Arsenal 3-2 Chelsea: Five things we learnt on the opening game of the WSL season.

Arsenal Women had not beaten Chelsea Women at home in eight years until now, yet even with the result, Chelsea fans can all still bravely say that London is Blue. The game did not go as most Chelsea fans expected, but it was an eventful one with many talking points.  

Here are the five key takeaways from this game.   

Harder fights for the ball as Blues fall to Arsenal. (Photo by ADRIAN DENNIS/AFP via Getty Images)
Harder fights for the ball as Blues fall to Arsenal. (Photo by ADRIAN DENNIS/AFP via Getty Images)

Defensive struggles as Arsenal break through three times

Chelsea’s main issue in this game was the defence; the back three did not work well at all from the beginning and Chelsea looked vulnerable. Chelsea were without Maren Mjelde, a key player over the years in the defence, who was injured in the Conti Cup Final. This injury has been a big miss for the team even more so if one of the attacking players had been injured instead.  

Maren’s position was then filled by Jess Carter, who, unfortunately, had a poor game. This is a real shame because she was having a good game at the end of the season and even signing a new contract.  

With these defensive concerns, some might ask why Chelsea’s new signing Aniek Nouwen was not brought on after impressing supporters during her debut against Aston Villa, where she came on as a substitute. As well as Jonna Andersson who performed well at the Olympics and all throughout last season. 

There could be a variety of reasons for this, and as Emma Hayes rarely gives details about why players are missing or do not play, it will have to be assumed she believes Aniek is not ready and Jonna’s fitness is not properly back after the Olympics.  

Emma Hayes’s midfield missed Sophie Ingle against Arsenal

Ji and Leupolz were the midfield duo in this game, and despite Ji’s reliable performance, the midfield still had problems. The midfield may have benefited from Sophie Ingle’s presence, as seen by the struggles the team have without her and the defensive cover she provides. 

Sophie Ingle provides security to the defence that they have someone in front of them who can limit the number of balls coming to them, which is essential with Chelsea’s defence looking shaky at the back. Ingle should have started this game and there could have been a different outcome at the end.  

Refereeing improvement needed  

The standards of refereeing in the WSL have not improved since last season, and we are just one game into the season. This needs to be looked at because Arsenal’s third goal was clearly offside, and the lineswoman missed it, where many fans did. 

This makes you wonder how, since this is her job, she missed something as important as an offside that even fans could see, which brings up another point about VAR entering women’s football. Before VAR can be used, refereeing standards must improve; otherwise, as we have seen numerous times in the men’s game, it will not function properly. 

Advantage Arsenal  

Arsenal were sharper than Chelsea due to their extended pre-season, as Arsenal had to qualify for the Women’s Champions’ League group stages, and they were more fit for this game, compared to Chelsea who were not due to so many players going to the Olympics and getting back later. 

The season cannot be won in a single game, especially so early in the season, so Chelsea still have time to improve and increase their match fitness to finish the season on a strong note, and Arsenal’s early start to the season could catch up to them later.  

Playing at home, especially now that the crowds are returning, can be a significant benefit for clubs, and this game was played at The Emirates with 8,000 people in attendance which will have stirred Arsenal’s want to get all three points.

Chelsea kept fighting. 

There were some positives to take away from this game, such as the fact that despite being down, Chelsea did not give up and continued to try to come back into the game, showing a team that is not willing to give up a fight. 

Erin Cuthbert, who played well and scored Chelsea’s first goal of the season, was one of the positives from the team. Pernille Harder, who scored Chelsea’s second goal, was another player who put in a fantastic effort as Chelsea managed to get more out of her. Ji had a good game, especially in the second half, as did many of the players. 

It is only the first game of the season, so there’s still time to improve, and as players’ fitness improves, things will only get better from here. Hopefully fans will get to see Chelsea’s two new signings Lauren James and Aniek Nowen get some minutes as well as a return of Maren Mjelde.  

Written by Meg Aherne (@meggaherne)

Edited by Tom Coley (@tomcoley49)

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