Here’s a team of the week for Matchday 1, comprising the games played on the 1st October 2023. The first day is here again, and every time entered with eyes wide and bright, eagerly anticipating the challenge ahead. For what is glory without adversity? The 2023/24 season is underway — the path is laden with opportunity — who’s gonna grab it?
GK: Daphne van Domselaar (Aston Villa)
LB: Niamh Charles (Chelsea)
CB: Alanna Kennedy (Manchester City)
CB: Molly Bartrip (Tottenham Hotspur)
RB: Laia Aleixandri (Manchester City)
LM: Carrie Jones (Bristol City)
LCM: Jill Roord (Manchester City)
RCM: Lucia Garcia (Manchester United)
RM: Katie Robinson (Brighton & Hove Albion)
CAM: Shannon O’Brien (Leicester City)
ST: Elisabeth Terland (Brighton & Hove Albion)
Nearly went with a four-four-fuckin’-two for the first team back, but had a last-minute reshape.
Right off the bat, it ain’t usual for me to have four goalkeepers up for pole on a given week, so I’m gonna focus in on that. DvD was a helluva coup for Villa (as she would have been for any side) and proved why despite doing so in defeat. Her measured debut bettered the impressive outings of Liverpool’s Rachael Laws, West Ham’s Mackenzie Arnold, and Chelsea’s Zećira Mušović, and heralded greater things to come. In the rest of the defence, the sky blue side of Manchester shone, with Alanna Kennedy once again showing up as one-half of the hardest working WSL centre-back partnerships on the ball. Her other half (Alex Greenwood) was unfortunate to miss out (along with Chelsea’s head-down Millie Bright, and newly-minted, rugged Seagull Maria Thorisdottir) but the dedication and perseverance of Molly Bartrip could not be denied. On the fringes, Laia Aleixandri swept up and in to achieve undeniability, while Niamh Charles continued doing what she’s always done to keep Leicester’s Courtney Nevin and Arsenal’s Katie McCabe at bay.
Into the middle and beyond, and Leicester looked to allow Shannon O’Brien to shine, an opportunity she snatched with aplomb, dominating the game for stretches — which she had to do to keep Missy Bo Kearns and a freshly positioned Lauren Hemp out of the side. But her opposition on the day didn’t roll over, evidenced tremendously by Carrie Jones, who carried The Robins’ attacking threat single-handedly at times. Jill Roord looked as if she’d never left, getting back into the swing of the Super League with absolute grace and precision, while Lucia Garcia was given her chance to start and impress for The Red Devils, and did just that, proving her numerous vocal supporters right in the process. Others vying for a spot in the centre of the park(s) were The Gunner Frida Maanum, The Villan Lucy Parker, The Fox Sam Tierney, The Red Marie Höbinger, and The Seagull Pauline Bremer. Speaking of Seagulls, as I so often do, it was a stunning link that provides the rest of the eleven, with the just-so-ready Katie Robinson laying on whatever she could for brace-bagger Elisabeth Terland — it’s one of those dream partnerships — at least for this week, but I’m assuming for many more. Terland kept Chelsea’s mightily impressive debutant goalscorer Mia Fishel out, as well as another with similar adjectives in Leicester’s Lena Petermann. Everton’s Martina Piemonte gets a shout-out for hunger and drive as she spearheaded her side, even though it was, overall, a bad day at the office for The Toffees.
For the first weekly awards of the season, the Player of the Week goes to one who was identified by the incoming manager as the ultimate source last season and has continued in the same vein this (if the first day is anything to go by, which it is). Brighton’s Katie Robinson has already been called up by England, but she looks set to soon be mainstay across the board.
As for Goal of the Week, Lauren Hemp curled in a textbook stunner, but the Bristol-Leicester game had two standouts: one from the away side as Aimee Palmer leathered in a rolling ball against her former club, but it was the composure and skill of Carrie Jones that takes the week here. Another one scoring against old employers, a cultured takedown and fearless foray ended with an inch-perfect finish that simply had to be to get beyond the outstanding Janina Leitzig.
Keep it streets ahead,