Chelsea travel to Manchester City this weekend, live on Sky Sports, as they attempt to close the gap to Arsenal at the top of the Barclays FA Women’s Super League table.
The defending champions currently trail the Gunners by three points but have won all five WSL games since losing to Jonas Eidevall’s side at the Emirates in their first game of the season.
A key part of Chelsea’s success last season, as they won two major trophies and reached the Champions League final, was their prolific forward line of Pernille Harder, Sam Kerr and Fran Kirby. The trio scored 69 goals between them in all competitions, 49 of them in the WSL alone, and all three have recently been nominated for the 2021 Ballon d’Or.
Since Harder joined Chelsea at the start of last season – becoming the world’s most expensive female footballer in the process – the trio have scored 57 WSL goals, 66 per cent of the Blues’ total.
In terms of goals, the only other WSL player that can compete with their goalscoring form since the start of last season is record-breaking Arsenal striker Vivianne Miedema, but even she has struggled to keep up with the free-scoring Kerr.
One potential issue for Chelsea recently has been their reliance on their superstar trio. Competing for four major trophies puts a strain on any squad, and this may be why they have started together in just three of Chelsea’s six WSL games this season. In fact, Chelsea’s only domestic defeat this season saw only Harder starting out of the three and since the start of October, Kirby is the only one to have started a WSL game.
When the three have not started together for Chelsea in the WSL, Emma Hayes’ side have not been as clinical in front of goal and have a lower win percentage. Chelsea’s only two WSL defeats in the last two seasons, coming against Brighton and Arsenal, have been when their star trio have not started together.
How Hayes juggles the physical demands on her forwards, both at club and international level, will be key to Chelsea’s success this season. Fortunately for the Chelsea boss, neither Harder, Kerr or Kirby have missed many WSL games since the start of last season, but with games coming thick and fast in Europe and an FA Cup final around the corner, it will be difficult to keep them all at peak fitness.
Keeping both Kerr and Kirby fit and firing would be top of any Chelsea fans’ wish list, especially as the latter has flourished since Kerr’s arrival in January 2020.
Since Kerr’s WSL debut, Kirby has registered 16 assists in the competition, more than any other player. Plus, as a pair, Kerr and Kirby have combined for 17 WSL goals in their 23 league appearances together, a joint record with Beth Mead and Miedema.
The injuries have started to appear recently, with Harder missing the last three games due to an injury picked up on international duty. However, she is thought to be close to returning and it would be a surprise if Hayes did not pick her star forward line for Sunday’s game, which if won, will continue to keep the pressure on Arsenal and further deepen City’s woes this season.
Women’s Football Weekend Preview: Special guests Lucy Bronze, Gilly Flaherty and Sophie Haywood preview a huge WSL weekend
On a special Women’s Football Weekend edition of the Essential Football Podcast, digital football journalist Charlotte Marsh and Sky Sports WSL presenter Caroline Barker are joined by a trio of great guests to preview the weekend’s action.
In Part 1, Ballon D’Or runner-up Lucy Bronze gives some unique insight into Everton’s new manager Jean-Luc Vasseur and looks forward to their televised clash with Man Utd this weekend, while explaining why Man City’s season has got off to a rocky start ahead of their game with champions Chelsea.
In part 2, Gilly Flaherty ponders why Tottenham have started the season so well and whether Arsenal can go unbeaten with a north London derby on the way this weekend, and looks forward to her West Ham side taking on Reading on the back of their own solid start.
In part 3, Sophie Haywood explains how Aston Villa have kicked on from last season ahead of their second-city derby with Birmingham, and considers why Leicester have found the jump to the top flight tough as they face Hope Powell’s in-form Brighton side.
SkySports | News