WSL talking points: Arsenal hunt huge title boost, Leicester City seek lift-off, Qatar silver lining

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

Who will seize the advantage in a top of the table scrap?

It’s a massive game. On Saturday night, under the lights at the Emirates, the league leaders Arsenal will take on third-placed Manchester United in a battle to stake a claim at the summit of the women’s super league.

Only with a 5-0 victory could the visitors pinch the top spot, but for United to come out on top on the Gunners’ home turf would constitute a major turnaround after the Reds fell to their first defeat of the season to second-placed Chelsea before the international break.

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On the other hand, if the yet-unbeaten Arsenal clinch a win, they’ll start to give credence to whispers that Jonas Eidevall’s players have the potential to emulate the men’s side’s invincible 2003/2004 season.

Either way, the result will lay down a huge marker in the race for the WSL title. More than 35,000 tickets have already been sold for the contest. It’s going to be tasty.

Arsenal v Manchester United, 5.30pm Saturday - broadcast live on Sky Sports Main Event, Sky Sports Football and Sky Sports Premier League, with coverage starting at 5.15pm

How will the international schedule affect the WSL?

Great for England fans, not so great for the Women’s Super League. The competition has paused three times in three months for international fixtures, which has led to complaints from fans and managers alike.

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Citing the need to build momentum, Tottenham Hotspur manager Rehanne Skinner has described the frequency of international recesses as ‘really challenging.’ Spurs have had an inconsistent season so far, winning then losing then winning then losing, and you can see Skinner’s frustration - teams are built on routines and shared understanding which have been disrupted once a month since the start of their campaign.

WSL clubs can breathe easy now, since the next international break isn’t until February. There’s concerns, though, over player wellbeing. Those internationals participating in the Champions League have hardly stopped since September - on the back of a busy summer of Euro 2022 - and face midweek and weekend games between now and Christmas.

Arsenal are currently among the worst hit by injury, with Leah Williamson, Rafaelle, Kim Little, and Lotte Wubben-Moy all in recovery.

Will more WSL players withdraw from action as a result of an overpacked schedule in the coming weeks?

Could Leicester City finally get off the ground?

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It’s been a long time coming. Seven games in and still nothing to show for their efforts. If the Foxes are feeling blue at the foot of the table, they would do well to remember that, with Liverpool and Reading on three points each, it only takes one result to change the picture in the basement - and perhaps this Sunday, that moment will come.

New City boss Willie Kirk did not have the easiest start to his King Power Stadium tenure - facing the league leaders Arsenal, on a league record 13-win streak, just three days after his appointment was announced. Could it be considered a ‘free hit’?

Fortunately for Kirk, he’s had a international break in which to bed in his ideas and now the Foxes will face a West Ham side who are winless in two. The teams share the joint-worst defensive record in the league - though the Hammers scored more goals (four) in their last WSL outing than City have all season (two).

Will Leicester enjoy a delayed ‘new manager bounce’ at West Ham?

West Ham United v Leicester City, 3pm Sunday, The FA Player

Will women’s football enjoy a Qatar boost?

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This week, Euro 2022 star Keira Walsh described Qatar 2022 as a “backward step” for the women’s game. Indeed, for FIFA to have selected a state which has no female football team as hosts of the world’s biggest football event sends out a big message to fans worldwide about their respect for the women’s game.

But all hope is not lost. The winter tournament’s infliction of a mid-season Premier League hiatus could provide the women’s game with a boost. Not only has the World Cup freed up epic stadiums for the use of the women’s sides - Arsenal will contest all their Champions League group ties on the grand stage of the Emirates, for instance - but there’s also plenty of football fans who didn’t fancy the trip to the middle East who are kicking their heels in a long wait for the return of live football.

Could the Women’s Super League see a rise in attendances over the next four weeks?

The Championship are also making a bid to claim some of the audience, with Ewood Park, Selhurst Park, Ashton Gate, Bramall Lane all hosting second-tier games over the coming weekend.

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