Arsenal's Kim Little (left) and Jennifer Beattie pose alongside The FA WSL trophy.
Monday, 08 October, 2012
The FA WSL continues to go from strength to strength
As the final whistle blew on Bristol Academy’s 2-2 draw with Birmingham last week, Arsenal boss Laura Harvey and her team had the unusual pleasure of winning their second consecutive FA WSL title from the comfort of their dressing room.
Birmingham’s draw with Bristol meant that Arsenal kicked off their final home game of the season in front of the ESPN cameras as champions and despite a spirited display from Doncaster Rovers Belles, the Gunners continued their unbeaten League record with a 3-2 win.
And Sunday’s 1-1 draw with Birmingham ensured they completed their League season without defeat.
When the Gunners proudly paraded the summer signings of Kelly Smith and Alex Scott at their London Colney training base back in March, the rest of The FA WSL knew that an already strong team had just become a whole lot stronger. Just days later Harvey’s side was further bolstered by the acquisition of Gemma Davison, ensuring the reigning League champions were the side to beat.
2011 runners-up Birmingham also strengthened their ranks with the addition of England forward Eniola Aluko as a wave of new faces joined the WSL for the second season. It was indeed David Parker’s side that took up the early pursuit of the champions with the ever-improving Bristol Academy and the well-backed Lincoln Ladies both impressing in the early stages of the season.
While Chelsea were progressing well in The FA Women’s Cup, the Londoners had an indifferent beginning to their League campaign whilst Everton, Doncaster and Liverpool all saw defeats dent early hopes. Away from League action Chelsea knocked Arsenal out of The FA Women’s Cup at the Semi-Final stage.
As the League approached its Olympic break Liverpool and Chelsea parted company with managers Robbie Johnson and Matt Beard although Beard was soon to be appointed as Johnson’s successor at the Merseysiders.
With Arsenal taking an eight point lead into the second half of the season all eyes were on the race for Champions League football and a three-way battle for second spot between Birmingham, Bristol and Everton.
Mo Marley’s Everton side had a number of players on Team GB duty over the summer and the Olympic experience obviously boosted confidence as the Toffees looked in great form early on to keep them in the hunt for second.
Back in the capital, Chelsea announced the appointment of Emma Hayes as their new boss and a change of form followed for the Blues who eventually ended Bristol’s hopes of second spot thanks to a 1-0 win away in the West Country in late September.
Meanwhile Beard’s start to life in Liverpool was tough as late goals in a number of matches meant they failed to pick up points despite encouraging performances.
It was fellow strugglers Doncaster that were the most improved side in the closing stages of the season, taking points from Lincoln and Bristol to ensure John Buckley’s side ended a season disrupted by injuries on a far more positive note.
However, as has been so common for the last 15 years, it was Arsenal who again led the pack from start to finish and ensured they continue to grow their reputation as one of Europe’s most dominant teams.
They are still in the Champions League and on Wednesday they will aim to beat Birmingham in the Continental Cup Final and acquire a second successive League and League Cup double.
© The Football Association 2001-2013,
All Rights Reserved