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Vivianne Miedema named Football Writers Women’s Footballer of the Year

Arsenal’s Vivianne Miedema has won the Football Writers’ Association Women’s Footballer of the Year award by the narrowest of margins. Miedema claimed the award by just a single vote after missing out last year by the same margin.

She was pushed all the way in the voting by Chelsea’s Bethany England and follows Lionesses forwards Nikita Parris (2019) and Fran Kirby (2018), to be named the third FWA Women’s Footballer of the Year.

Chelsea’s Norwegian talent Guro Reiten and Lyon’s England defender Lucy Bronze were joint third. Both players were named ahead of Manchester City and England Women’s World Cup 2019 Bronze Boot winner Ellen White.

The voting panel also gave special praise to: Steph Houghton and Lauren Hemp from Manchester City, the Chelsea pair of Erin Cuthbert and Sophie Ingle, Rachel Furness, Beth Mead of Arsenal, Lauren James of Manchester United and Chloe Kelly from Everton.

The 23-year-old Miedema was the Women’s Super League’s top scorer this season with 16 goals in 14 appearances. This included a double hat-trick in Arsenal’s 11-1 drubbing of Bristol City in December. She is also currently her country’s leading goalscorer with 60 goals, and also helped Holland reach last year’s World Cup final.

Runner up, England helped Chelsea win this season’s WSL title after the Blues were declared champions on a points-per-game basis and moved above Manchester City, who were top of the table at the time when the league was halted back in March due to the pandemic. The 21-year-old had another outstanding season for Chelsea, scoring 21 goals in all competitions in their 2019/20 double winning campaign.

Bronze, who earlier this week signed a two month contract extension until August 31st at Lyon to enable her to compete in the Champions League when it resumes later in the summer.  The England full back has subsequently agreed terms to join Manchester City ahead of the new Women’s Super League season. It is also understood that Alex Greenwood has decided to join City along with former Everton forward Kelly.

City, who finished runners up to Chelsea in this seasons truncated campaign will start the new season with no less than 12 regular England internationals including Captain Houghton and England’s most capped player Jill Scott.

Liverpool Women claim ‘relegation from WSL was tough pill to swallow’

Liverpool’s men and women’s football teams could not be in more contrasting situations.  On one hand you have the men side, on the brink of their first Premier League title since Kenny Dalglish’s team clinched the championship in 1989/90.

While the men’s team are certainly on the way up, the same cannot be said of the women’s side, who learned yesterday that they will relegated from the Women Super League.

Liverpool Women’s club were bottom in the WSL having only managed six points before the FA had decided this week to call the season to a halt. They were one point behind Birmingham, who had a game in hand and three points behind Bristol City.

Having chosen to use the Points Per Game system, however, the two time WSL Champions ultimately ended up with an average of 0.43 points per game, just 0.11 fewer than Birmingham.

Following the FA’s decision Liverpool Women’s Manager Vicky Jepson said:

“For me as the Manager it’s important that I reach out to the Liverpool fans and we need them more than ever to stick by our players because I have spoken to our girls today and they were extremely heartbroken by the decision and shocked as well as I am.

“It’s something we can’t control but what we can control is how we react to this outcome.  We’ve got to react in the best way possible and that is how we prepare in our pre-season and how we perform on the pitch next season.”

Aston Villa, who were six points clear of Sheffield United at the top of the Championship were subsequently declared Champions and will replace the Reds in next season’s top flight division.

At the other end of the table meanwhile Chelsea were declared league champions ahead of Manchester City, despite the Blues sitting a point behind the Manchester club they crucially had a game in hand on their title rivals before the season ended prematurely.

On being announced champions Chelsea Women Manager Emma Hayes said:

“Of course we would have preferred to play the remaining games, but players’ welfare was always our priority, and finishing the season was ultimately not possible.  We have to respect the decision of the FA, clubs and people involved in the game who have decided this was the best and fairest outcome.

“I also want to congratulate Manchester City and Arsenal on wonderful seasons.  The title-race was shaping up to be one of the best this country has ever witnessed and we look forward to competing again when WSL resumes.

“To our fans, I’m sorry we can’t celebrate with you but we will hopefully see you soon at Kingsmeadow.”

The new campaign is currently set to begin in September, however, FA Director Kelly Simmons has already had to deal with wide spread frustration that the Barclays Women Super League did not follow the example of the Frauen Bundesliga restart and the NWSL in the USA. She explained:

“The season ending early gives us the time to plan to come back bigger and better for the 2020-21 season, and we are determined to ensure we don’t lose the momentum generated before the country went into lockdown.

“The Barclays FA Women’s Super League is the only fully professional women’s league in Europe, and we are incredibly proud of how far it has come on, but we have to remember that it has only been professional for two seasons.”

