How Did It End? — FA WSL 21/22
In the 19/20 season, I scored -28.
In the 20/21 season, I scored -14.
It is written in the stars, that for this season, the 21/22 season, I attain a perfect score of 0.
This is how that table looked:-
2. Manchester City
4. Manchester United
6. Brighton & Hove Albion
8. West Ham United
9. Aston Villa
10. Leicester City
11. Tottenham Hotspur
12. Birmingham City
And this is how the actual table looked:-
3. Manchester City
4. Manchester United
5. Tottenham Hotspur
6. West Ham United
7. Brighton & Hove Albion
9. Aston Villa
11. Leicester City
12. Birmingham City
Okay, well, spoiler alert, I haven’t achieved a perfect score. I might even be longing for the days of -28 at the end of this.
Scoring, by the way, is in the position differential with the aim to get as close to 0 as possible. If, for example, I had Spurs finishing 8th and they actually finished 1st, that would be -7 on my score.
Let’s see how I did.
Predicted: 3rd / Actual: 2nd
Jonas got them contending again. Sure, they’ve been a part of that top three the whole time, but they haven’t threatened the title the past two seasons. This time, they were back. And it came down to the finest of margins. When it does that, you can often look back on specific matches, if not specific moments, when the title slipped. For Arsenal, they could easy be looking at the former. A season in which they conceded ten goals and lost only one game is the positive spin, the negative: a season in which they conceded 40% of goals against the side that ended up relegated, and lost their only game to the same side.
It’s a different ball game at the top of the WSL, and that can’t be a part of it if you want to stand on the apex.
Predicted: 9th / Actual: 9th
A frustrating season in which they truly failed to threaten to finish any higher than the ‘not quite relegated, not quite mid-table’ pack. They started brightly enough, taking seven points from their first three games before taking only double that in their next nineteen. Players aren’t sticking and impacts aren’t being felt. They’ve done well to consolidate since coming up, but The Villans need to put themselves about a lot more if they wanna climb the tree.
Predicted: 12th / Actual: 12th
The writing was on the wall from season’s start. From how they finished last season, the struggle was always coming, but it was clear that they weren’t going down without a fight. But for the first eight games, that spark seemed to have gone. It was when Darren Carter stepped in that an insurmountable scrap truly began. In the end, they finished only two points adrift of safety with more goals scored and fewer goals conceded than the side above them, but too often their inexperience and lack of alignment caught them out. They’re Championship bound, but they’ll be a tricky, strong, and determined side to spar with despite their issues.
Predicted: 6th / Actual: 7th
The definition of consistently inconsistent. They won five of their first seven only to then lose six of their next seven. From there, three wins out of four was followed by three losses in four.
Hope Powell has a sweet young team clicking along here. It is packed to the brim with stars ready to shoot and they’ve already displayed that this season in one of the most well-drilled and well-gelled teams in the division. It’s just that their fluidity needs more fluid. When a move comes off, it’s a thing of beauty, but too often it doesn’t and the ability of the side to reset only results in a scattered setup. They need a strong voice in the back line to square them up and sort that out.
Predicted: 1st / Actual: 1st
It was touch and go for a few minutes there, but if they’re going into the final day with their fate in their hands, then Chelsea are gonna be the ones to write history. And beating Arsenal to the title on the final day after losing to them on the opening day will make it all the sweeter.
In an opening half of the season that saw an uncharacteristic two defeats and a draw, Chelsea had big players go missing. Beth England, Ann-Katrin Berger, and others would forego a less-than-shining moment for a less-than-shining game, and the frustration was obvious. After a further draw with title rivals Arsenal, however, The Blues stepped on the gas. Despite an injury to Fran Kirby, the likes of Harder, Kerr, Reiten, Carter, and Fleming played as if nothing else mattered as they stormed to the title with nine wins on the bounce.
The mentality is strong at this club. Even when they were second favourites, they had themselves as favourites.
Predicted: 5th / Actual: 10th
I dunno if anyone at the club could tell you what happened here.
A trusted, proven manager was sacked as the team, despite two wins in five, started slow.
A Champions League winning manager couldn’t turn it around, as the funk in the play continued.
As an interim team stepped in, the latter half of the season was like watching Everton try to solve a Rubik’s Cube as they played. Nothing could be worked out, and though many could assume the changeover in personnel stumped ’em — these are capable players who only stayed up because of the talent they possess — getting them to play as a cohesive unit seems an impossible job based off of this entire season.
Predicted: 10th / Actual: 11th
After a torrid start, the stage seemed set very early on for relegation to be decided by two very important games. And it was in those games that Leicester did what Arsenal couldn’t — they beat Birmingham twice. It was those two victories, in amongst a run of four wins in six that saved Leicester’s skin — and it was Lydia Bedford coming in that seemed to galvanise the team, as they displayed a grit that had abandoned them upon their ascension. No-nonsense on the pitch, instilled a great sense of team spirit off it — it’s simple when you write it down. Individuals started to shine and though the struggle won’t be at an end next season, the club is well-placed under Bedford to go at it all over again.
