The Liverpool FC Women’s team came into this season with one thing on their minds — earning the sole promotion spot to the WSL by winning the league. To that end, manager Matt Beard was brought back into the fold, and with him a bevy of new signings with WSL experience. With 6 games played in the league out of 22 total matches, Liverpool are just past the quarter mark of the season, it seems a good time to take a look at how the Reds have fared thus far.
There were a lot of questions heading into the opening match as to how Beard would have his side set up, and who of the new signings would feature. For the first three matches, Liverpool set up in a familiar 4-3-3. The Reds got off to an uneven start to the season as Beard worked to implement his system and integrate all of the new faces. They lost to London City after conceding a penalty midway through the second half, and then struggled to break down the low block. A trip to Watford gave Beard his first win back in charge as the Reds raced out to a 3-0 lead, but then had issue with some individual errors to give up two late goals. The last match before an international break was a frustrating 0-0 draw with Bristol City that saw both teams have a player sent off with a second yellow. Liverpool showed flashes of great attacking play the first few matches, especially from Melissa Lawley, but struggled to convert outside of the initial blitz during the Watford match, which included a brace from Rianna Dean. Defensively, the team defended well as a unit, but were undone by some individual errors that lead to goals. Liverpool sat in eight place in the table, but were only a few points off the pace.
After the international break, we saw a different set up for Liverpool, and it led to a great run of results. Beard moved his team to a 3-4-3 to help get more numbers into the attack, especially in the wide areas, to help draw teams out of shape from a low block. The formation was also used to great effect against the high press of Sheffield United by giving the defensive players options to calmly move the ball around to change the angle and find a seam to launch a counter attack. Jasmine Matthews in particular showed off her passing range from the back.
On the defensive side, the formation also gave more stability as the wing backs pushed high up the pitch. This helped Charlotte Wardlaw in particular, as the young right wing back was given license to attack, but was also given help on the defensive end after being on an island the first three games.
The new formation saw Liverpool score six goals in their next three games while conceding only one. Taylor Hinds and Charlotte Wardlaw ran rampant down the wings, and even got into more central areas at times. Both wing backs got on the score sheet, with Hinds scoring one and assisting another against Crystal Palace, and Wardlaw finding the back of the net against Sheffield United. Leanne Kiernan also began to find her groove, scoring three goals in the last two games of the quarter. This nine points from three games, Liverpool quickly moved up to the second spot in the table to end the first quarter of the season.
By The Numbers
- There are seven players who have started all six games — Charlotte Wardlaw, Leighanne Robe, Jasmine Matthews, Taylor Hinds, Ceri Holland, Leanne Kiernan, and Melissa Lawley. Of those players, only Matthews and Hinds have played every minute.
- Carla Humphrey and Ashley Hodson share the most appearances as substitutes at four games each.
- Six players have found the back of the net for the Reds so far this season — Charlotte Wardlaw, Taylor Hinds, Bo Kearns, Leanne Kiernan, Ashley Hodson, and Rianna Dean. Only Kiernan and Dean have scored multiple goals.
- Dean leads all players with 0.98 goals per 90 minutes, with Ashley Hodson on 0.55 goals per 90 and Leanne Kiernan on 0.53 goals per 90.
- Melissa Lawley leads the team with three assists, while Rachel Furness has two. Furness has played limited minutes though, and is averaging 0.89 assists per 90 minutes. Lawley is averaging an 0.54 assists per 90 minutes.
- Taylor Hinds is the only player with both a goal and an assist.
- Bo Kearns has scored the only goal off of a free kick this season. It was an Olimpico, going in directly from her corner kick.
- Leanne Kiernen has scored the only two headed goals so far this season. Both headers were from Rachel Furness crosses.
Player Of The Quarter
There have been several stand out performances in the first quarter of the season, and several players are worthy. Taylor Hinds has been excellent on both ends of the pitch, and is just a consistent presence in the squad. Leanne Kiernan has made run after run up top, getting into the box with regularity. She saw several opportunities go begging early in the season, but has started getting her scoring touch, putting three goals in the net from the last two games. The player of the quarter in this writers opinion, however, is Melissa Lawley.
Lawley has been a consistent creative outlet all season long. Her ability to bet a player on the dribble as well as pick a pass has kept defenders on their heels. She has had three assists so far, but has been a huge part of just about every attacking move, popping up all over the field. The shift in formation has seen her have the opportunity to come inside and deeper on the field at times, and has shown great link up play, quickly getting the ball out of her feet and moving it to players in advanced positions.
A Look Ahead
While Liverpool enter the second quarter of the season second in the table, it is very tight at the top. Liverpool’s nemesis, Durham, sit two points ahead of the Reds. A surprising London City side are tied on points with Liverpool, but behind on goal differential, while Charleton are only a point behind to round out the top four spots. Sheffield United is still within touching distance on 10 points, 3 points behind Liverpool and 5 behind Durham.
Liverpool enter a stretch where they will see two of the top four teams in their next six league matches, including a clash with Durham in November. The Reds will also have the group stage of the FA Women’s Cup to contend with, playing four matches in the competition. While it would be nice to advance, it would be expected that Beard will rotate his side as the emphasis is very much on the league this season.
Who have you been most impressed with so far this season. How are you feeling after the first six games?