. They are City’s Khadija (Bunny) Shaw at the top with 19 goals, and Chelsea’s Lauren James with 13 goals. City’s Mary Fowler, Arsenal’s Victoria Pelova and Chelsea’s Johanna Rytting Kaneryd have provided the most assists so far with 5. With just two months to go, here is a look at each of the three clubs’ chances of lifting the WSL title.

Title favourites – Chelsea

In 13 years of the WSL’s existence, Chelsea have won the most titles. Chelsea are sitting pretty at the top with six WSL titles, three more than Arsenal who are runners-up on the list.

In the 2015 season, Emma Hayes, and Chelsea ended up lifting the Women’s Super League title for the first time ever. They were runners up the following season, before again winning the title in the 2018/19 season. The next season they finished third but once again brought glory back to the Bridge by winning the WSL titles four times in a row.

Should the Blues manage to win the title this season, it will be their fifth WSL title in a row and a seventh in their entire history.

As things stand now, Chelsea is second in the WSL table, with one game in hand. Should Chelsea win their next game, they will be back on top, a position they have enjoyed for a large part of the season. They have 43 points – three points behind Manchester City, with a goal difference higher than City’s by one . Chelsea has a record of 14-1-2 thus far.

The aim for the Blues would be to avoid dropping points to keep a strong foot in the title fight. Chelsea does not have the privilege of being able to ‘focus on the league’ as they have been strong contenders in every competition they entered at the start of the season despite their injury crisis.

In what is Emma Hayes’ final season, Chelsea had the chance to complete the quadruple – the WSL title, the UEFA Women’s Champions League, the FA Cup and the FA Women’s Continental Tyres League Cup. However, there will be no quadruple for the Blues, as they lost the Conti Cup final.

The Conti Cup final was a London derby, with Chelsea facing Arsenal on Sunday. The two teams played the full 90 minutes as well as stoppage time, the game goalless, until the 116th minute when Arsenal’s Stina Blackstenius scored the winner.

Chelsea is through to the semifinals of the UWCL after beating Ajax 4-1 on aggregate, and is set to meet Europe’s strongest team – Barcelona – in the semi-finals on April 20 for leg 1, and April 27 for leg 2. As for the FA Cup, the Blues will be meeting Manchester United on April 14 for the semifinals.

What was once the charge for a quadruple is now the charge for a treble. However, a first-ever UWCL title for the Blues may conceal the wounds of losing the Conti Cup final to London rivals Arsenal.

The pressure is on for the Blues to deliver as much silverware as possible ahead of Hayes’ departure, but it won’t be easy. Man City remain a constant threat. Chelsea’s final WSL fixtures include two home games against Aston Villa and Bristol City, as well as three away fixtures against Tottenham, Liverpool and Manchester United.

The persistent force – Manchester City

Manchester City has won the WSL only once, back in the 2016 season. They have, however, remained one of the best English teams for much of the WSL’s running. City was runners up in 2015, and for four seasons in a row (2017/18 – 2020/21). They finished last season in third.

Although not title favourites this season, Manchester City have managed to stay close to Chelsea all season. Gareth Taylor’s team looks to be the one with the highest chance of snatching the title from Chelsea. City has won 15 games, drawn twice and lost only one. They are currently top of the table, however, Chelsea is a game behind.

A memorable moment for City was when they ended Chelsea’s incredible run of 33 undefeated WSL home games in a row back in February. The highly anticipated game ended 1-0, with Bunny Shaw’s goal coming in the 14th minute.

Earlier this month, City lost to Chelsea 1-0 in the Conti Cup semifinal, an eighth-minute Lauren James goal making the difference. A penalty shootout loss to Tottenham in the quarterfinals of the FA Cup three days following their loss to Chelsea has left City’s only chance of silverware this season being the WSL title.

City is a team that play arguably the most attractive football in the WSL, but what they lack in comparison to Chelsea is consistency. Chelsea’s consistency is what has allowed them to have an edge over the rest of the league. It will be critical for City to remain consistent and keep up their winning streak to have a chance at the title. A dominant 4-1 win against Liverpool on Saturday might as well be proof that they’re on the right charge.

City’s remaining WSL fixtures are two home games against West Ham and Arsenal, as well as two away games against Bristol City and Aston Villa to close their season.

The Gunners – Arsenal

Although the least likely title winner of the three, Arsenal is still undoubtedly gunning for this season’s WSL title.

Arsenal were once England’s greatest pride in English football. In fact, Arsenal is still to this date the only English team to ever win the UEFA Women’s Champions League (2007). Before the WSL rebranded to the competition we now know it as, it used to be called the WFA National League Premier Division (1991–1994), and as the FA Women’s Premier League National Division (1994–2010). Since 1991 when it all started, Arsenal is the most successful English club, having won a total of 15 titles.

A fourth WSL title – and 16th first tier title – is currently in the sights of the Arsenal team. Arsenal has won 12 games this season, drawn once, and lost four games. One of their wins was a memorable London Derby win against Chelsea at the Emirates on December 10. It was a game of domination by the hosts, who beat the defending champions 4-1.

Arsenal seemed to have made quite the statement with that victory, however, a recent London Derby against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge contradicted it. On March 15, Chelsea beat their London rivals 3-1. Arsenal are however still proving to be a team strong enough to still be included in WSL title fight talks.

Their highly anticipated Conti Cup final against Chelsea was expected to go to penalties, however, Stina’s last-minute winner sealed the deal for the Gunners. Arsenal will be happy with the result, as it may have been their only real chance at silverware this season.

Their remaining fixtures include three WSL home games against Bristol City, Leicester City and Brighton, and two WSL away games against Everton and Manchester City. Arsenal currently have 37 points, six points behind title leaders Chelsea and City. However, a goal difference of 19 compared to Chelsea’s 36 and City’s 34 does make a strong statement.

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