Predicted: 2nd / Actual: 3rd
Injuries to key players did ’em in early doors and they were always gonna have a tricky time catching up with Chelsea and Arsenal. Kelly, Roebuck, Houghton, and Bronze (to name a few) all spent time on the treatment table, and in those first few games, it had already cost them. Just two wins in their first seven, and four defeats. From then on, as players sporadically returned, they failed to win just two further games — against Chelsea and Arsenal. In their thirteen wins of that spell, they conceded only four goals (all in two game) and won by three goals or more on eight occasions.
Deadly, but they weren’t hanging with the best. With everyone in from the off next time, Arsenal and Chelsea could feel a disturbance in the comparative peace this season brought.
Predicted: 4th / Actual: 4th
The club gets stronger with few additions year by year, and it feels as if they’re always ready to kick into the next gear only for that relative inexperience to hold them back. Marc Skinner is a hardliner though, and that seems to be exactly what this club needs going forward to get ’em into that top group.
Once there, names that are already tipped for glory can grab it: Toone, Galton, Zelem, Russo, Batlle, Earps — they’re clearly ready.
It’s telling their only losses this season came against Chelsea (twice), Manchester City, and Arsenal. Scant draws to opposition further down the table will be the next thing to stamp out if they’re taking baby steps perhaps.
Predicted: 7th / Actual: 8th
Don’t get me started on Reading. They could have finished here by drawing every game and confusing myself and everyone even more than they already do, or, they could do what they actually did which is lose their first four games of the season without scoring, then go on an eight-game undefeated run during which they win seven, before polishing off the last ten games winning zero games and drawing just three times.
They turned up for like, a third of the season. They did what they needed to do and then went home.
I don’t get this side. I will never get this side. Just when I think they’re at their most unpredictable, they do this.
HOW ARE THEY GETTING AWAY WITH THIS
Predicted: 11th / Actual: 5th
What a step-up for Spurs. It’s not like they were threatening to do this, they’ve just gone and done it. Like they were waiting to pounce…
Form might have abandoned them come the business end of the season as they showed their frailties in defeats to Man City, Villa, and Chelsea (twice), but a passion still shone through, and as did a honed gameplan that got ’em to a cracker finish.
Signings like Bartrip, Cho, and Ale flew in under the radar, but it was the advancement of players like Naz, Harrop, Percival, Zadorsky, and especially Ashleigh Neville, of course.
They’ve quietly gone about assembling something here. It might be asking a lot to push on into the top four — but they look like they’ll give it a rate good go.
Predicted: 8th / Actual: 6th
The Hammers fell through the cracks a lot this season. It seemed they were constantly set to play the villain in a story where the other side was gunning for the title or survival. That resulted in a ho-hum season in the end. There were few standouts, even from those who had previously, and with a new manager coming in, players might see an exit window if they’re looking for one.
Is the era of Konchesky going to get West Ham into gear? Or is another season in neutral on the cards?
I don’t know about cars, did that make sense?
I mean, I essentially got Everton and Spurs the wrong way round. The rest of the points lost were forgivable.
A title race coming down to the final day, a heroic battle from the side relegated who fought to their last while playing a big part in deciding who takes the trophy for a division they will no longer be a part of…
Alas, Birmingham… We knew you so well.
And we’ll know them next season, just a division down. Replacing them, it’s only bloody Liverpool, innit? All of the big six from the fella’s game playing in top division for the lasses. I wonder if we’re about to see a Survivor Series style gang warfare scenario from the other six sides.
But I wouldn’t count against some ‘big six’ dominance next season, and maybe even in the years to come… Could it be? If those other five are to challenge the final boss, they’ve got a lot of work on their hands because Emma Hayes and Chelsea have claimed dominion over this land, and they seem years ahead of any rival that steps to them when they’re on form.
But with Chelsea crowned and Birmingham downed, there is just one last order of business. Determining my score.
I believe the worst I can do is like -72, and after scores of -28 and -14, I’m looking for something in that same ballpark, and I have achieved…
In the middle, and closer to the lower end, so I’ll take it. Though it is frustrating to know that if I had just swapped The Toffees and Spurs, I would have been in the promised land of prediction scores… Single digits.
But ‘ifs’ and ‘buts’ are not candies and nuts, and my teeth, while rotten, shall not fall out on this day.
MY BIGGEST WINNERS: Aston Villa, Birmingham, Chelsea, Manchester United— 0
MY BIGGEST LOSERS: Tottenham — -6, Everton— -5
Until next season when that promised land waits again… Single digits, sure. But that wonderful world of the Women’s Super League as well.
See ya there.
Keep it streets ahead,