Chelsea were pushed the distance in the Women’s Super League this season by Arsenal, but there seemed little doubt that Emma Hayes’ side would get the job done and celebrate a third consecutive title.
A single point separated the two sides at the end of a fierce season which delivered one of the most tense title races in recent years. This explosive campaign has been the product of the evolution and growth of the WSL and women’s football in general in the UK. So much so that it has now become parallel to the Premier League in terms of the so-called ‘top six’ clubs in the country.
For all the great things Chelsea boss Hayes has done to help raise the profile of the women’s game, it also took an increase in funding to help put Chelsea on the map in the WSL. In comparison, Arsenal have been a well-established force in the top-flight since its inception 11 years ago, and for a long time they were the dominant team in England.
A lot has changed since then, with many clubs catching up thanks to the general funding of women’s teams increasing drastically over recent times, particularly amongst the wealthier clubs. This has been evidenced by Manchester United forming a side in 2018 and already they’ve established themselves as the fourth best team in the country - with serious funding allowing them to play a swift catch-up with the division’s established elite.
Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur were the other clubs to make up the top five, with the leading quintet having become established among the traditional top six of the Premier League year after year. And with Liverpool storming their way to the Championship title this term to mark a triumphant return to the WSL, they seem well placed to potentially complete the set next term by making a run for top-six honours.
Of course, when it comes to competing on the financial field, English football’s elite can put in a lot more funds than the other teams in the league. It will eventually lead to gulf in quality in the top-flight, something that we are all too familiar with in the men’s game. But the likes of Brighton & Hove Albion and West Ham United have already had their expectations lowered and, at least in this instance, it’s a positive thing to see attention and care from clubs who are in a position to change the perception of the game.
With this growing influx of money from the big six, the WSL will soon develop into an even stronger title race, with all of the contenders in with a chance of winning. For all of Hayes’ and Chelsea’s brilliance over the last few years, the competition will only grow stronger for them. Here’s hoping the 2022-23 title race is even more thrilling.