Following all the momentum that women’s football has built up in this country the past few years, the agonising prospect of not having the WSL and the Championship on our screens until September means that it will be the best part of six months before the sport returns to the public eye.  Unfortunately this may inevitability mean having to build up people’s interest in the game again. 

How does the FA plan to complete the Women Super League season?

These are certainly challenging times for the sporting calendar across the board.

Particularly it seems for women’s football, this appears somewhat remarkable given its raised profile in this country over the last few years and when the FA announced the Women Super League as the first fully professional division in Europe back in 2017.

It looked as though the only way was up with the prospects of improved publicity and clearer career paths for young talent emerging through the ranks.

Prior to the COVID-19 lockdown attendance records for women’s matches were rising significantly as 38,000 fans turned out at the Tottenham Hotspur stadium to see Arsenal’s 2-0 win over their North London rivals back in November of last year.

This in mind, 24/7 football decided to examine what the Football Association’s current plan is for completing the WSL season.

How many games are left?

There are 45 games of the current season still to be played and no WSL fixture has taken place since the 23 February, following an international break for the SheBelieves Cup involving England, Spain, Japan and the USA.

Current situation?

Already the tiers three to seven of the women’s football leagues in England have been declared null and void and subsequently the decision was confirmed on 9 April.  There is the prospect of the top two leagues in the Women’s game following this same line depending upon health advice given by the Government over the coming weeks.

What is the FA’s current plan?

The current plan that the Football Association is looking into is playing out the remaining fixtures all at one central venue behind closed doors with St.George’s Park, the FA’s English National football centre, currently being talked about as a possible location.

The earliest the campaign could begin however would be the weekend of the 6-7 June depending on the government’s advice and would rely on the players being able to begin training in the final week of May.

The completion date being targeted would therefore be the weekend of 18-19 July and would require each of the 12 WSL teams to play two matches per week.

It is understood that the FA would want any decisions made on the top women’s division to follow along with any similar choices made by the Premier League and the European Football governing body, UEFA.

How do the managers and players feel about this?

Manchester City and England striker Ellen White is hoping that the ‘crazy’ Super League season will be completed when the coronavirus is lifted.  White said:

“First and foremost I just want everyone to be healthy. I think everyone would love to finish the season but everyone’s health is the top priority.

“It’s been a pretty crazy season already and it’s a massive fight for who is going to win the league.”

Despite losing their manager Nick Cushing to New York City FC Manchester City found themselves a point clear ahead of their nearest rivals Chelsea. However their title rivals have a game in hand, which had set up an exciting finish until COVID-19 stopped all sport.

The Chelsea Women’s manager Emma Hayes meanwhile has said:

“When the men’s professional game resumes the WSL should consider doing that but I understand if the season does not resume and life is ultimately more important. Hopefully when the times come to lift the restrictions we can all do it in the same way.”

While the Bristol City Women’s manager Tanya Oxtoby has recently expressed concerns that some players may in fact be struggling with anxiety and depression during the COVID-19 lockdown.  Oxtoby said

“Athletes like structure, routine and to be around each other.  So I think from a mental health point of view that’s probably very difficult.

“There’s also been the added stress in terms of finances and families, those are all factors that will affect individual players a little bit differently.”

This observation can certainly be applied to all sports personnel during this time. FIFA Pro recently carried out a survey alongside Amsterdam University on both male and female footballers which showed 22% of female players and 13% of male players have reported symptoms consistent with a diagnosis of depression.

What next?

The Football Association is determined to complete the current season but wants it finished by no later than early August.

The FA Women’s Director Kelly Simmons, supports this by saying:

“We are determined to finish the FA WSL, Women’s Championship and the FA Cup in the most appropriate way while it is also the intention of UEFA to complete the UEFA Women’s Champions League.

“We are doing everything we can to plan for the return of football but for now safety and welfare remains are primary concern.”

One thing is however clearly apparent; this is certainly an unprecedented time for all those involved and ultimately tough decisions will need to be made about the future and growth of the women’s game in the days ahead.

WSL Update: Vivianne Miedema keeps Arsenal in the title race

Defending champions Arsenal secured a vital 3-2 win at Liverpool in the latest round of the Women Super League. 

 The impressive Rinsola Babajide had given Liverpool a surprise lead against Joe Montemurro’s side, breaking clear to slide the ball past Pauline Peyraud-Magnin in the Arsenal goal.

England international, Jordan Nobbs then sparked a dramatic three-minute turn around for the Gunners. She provided the cross for Vivianne Miedema to steer home.  Nobbs then scored herself with a powerful header into the top corner.

