Next up in the Sportist preview of the 2013 FA WSL season, Chelsea Ladies FC.
Chelsea Ladies FC
Manager – Emma Hayes
(Before we begin – good grief, that was difficult. Information like this shouldn’t take some serious digging to uncover.) Hayes, appointed to manage Chelsea Ladies mid way through the 2012 FA WSL season, brings outstanding pedigree to the Chelsea squad. Having cut her teeth in the US with second tier side Long Island Rough Riders, Hayes developed within the US collegiate system as Head Women’s Coach at Iona College, subsequently joining Arsenal Ladies in 2006 for a 2-year period as Assistant Manager. After two years spent as Head Coach for Chicago Red Stars, Hayes coached at Washington Freedom and NY Flash before returning to London with Chelsea last August.
Last Time Out
6th – in a season which saw Chelsea win only two of the 5 games succeeding Hayes’ appointment and display a frankly Jekyll and Hyde-esque inconsistency throughout the season.
A 24-year-old Economics graduate from Loughborough University, Claire Rafferty has twice overcome serious ACL injuries to establish herself as a crucial part of the Chelsea team and a regular in the England squad. Capped by Team GB during the Olympics, Rafferty’s courage and bravery was noted by England Manager Hope Powell in 2011, where she made her World Cup debut as a substitute against France, missing a penalty in the eventual shoot out, but earning praise from Powell for her willingness to step up. That bravery remains a consistent part of Rafferty’s game and the left-sided player is an intensely reliable member of the Chelsea lineup.
Last season saw Chelsea struggle at their Staines home, winning only two home matches all season. While the away form was somewhat better, Chelsea’s inability to make the most of the 12 goals scored on home turf saw them struggle to seriously control matches throughout the season. The signing of Eni Aluko from Birmingham for her second spell with the West Londoners will provide a welcome injection of pace and concerted effort within the forward line and, while Aluko’s goalscoring history may not hint at a staggering return, her willingness to run and press defenders deep should will provide Chelsea’s midfield with more room to operate in, offering a good opportunity to ease pressure on an occasionally callow defence.
Away vs. Doncaster Belles, 23/03/13 (Continental Cup)
Having strengthened significantly over the close season, with no fewer than five internationals joining the club including the aforementioned Aluko, Chelsea Ladies will be a different prospect to the team that struggled to put together any sort of run in 2012. With Hayes having had a full pre-season to bed in her methods and tactics, this could be a strong season for the second London club in the FA WSL and we’re tipping them to upset more than a few this year.