Chelsea emerged as champions for a third year in a row after a dramatic final day of action in the Women’s Super League. It was a tense season of women’s football that came down to the wire with Arsenal and Chelsea battling it out for the top spot for the season. At times it looked like Arsenal had the title wrapped up but Chelsea persevered through it all and made a fantastic comeback to retain their title.
How Chelsea Won the 2022 Women’s Super League Title
There was a spell where things were not going well for Chelsea. They crashed out of the Champion’s League group stage and had dropped enough points in the WSL that it appeared they were letting their title defence slip away. It was quite a sudden collapse as the team went from mauling teams like Servette FC to barely scraping a 1-0 win against the minnows in the space of just two weeks. As the team headed into the mid-season break, they knew changes were needed.
An Inspired Switch
One of the key problems with Chelsea early in the season was their use of the 3-4-3 formation. It was an understandable attempt from Emma Hayes to unleash all of the attacking potential her squad holds by allowing three attackers to play, wing-backs who can push high up the pitch, a back three who can play out from the back, and two midfielders who can cause damage with passing. It seemed like the perfect fit or her side, and for a few months it was. But, once other teams had figured out how to keep Chelsea’s key attackers quiet in this formation its weaknesses shone through, especially its lack of defensive solidity.
After the mid-season break, the team had switched from the 3-4-3 formation to showcase more tactical diversity with a 4-3-3, 3-5-2, and even a 3-1-4-2 among the formations utilized after the break. This tactical diversity was met with a hot run that saw Chelsea women drop just four points between January and May to surge back into title contention.
One thing that didn’t help Chelsea this season was the issues involving Melanie Leupolz and Fran Kirby. Key midfielder Leupolz was only able to make seven appearances for the blues in the WSL before being sidelined with long COVID. Leupolz was one of the early standouts for Chelsea with her passing skills being imperative to their attack but she missed the season after first developing long COVID and later announcing her pregnancy.
Fran Kirby, who was admittedly performing below her usual level, also got sidelined for the season. Whether she was playing at an elite tier or not Fran Kirby is an essential part of this Chelsea Women’s team but she missed the final few months of the season with what was later announced to be an undiagnosed fatigue issue.
While Chelsea Women are lucky to have such a depth of talent it is very telling that they managed such a strong comeback in the WSL without two of their best players.
All Star Performances
While the entire squad deserves praise for what they were able to do this season the WSL title would not be in Chelsea’s possession if not for some standout performers who showcased their world-class ability on a regular basis. The first and most obvious choice is striker Sam Kerr. Kerr scored two goals on the final day of the WSL to help Chelsea secure the title but she was quality throughout the season. She scored 20 goals in 20 WSL games to finish as the league’s top scorer for the second year in a row. Her goals were not only plentiful but they often came at the perfect time as Kerr scored key game-winning goals in a number of matches late in the season. Ever since coming to Chelsea, Sam Kerr has been a massive asset to the side but her importance was never more clear than in the 2021/22 season.
Guro Reiten is another player who stood head and shoulders above the rest this season. She was an important part of Chelsea’s attack whether asked to operate as a left wing-back or a full-on left winger in a 4-3-3. She finished the 2021/22 WSL campaign with seven goals and five assists to her name in what was a breakout season for the Norwegian international.
And that is how Chelsea won the 2022 Women’s Super League title. It was a season of ups and downs for the side that is set to rebuild in the coming season with the departures of three veteran talents and the long-term absences of Leupolz and Kirby.