With Liverpool FC Women clear at the top of the FA Women’s Championship by nine points, it seems The Reds’ rebuild has been a success…
RECENT years haven’t been the kindest to Liverpool Women, have they?
There have been inquisitions from top to bottom, backlash about the lack of investment and support for the team and questions about the overall harmony of the squad.
Add to that the residual hangover following relegation from the Women’s Super League and the end of Vicky Jepson’s 12-year association with the club, and there’s long been a resounding sense of uncertainty over the trajectory of the club.
Fast forward to the present however, and Liverpool Women are a team worth being excited about.
Where last season they fell short of the physical demands of the Championship, pegged back by brute force and unable to put games to bed, this season has been all about learning from their mistakes to right their wrongs.
Off the pitch, a meticulous transfer strategy primed on recruiting players who have previously played under Matt Beard while possessing the requisite level of experience has resulted in a strong squad, one that prides itself on playing aggressive, attacking football and whose issues now seem well behind them.
Indeed, the manager has developed a clear blueprint for how he wants to play, finding the perfect balance between defensive resilience and attacking flair. Within the 3-4-3/5-2-3 formation, players have been afforded a greater freedom with a focus on overloads, which has brought the best out of Taylor Hinds in particular, while providing space for Yana Daniels and Mel Lawley.
While last season’s struggles were typified by Liverpool’s issues in front of goal, this term has seen the revival of their ruthless edge thanks to the arrival of Leanne Kiernan, who is the club’s top scorer with 11 goals since joining in the summer. Crucially though, she isn’t the sole source, with the weight of responsibility being shared across the team.
Katie Stengel has hit the ground running since signing in January, scoring a crucial winner against Watford before an imperious performance against Palace, while Yana Daniels has been excellent and energetic in equal measure.
Rachel Furness has flexed her creative muscles, Missy Bo Kearns has shown her quality from set pieces, and Rachel Laws is the epitome of composure, notching 13 clean sheets so far. Assertive and assured, she is everything you want from your goalkeeper and more.
It’s been a long time since there was such genuine excitement about Liverpool Women, but their form this season has provided plenty of reason for optimism.
In what is a short, 22-game season in a league as competitive as this, Liverpool have needed to make their mark from the off and they’ve done just that. They have made it look easy at times, developing a prolific streak to turn one point into three, adjusting their strategy to the task at hand and delivering both in terms of results and performance.
They showed patience and resilience to find a way against Watford, made a strong Palace side look routinely ordinary, then turned the screw to put three past Coventry. Even on the occasions they have faced WSL teams this season, they have more than held their own.
That the style and the system never waivers no matter the personnel is a testament to their development over the last nine months under Matt Beard. This is now a team whose game management is scrupulous and one whose flexibility to adapt to circumstance has helped cultivate such an imperious record.
Where there was once ambiguity over the trajectory of the club, Beard’s return to Merseyside has brought with it a real culture of togetherness and a genuine belief that this side belongs in the WSL. No other team in the league has scored more goals or conceded fewer than Liverpool in 14 league games this season and they’ve suffered just one defeat.
Make no mistake, this is a side going places. This is a side who sit nine points clear at the top of the league with the finish line in sight. This is a team finally enjoying their football again, and they themselves are a team to be enjoyed. It is arguably the best Liverpool Women have been since 2018-19.
The women’s game could do with a strong Liverpool and my god, this is a strong Liverpool. This is a Liverpool team to be excited about.
A side that deserves to be watched, and one determined to have their hands on that league title come May.
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