In the world of elite professional football, the margins of victory can be minute. When extrapolated across a full season, dominance can therefore be hard to attain and even harder to maintain. For Chelsea women, they have enjoyed a period of sustained success at the top of the FA Women’s Super League. They have been crowned champions in three of the past four season since 2017 and, earlier this month, retained their title at the hands of last years’ runners-up; Manchester City.
Following their first Women’s Super League defeat in over two years at the start of February, Chelsea Women have galvanised their season to claim a second consecutive league title as well as reaching the final of the Champions League for the very first time. After unsuccessful outings at the semi final stage at the last two times of asking, the West London side overcame a 2-1 deficit from their first leg against German powerhouse Bayern Munich with a fine display at the start of the month, brushing their opponents aside with a commanding 4-1 performance at home to earn their place in the final 5-3 on aggregate.
Women’s Super League
With the 2020 domestic season being curtailed due to the Coronavirus pandemic, Chelsea Women were awarded the league title based on a points-per-game average, despite Manchester City women leading the league outright. As a result, there was a degree of controversy surrounding their third title in 4 years, as they added to the championships won in 2017 and 2018.
Led by the enigmatic Emma Hayes, the West London side have enjoyed considerable success in recent times, however their celebrations of their 2020 success were somewhat diminished by the cloud looming over their crowning in the form of them actually being in second place at the time of winning.
Since then, just that single loss at the start of February has detracted from an otherwise unbeaten domestic season in a battle with last years’ runners-up; Manchester City Women.
In that span, 18 wins from a possible 22 showed the blues’ dominance as, led by the imperious Millie Bright, they outlasted their northern rivals on the final day of the season.
In the end, a hard fought 2-2 draw on the 21st April between the two sides proved to be the decisive moment of the campaign as Chelsea came away from Manchester with their 2 point lead in tact. This proved to be the decisive margin of victory as both sides won their final games of the regular season in a nail-biting finish.
Chelsea Women Hunting the Quadruple
Just a week after being crowned champions of the Women’s Super League, Chelsea had a date with history as they attempted to be the first club to lift the Champions League across both the mens’ and womens’ format.
Waiting for Chelsea in the final was Barcelona, who reached the final two years ago but, like the English side, have yet to lift the trophy. Lyon’s 5-year reign was ended at the quarter-final stage after defeat to Paris, who subsequently lost to Barcelona at the semi-final stage. As a result, a new name would be etched onto the trophy in Sweden.
Having twice been knocked out of the competition at the semi final stage in recent seasons, Emma Hayes’ squad were keen to prove their worth on the biggest stage in European club football. Despite being down at the end of the first leg of their semi final clash with Bayern Munich, an inspired second leg in West London saw them dominate their German opponents in a 4-1 win after Fran Kirby’s double secured the victory in injury time.
In their two league games in between, Chelsea scored 7 goals without reply, setting them up for the showpiece event in Gothenburg, Sweden.
Despite the magnitude of the occasion, the West London side were undone by the Catalan giants, succumbing to a 4-0 defeat after conceding all 4 goals in the first 36 minutes.
Although the significance of reaching their first Champions league final was not to be overlooked, there was precious little time to relish in the moment as just four days after their biggest game of the season, Chelsea faced Everton, fifth in the league and finalists last year, in a tough FA Cup Fifth Round tie. After such a short turnaround normal order was restored as a dominant Chelsea display saw them book their place in the quarter-finals with a commanding 3-0 win. The win keeps their hopes of a domestic treble alive in what has still been an incredible season for all involved at the club.
Future of Chelsea Women
The impact of Emma Hayes both on and off the pitch at Chelsea has been remarkable. There can be no denying that having talent like England Captain Millie Bright, Fran Kirby and Samantha Kerr will bolster any sides’ chances of competing for a title however it takes a special character of individual to unite them all towards a common goal. For Emma Hayes, this years’ success has been 9 years in the making as the side she adores chased an unprecedented quadruple. Although the perfect season proved to be just out of reach, there can be no denying the dominance that they hold in the women’s game and the driving force behind it in recent years.
Throughout this time, Chelsea have won everything it is possible to win domestically and, by Hayes’ own admissions, the eyes of the team are very much set on European glory. In the immediate aftermath of their defeat to Barcelona, the team made a vow to owner Roman Abramovich that they would return to the pinnacle of European football as a clear sign of intent for the future.
For Hayes and the rest of the Chelsea team, Barcelona’s example is one they can look to emulate themselves. The Spanish giants received a similar humbling two years prior at the hands of Lyon, only to emerge stronger in the years that followed. Only time will tell whether Chelsea will have the quality and the strength of character to do the same.