Rachel Furness however was able to draw the reds level before half time after capitalising on a defensive error from Arsenal full back Lisa Evans.

In the second half, just when it looked like the defending champions were going to drop crucial points, their star striker Miedema again popped up with a critical header to secure the Gunners first win in three WSL games.

Arsenal’s WSL rivals Chelsea and Manchester City both secured home victories against relegation threatened Birmingham City and Bristol City respectively.

Beth England managed to keep up her impressive WSL scoring record for the Blues by grabbing the crucial second and her 13thof the campaign, to help secure a 2-0 victory over the Midlands Club.

In Alan Mahon’s first game in charge of Manchester City meanwhile, Gemma Bonner’s second minute goal was enough to earn the Citizens a 1-0 victory over Bristol City.

A 2-0 victory for Reading over East London side West Ham United was enough to move them up to fourth above Casey Stoney’s Manchester United team, who were held to a 1-1 draw by Hope Powell’s Brighton & Hove Albion.

Elsewhere, Tottenham Hotspur fought back from two goals down to draw 2-2 against Everton in a fiery encounter at their Hive Stadium.

Goals from the Toffees top scorer, Chloe Kelly and Inessa Kaagman had put the Merseyside club in control, however Spurs’ substitute Angela Addison and a long-range free kick from Emma Mitchell earned the North London side a share of the spoils.

February 23rdMatch Previews

Everton vs Manchester United (12:30pm Kick-off)

There is just one point and one place separating these two sides and is a crucial match in the race for finishing fourth.

Casey Stoney’s team have won just once on the road in their past five visits and that was against relegation threatened Birmingham City.

Everton’s home form meanwhile has been pretty good in recent weeks and they have only lost to Manchester City and Arsenal in their last five home games.

Manchester United however won both the previous meetings between the sides including a 3-0 victory at Everton last November in the Continental Tyres Cup.

Prediction Everton 2-0 win

We fancy the Toffees to secure their first win over Manchester United this time around with recently called up England striker, Chloe Kelly proving the difference. 

Birmingham City vs Bristol City (2pm)

This is certainly a relegation six pointer between these two midlands’ clubs.

Bristol City are currently bottom of the Super League but could move up to 10thwith a win over rivals Birmingham City.

Both sides come into this one not in the best of form and have only managed wins in cup games in recent weeks.

The Blues do boast a strong record against the Robins having won five of their previous six encounters including a 2-0 win in the league’s reverse fixture last December.

Prediction: Birmingham City 1-0 win

We believe that Birmingham City will secure the crucial three points in tense encounter. 

Brighton & Hove Albion vs Tottenham Hotspur (2pm)

Hope Powell’s Brighton side come into this one in good form having just lost one of their last five matches.  They have also only lost just once at home in 2020, against defending champions Arsenal.

Spurs meanwhile have been relatively inconsistent in their first season in the WSL so far, however they do find themselves well clear of relegation at this point.

The North London side won the only encounter between the sides back in December in a closely fought 1-0 game at The Hive Stadium.

Prediction: Brighton 2-1 win

We are going for another home win in this one, the Seagulls have been strong at home in recent weeks and we are anticipating them to put on another strong showing in front of their own fans.  

Manchester City vs Chelsea (2pm)

This is arguably the title decider and featured game of the weekend.

Both of these sides are in terrific form, Chelsea are still unbeaten throughout this campaign yet they currently sit second, one point behind their latest opponents Manchester City.

Emma Hayes’ side do however crucially have a game in hand over the Citizens and the home team also come into this one with a newly appointed manager in Alan Mahon, who is taking charge of just his second match.

The West London club won the only meeting of the season so far in 2-1 win at Kings Meadow.

Presently that remains to date  Chelsea’s only victory over Manchester City.

Prediction 1-1 draw

We do not think there is much to split these two teams and we believe this will be a score draw.

West Ham United vs Liverpool (3pm)

West Ham United have been struggling in recent weeks with just one win in their past five games.  That came against Brighton in mid-January.

Vicky Jepson’s Liverpool however have been putting in some good performances recently without getting results, they certainly challenged defending champions Arsenal last time out.

Liverpool’s record against the Hammers is also a good one; they have won two of their three encounters and drew 1-1 against them earlier this season.

Prediction Liverpool 3-1 win

The Merseyside club have been impressive in recent weeks and with the likes of Rinsola Babajide and Rachel Furness in the side we think that they will fire Liverpool to a crucial three points. 

WSL Update: Chelsea’s title to lose?

The Blues took what appears to be a giant step towards the title against London rivals Arsenal last time out. 

New Australian signing Sam Kerr scored her first goal for the club as Chelsea scored three times in 20 minutes at the home of the defending champions on their way to a 4-1 victory.

