Aston Villa Women put in another spirited performance at home to Manchester United Women as they fell to a fifth defeat in six Women’s Super League matches.
Goals from Leah Galton and Ella Toone gave United a 2-0 win at the Banks’ Stadium. It was a game dominated by the visitors, seeing Casey Stoney’s side have 30 shots and 58% possession, but those stats aren’t necessarily the best reflection on the balance of play. Gemma Davies’ Villa side played slick counter-attacking football and were deeply unlucky not to get a point.
However, there are several things the Villans need to learn and learn fast if they want to survive in the WSL.
- Villa need a clinical striker
In their debut WSL campaign, the Villans have looked toothless in attack. They have found the net just three times all season, with no player chipping in with more than a single goal.
Villa have failed to replace their 2019/20 top scorer Melissa Johnson since she left the club to join Sheffield United over the summer. Only Stine Larsen, Ramona Petzelberger and Anita Asante have managed to find the back of the net this season, but it’s not down to a lack of chances.
Shania Hayles is a strong workhorse for the Villans, dropping deep to challenge and receive the ball as well as holding play up to create chances for those around her. However, she is not the answer in front of goal. She had a perfect chance to level the scores on the 30 minute mark, slipping at the vital moment after latching onto a pass from Caroline Siems.
Hayles is far from one on her own with poor finishing. Danish striker Stine Larsen has spent her last few games shunted out wide in favour of Hayles while new recruit Diana Silva has been dropped from the starting line-up altogether following her poor form since arriving.
If Villa had that lethal striker, they would finally be able to convert more of the chances they creat and finally be able to utilise the creativity of Pezelberger in midfield. With Tottenham’s Alex Morgan and Bristol City’s Ebony Salmon starting to get amongst the goals, Villa need to start scoring quick to avoid being cut off from their rivals.
- Villa’s depth in other areas is surprising
While Villa’s depth in the striker position is shallower than a particularly small puddle, their genuine quality in other areas of the pitch is startling.
Winger Sophie Haywood came into the side for her first WSL start of the season, a surprising change given her string of disappointing cameos earlier in the season. However, she put in a genuinely dazzling performance. Manchester United’s Kirsty Smith struggled to hold Haywood back as she linked up with Caroline Siems to great effect.
Siems herself put in another refreshingly good performance. After losing her left back slot to Asmita Ale earlier in the season, the Dane has continued to step her game up by shoring up her defensive play. She frustrated United star Tobin Heath all game, causing the American to switch wings multiple times in the game.
Clearly, Villa have strength in all areas of the pitch apart and are only lacking a prolific scorer before becoming a competitive WSL outfit.
- Next up
Villa have a relegation showdown with Bristol City in midweek. Even at this early stage in the season, it is a must-win match for the Villans. Should they win, they will take a massive step towards survival. However, if they lose then it will be difficult for the newcomers to keep their place among the elite.