WSL talking points: West Ham seek focus after disruptive week, Liverpool refuse to be written off

The key talking points from this weekend’s round of WSL action.

Can Paul Konchesky regroup his West Ham United players after a tumultuous week?

It’s been a troubling week at Chadwell Heath. Last weekend’s brawl involving Hammers centre-back Hawa Cissoko and Aston Villa’s Sarah Mayling - which subsequently spread to the bench and caused both Cissoko and manager Paul Konchesky to be shown red cards - hardly covered the club in glory.

But the events which followed Saturday afternoon’s bust-up have been far more grave as West Ham have reported a number of abusive messages, some racially motivated, to the police as Cissoko was consistently targeted on social media this week.

On Thursday, the FA charged Konchesky and Hammers operations manager Jack Hopkins with improper conduct, meaning the pair will probably be missing from the touchline in the near future (subject to their response to the charge and subsequent review).

Meanwhile, the suspended Cissoko won’t feature against Reading, with Lucy Parker the likely replacement in Konchesky’s starting eleven at Victoria Road, but Konchesky has a job on his hands to get the rest of his players mentally ready after an unsettled period. Reading did well to hold off Arsenal for large parts of their 1-0 defeat last weekend, even threatening in the latter stages - on paper, they’re easier opponents, but Konchesky’s players can’t afford to take their eye off the ball.

West Ham United v Reading, 3pm on Sunday

Who will blink first at the top of the table?

It’s pretty tight at the summit of the Women’s Super League table. After an opening day slip-up at newly-promoted Liverpool, Chelsea have completed a clean sweep of wins in order to catch up with early leaders Manchester United and Arsenal, who each have a game in hand over the Blues.

With all of the top three coming up against teams in the bottom third of the table this weekend, it would take a major upset to unsettle the order of things. After wastefulness in front of goal caused Arsenal to pass up the chance to retake the top spot on goal difference at Reading on Sunday, it’s safe to say that the Gunners had rediscovered their shooting boots by Tuesday.

Jonas Eidevall will be hopeful his side can transfer their five-star attacking performance from the Champions League to the Super League against Liverpool, while Marc Skinner will be gunning for the Reds’ third 4-0 win of the season against Leicester City, who have the joint-worst defensive record in the division.

Meanwhile, at the other end of the pitch, it’ll be fascinating to see who can hold out longest before conceding between United’s Mary Earps and Arsenal’s Manuela Zinsberger, as both shot-stoppers are in the form of their lives.

Leicester City v Manchester United, 3pm on Sunday Liverpool v Arsenal, 12 noon on Sunday - broadcast live on BBC Two, BBC iPlayer, and the BBC Sport website

Can Liverpool pull off another shock result?

“We know this is going to be tough, we are not stupid, but we knew that before we played Chelsea in the first game and nobody gave us a chance,” Liverpool manager Matt Beard wrote in his weekly column ahead of the visit of Arsenal this Sunday.

If the Reds weren’t already a little apprehensive about hosting the rampant early WSL leaders, watching the Gunners put a stonking five goals past eight-time Champions League winners Olympique Lyon midweek won’t have done their confidence any good. But Beard is right to show strength in the face of a challenge - there wasn’t a single WSL fan who expected Liverpool to pull off their opening day victory over holders Chelsea, but they went and did it regardless.

It’s an outside chance, sure. Liverpool are yet to score from open play this season, and will be going up against a goalkeeper who hasn’t conceded in eight successive league games. But the message from Beard is clear - the Reds are not to be written off.

Liverpool v Arsenal, 12 noon on Sunday - broadcast live on BBC Two, BBC iPlayer, and the BBC Sport website

Will Manchester City hit their stride?

A summer of change told at the start of Manchester City’s season as back-to-back defeats left the Sky Blues in the WSL basement.

There was hope as Gareth Taylor’s side looked absolutely dominant against Leicester City last weekend - far from scraping past the newly-promoted Foxes, the former WSL champions looked like something much closer to the team they used to be as they scored four goals at the Academy Stadium.

This week may have proved difficult for Taylor’s players, who could only watch as Arsenal and Chelsea thrived in their opening games of the Champions League tournament from which City were knocked out back in August.

Sitting in eighth place, the Manchester side will be desperate to climb the table this weekend but face a much sterner test away at Tottenham Hotspur. For anxious City fans, a thumping win over bottom-placed Leicester won’t be enough to settle the nerves.

Tottenham Hotspur v Manchester City, 11.30am on Saturday - broadcast live on Sky Sports Premier League