Jordan Nobbs shone during Arsenal’s win over Bristol City | Kate McShane/Getty Images

After a week of FA Cup shocks, screamers and penalty shootout drama, the WSL returned at the weekend.

All 12 teams were in action as Manchester City and Manchester United were comfortable winners over Brighton and Tottenham, Arsenal fought back from a goal down to beat Bristol City 3-1 and Chelsea and Reading recorded narrow 1-0 victories over Birmingham and West Ham.

Let’s take a look at what we learned from the third weekend of WSL action.

Just last week we said that Manchester City were still finding their feet under new boss Gareth Taylor after a slightly unconvincing start to the season, where they edged past Aston Villa and Leicester and were held to a draw by Brighton.

It took former boss Nick Cushing 18 months to really get his side successfully playing to his tune; how long would it take for City’s new signings to bed in and Taylor’s style to click?

Turns out, just another couple of days.

City were superb against an in-form Arsenal side in the FA Cup in midweek, passing them off the park in the first half during a 2-1 victory. They were equally as impressive against Tottenham, clattering the woodwork three times en route to a comfortable 4-1 win. Chloe Kelly could be one of the signings of the season, netting a brace – including a beauty from distance – and ensuring the absence of Lauren Hemp on the left wing was not felt too greatly.

Everton continued their perfect start to the season with a 6-0 dismantling of Aston Villa – all six goals coming within the opening 51 minutes.

While January signing Izzy Christiansen stole the show during Wednesday evening’s FA Cup semi final victory over Birmingham, oozing class from start to finish, it was fellow January arrival Hayley Raso and summer signing Claire Emslie who caught the eye on either flank with a brace apiece.

Australian international Raso had also been a game changer during Everton’s FA Cup quarter final shock win over Chelsea, while Valerie Gauvin netted her customary goal – her fourth for since signing in the summer, despite Sunday being her first start for the club.

Everton have quietly gone about their business over the last 10 months with the additions of real understated quality in the shape of Christiansen, Raso, Gauvin and Emslie – and they, alongside the Toffees, have hit the ground running this season. Just goal difference currently separates Everton from top spot.

While all the hype in the buildup to the WSL season starting surrounded the plethora of new overseas arrivals, it was easy to forget the quality already plying their trade in the WSL.

Jordan Nobbs and Fran Kirby were two of the league’s biggest stars, but the latter missed the bulk of last season through illness, while the former didn’t quite hit her previous heights after continuing her lengthy comeback from an ACL injury suffered in November 2018.

Nobbs looked back to her irresistible best on Sunday with a stunning performance and wonderfully taken goal to match – yet it was arguably only her third best finish of the week after she netted two long range FA Cup worldies against Tottenham and Manchester City.

Kirby was also back among the goals on Sunday, as all 157cm of her climbed highest to head home Chelsea‘s winner against Birmingham. She has started each of the Blues’ three WSL matches this season despite the sheer volume of attacking talent Emma Hayes has at her disposal, and her quick feet, movement and balance have not been sacrificed at the expense of her new-found arial ability.

Three weeks after rivals City were held to a 0-0 draw by a stubborn Brighton, United brushed the Seagulls aside with a comfortable 3-0 win.

New signing Alessia Russo marked her first start for the club with her first goal, demonstrating superb pace and athleticism to race through, coupled with ice cool composure to slot home. The England youngster is so highly rated and at just 21 she will be keeping United fans entertained for years to come.

Blockbuster signings Tobin Heath and Christen Press both came off the bench for their United debuts, and Red Devils’ fans were treated to some trademark Heath footwork in the build up to their third goal. Casey Stoney has assembled such an exciting side and it will be fascinating to see just how far they can go this season.

Carla Ward
Birmingham have come on leaps and bounds in a short space of time | Catherine Ivill/Getty Images

Carla Ward was installed as Birmingham manager just three weeks before the start of the WSL season – when the club had just eight senior players on their books.

It is very much project survival for the Blues, but signs over the last seven days demonstrate this is more than realistic.

A confidence boosting FA Cup quarter final victory over Brighton last weekend followed by a spirited 1-0 defeat against a Chelsea side who hit nine in their last WSL outing shows that Birmingham are already made of sterner stuff. Following next week’s trip to Reading, Ward’s side face Bristol City, West Ham and Aston Villa in successive fixtures – encounters that could be key in determining where they will finish this season.

Courtney Sweetman-Kirk
Courtney Sweetman-Kirk’s former side Liverpool and current side Sheffield United are both vying for promotion | Alex Livesey/Getty Images

The last two seasons have seen the second tier predominantly be a one horse race, with Manchester United and then Aston Villa coasting to top spot and automatic promotion. This season, there are four teams in the mix.

Liverpool currently top the table but have already dropped points to Durham – who then held fully professional Leicester to a draw at the weekend.

The Foxes drew with Sheffield United the week before. The Blades finished second last season and now have Neil Redfearn – who guided Doncaster Belles to promotion from the Championship in 2018 – in charge, and recently added statement signing Courtney Sweetman-Kirk to their ranks.

With just one automatic promotion spot and Liverpool, Durham, Leicester and Sheffield United all in contention, it promises to be an intriguing season in the second tier.

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