Here’s a team of the week for Matchday 8, comprising the games played on the 26th of November 2023. As the table starts to take shape, games begin to mean more — but three points now are worth the same as three points in May, with every single one of them (and every single goal) vital.
GK: Khiara Keating (Manchester City)
LB: Leila Ouahabi (Manchester City)
CB: Gemma Bonner (Liverpool)
CB: Jenna Clark (Liverpool)
RB: Laia Aleixandri (Manchester City)
LM: Lauren James (Chelsea)
CM: Marie Höbinger (Liverpool)
CM: Fran Kirby (Chelsea)
RM: Lauren Hemp (Manchester City)
ST: Khadija Shaw (Manchester City)
ST: Sam Kerr (Chelsea)
Three teams make up the eleven this week, with Liverpool and Chelsea putting forward a trio apiece, and Manchester City putting forward five. Each side scored 4+, so maybe that has something to with it. The defending champions can laud an attacking trio back at their best now Fran Kirby is upwardly mobile once more (didn’t take her long). It was she as well as the frightening Lauren James and Sam Kerr who make the team. It’s difficult to call anything Kerr does underrated, but she’s far more than just a striker, roaming that opposition half and launching plays before she (usually) gets involved in the final passage as well — stunning. The Merseyside Reds are more orchestrative in their inclusions, with both Jenna Clark and Gemma Bonner putting in determined shifts at the back to hold off a bold Brighton before signing-of-the-season contender Marie Höbinger provided a near-flawless link between defence and attack. Manchester City were simply in their element — when they get going and flowing, what’s the come is inevitable. Khadija Shaw especially showed pretty much every facet of her fantastic game — unplayable. Lauren Hemp allowed Bunny to take the spotlight for a while, but by the second half she firmly fixed it on herself as she danced around Tottenham and picked out teammates with ease, seemingly only having a brace robbed from her by the easiest goal Jill Roord will ever score. The Citizens’ wing-backs are rivalling the Liverpool twosome in terms of output this season, and to hold off Chelsea duo Niamh Charles and Ève Périsset, Laia Aleixandri and Leila Ouahabi had to be at the top of their game — and like the rest of their side, they were. With Hemp, they were the leading cause of bother for Spurs, especially when it came to lifting balls into the box for the vicious Shaw. Man City also take up residence between the sticks this week as Khiara Keating continues to grow in confidence with each passing appearance. This was exactly the kind of game she needed, able to test herself and prove to everyone what she’s capable of with the pressure a little eased. This threesome also managed a few honourable mentions, with Chelsea putting forward the aforementioned Charles and Périsset, as well as Johanna Rytting Kaneryd and Erin Cuthbert, Liverpool presenting debutant Teagan Micah and so-so-close-but-still-no-cigar Sophie Román Haug, and Manchester City showing off Laura Coombs as well as any combination of their three midfield generals (Roord, Angeldahl, Hasegawa).
So that just leaves us with the rest of the cigarless ones, and in a week when strikers proved to be the most important players for their teams, it’s little surprise that the defences suffered. No reps from Brighton or Spurs, but the remaining seven are all repped as follows:-
- Bristol City’s Olivia Clark put in a mighty shift in her attempt to keep Manchester United at bay.
- Arsenal can count Caitlin Foord, Beth Mead, Kyra Cooney-Cross, Frida Maanum, and Alessia Russo among their stars on what they must love to call a routine day at the office.
- Despite demoralising defeat against an early-season basement buddy, Aston Villa are starting to click, with Kirsty Hanson levelling up to meet the ever-alert Rachel Daly.
- Everton have shown grit in fleeting moments this season, and the test against Villa had the most of it. They’re sure gonna miss Nicoline Sørensen when she goes, but Sara Holmgaard showed up on the opposite side to balance it out.
- Manchester United are missing some zip this season. They still get the job done, and Ella Toone is the personification of seeing a job through to the end, but there’s a chemical imbalance here, and it looks like it’s gonna cost ’em really competing for the title.
- West Ham’s Viviane Asseyi exhibited why she’s rated so highly up top, twice coming within a whisker of taking something from a game they had little right taking anything from.
- Leicester’s Lena Petermann is another of the Sam Kerr-types who drifts around the attacking half and can spring passages, or be on the receiving end. Or both.
Player Of The Week is easier than it looks, it’s going to Khadija Shaw, who managed to display everything she can do on a football pitch and left us all wanting more. As for Goal Of The Week, Sam Kerr’s was wonderfully worked, and Lauren James’ second involved their three Team Of The Week members as Kerr displayed doggedness, Kirby showed readiness, and James personified poise in her cheeky chip, but I could also pick from any of Man City’s seven, whether it be the perfectly-placed finishes of Coombs and Hemp, the impossibly-angled goal that never was from Hemp (Roord), either of Bunny’s textbook headers, or her takedown and unerring finish to complete her hat-trick as the rest of her side only had eyes for her.
I’m gonna pick that last one. A double for Khadija Shaw, as she joins Katie McCabe and Martha Thomas on that list this season.
Keep it streets ahead,