WSL winners and losers: Arsenal star in trouble as Chelsea celebrate Emma Hayes’ homecoming
Winner - Emma Hayes
Emma Hayes returned to the dugout this weekend after spending six weeks away as she recovered from a hysterectomy.
It was a win for women’s health, as the legendary Chelsea manager called for better gynaelogical care after her openness surrouding her challenges with endometriosis have put the issue in the spotlight.
The soundness of the Chelsea set-up really came to the fore, too, as in Hayes’ absence the Blues have not put a foot wrong.
On Sunday, the 46-year-old enjoyed the perfect homecoming at Stamford Bridge. Her players cruised past Tottenham Hotspur in front of a healthy home crowd to claim the top spot at the summit of the Women’s Super League table.
"I felt like I hadn’t been away," Hayes said.
"Someone asked me the other day how many games of football I’ve coached in my career and I couldn’t tell you, but it would be over a thousand I’d think.
“This is the longest team I’ve ever been with and it just felt like I was going back out to my family."
Loser - Leicester City
So close, yet so far. On Sunday, the Foxes were only minutes away from getting their first point of the season, as they held West Ham United on their own turf.
Willie Kirk’s side were perhaps unlucky not to be leading, too, as they managed a stonking 17 attempts on goal - none of them rippling the back of the net.
Still, a point would have done, psychologically, you’d think - it’s just good to get off the mark.
No such luck. An 88th-minute strike by Izzy Atkinson snatched victory for the hosts, causing City defender Ashleigh Plumptre to sink to her knees in despair.
Nothing seems to be going right for the Midlands side at the moment. It’s the third time this season that late goals have been their undoing and they’ll have to work on staying switched on to the very last if they have any hope of staying in the division this season.
Winner - the Aston Villa board
After scoring in both of England’s friendlies over the international break, Rachel Daly was at it again for club this weekend, when she bagged a hat trick for Villa against Reading.
Securing Daly’s services after the utility player started every game on the Lionesses’ journey to EURO 2022 victory cannot have been a cheap transaction.
The 30-year-old was well-loved and well-settled at Houston Dash, where she wore the armband and was consistently among the top scorers across six years at the club.
Before the season began, Villa boss Carla Ward made clear her intentions to play Daly upfront after a summer of playing at full-back under Sarina Wiegman.
Seven games into the season, the board and Ward must both be heartily congratulating themselves for putting faith in the player and understanding her true value.
Daly’s massive eight-goal haul has been transformational for the Birmingham side this season - if you removed it, Villa would be a huge nine points the poorer, and all the way down at the foot of the table, instead of sitting pretty in fifth place.
Goals win games, and Daly is bringing them in spades.
Loser - Beth Mead
Ellie Brazil, Kyah Simon, Jess Ziu, Nicoline Sørensen… the list goes on.
Too many female football players are being put out of action by ACL injuries, to which it is thought they are five times more vulnerable than their male counterparts.
This is why WSL fans were horrified to watch Arsenal and England star Beth Mead suffer a suspicious-looking injury on Saturday evening.
Chasing the ball out of play, Mead was nudged over by Manchester United defender Hannah Blundell during the Gunners’ 3-2 defeat to their title rivals at the Emirates.
As she went down, her right knee dragged along the turf and the Ballon D’Or runner-up immediately clutched it in pain.
The 27-year-old was subbed off and, with the club yet to provide an update, Arsenal fans now face an anxious wait to learn the extent of the damage.