Emma Hayes’ side now have a game in hand over their title rivals Manchester City and Arsenal and are just a point further back in third.

At the other end of the table meanwhile Liverpool finally got their first victory of the season to leapfrog Bristol City.

The reds secured a 1-0 victory over the West-Midlands side thanks to a 13thminute strike from their new signing, Rachel Furness.

Both the Manchester clubs also won, Manchester City kept their title hopes alive with a 2-0 victory over Birmingham City.

Ellen White scored against her old club in just the first minute of the match and midfielder Keira Walsh completed the scoring with a strike from the edge of the area.

Manchester United’s captain, Katie Zelem scored twice as the red devils got the better of Tottenham Hotspur, emerging 3-0 winners.

Elsewhere, Chloe Kelly scored a hat trick as Everton beat Reading 3-1 to secure their first victory in four matches and Alisha Lehmann’s two late goals helped West Ham come from behind to beat Brighton 2-1.

Matchday Previews and Predictions

Sunday 2ndFebruary

Liverpool vs Birmingham City (Kick-off 12pm)

Vicky Jepson’s Liverpool team have enjoyed a revival of late by winning three of their last five games in all competitions. They also secured their first league win of the campaign against fellow strugglers Bristol City.  They also put eight goals past Blackburn Rovers in the FA Cup.

Birmingham City by contrast have lost four of their past five games and are currently only a point and a place ahead of Liverpool.

The Blues however did win the reverse fixture back in October 2-0 thanks to goals from their captain Kerys Harrop and Lucy Staniforth.

Prediction: Liverpool 2-0

We fancy Liverpool to continue their recent impressive run and secure their second victory of the season. 

Brighton & Hove Albion vs Everton (2pm)

Everton have won their past two games in all competitions after suffering back to back 3-1 defeats against both Arsenal and Manchester City.  The Toffees currently sit fifth in the table and just goal difference separates them from Manchester United above them in fourth.

Brighton meanwhile could certainly do with a win to ease their regelation concerns, Hope Powell’s team are currently only three points off the bottom. Since beating Liverpool 1-0 at home at the start of January the Seagulls have lost their last three league matches.

Prediction: Brighton 1-0

The Seagulls are under pressure to get a result and we think with home advantage they have what it takes to cause an upset. 

Chelsea vs West Ham United (2pm)

The Blues are flying at the moment, having beaten the defending champions Arsenal last time out they have also secured their place in the Continental Tyres Cup Final by beating Manchester United in the week.

The London side also find themselves in prime position for the WSL title with a game in hand and their two title rivals playing against each other this weekend.

The Hammers’ form has been very up and down in recent weeks and they have also never beaten their London rivals in four previous encounters.  They did however manage to get a 1-1 draw in the corresponding fixture last season.

Prediction: Chelsea 4-0

We anticipate another comprehensive Chelsea victory.

Manchester City vs Arsenal (2pm)

This is certainly the game of the weekend.  The match also marks Nick Cushing’s final game in charge of Manchester City before he heads off to become Assistant Manager of New York City FC.

The sides met in mid-week with Arsenal emerging victorious in their Continental Tyres Cup Semi-final 2-1 to secure a place in the final against Chelsea at the Nottingham Forest City Ground at the end of next month.

Not only is it the Manchester City manager’s final game in charge, this match certainly has huge ramifications for both teams in terms of their title chances.

Prediction: Manchester City 3-2

We are just giving the edge to Manchester City due to home advantage and the fact that it is their manager’s last game in charge.  Anticipating an open game with plenty of goals.

Reading vs Manchester United (2pm)

Both of these sides have suffered two defeats in their last three games.  Manchester United in particular have gone out of two-cup competitions in the space of a few days to Chelsea and Manchester City respectively.

The Royals meanwhile have lost their last two league games against Arsenal and Everton, however they were both away from home. They did win their last home match against Birmingham City 1-0 thanks to a goal from Amalie Eikeland.

The Red Devils secured a 2-0 win when the sides met back at the end of October.

Prediction: Manchester United 1-0

We think that Casey Stoney’s Manchester United will bounce back from their recent disappointments in this one. 

Tottenham Hotspur vs Bristol City (2pm)

The final match sees Spurs hosting bottom side Bristol City.  The London side won emerged victorious in the only encounter between the sides earlier this season in a hard fought 2-1 win.

Bristol City’s form has improved in recent weeks as they have won three of their past five matches including a 1-0 win against Manchester United.

Tottenham Hotspur however have lost three of their past four games, but their one victory did come at home against fellow London side West Ham.

Prediction: Tottenham 3-1

We believe that Tottenham will come away with the three points.