Tottenham Hotspur Women continued their preseason with a friendly against Chelsea FC Women at Kingsmeadow. Spurs looked fitter and brighter than they did in Louisville, but it wasn’t enough to overcome last season’s FAWSL Champions.
Rehanne Skinner started in a relatively familiar 3-4-3 formation with Molly Bartrip in the center and Shelina Zadorsky and Amy Turner on the right and left. Ashleigh Neville and Asmita Ale played as wingbacks, and we saw a brand new central midfield pairing of Angharad James and Drew Spence. Jess Naz and Rosella Ayana recapped their usual positions on the wings, and new signing Nikola Karczewska led the side up top.
Spurs Women started with a high-energy medium block, and it worked really well for about 15 minutes against Chelsea’s defensively-suspect midfield. The press looked much more organized and much fitter. Rosella Ayane, Ash Neville, and Drew Spence combined to win the ball back a few times, but Spurs were unable to capitalize on the resulting turnovers. Eventually, Chelsea seemingly realized they could just bypass midfield entirely and play over the top to their annoyingly speedy forwards. One such long ball resulted in Chelsea’s first goal after an unlucky bounce that landed at the feet of powerhouse Pernille Harder. Later, Lauren James doubled Chelsea’s lead with a threaded shot from the top of the box that Becky Spencer, unsighted, couldn’t do much about.
Throughout the half, Spurs’ attacking quartet of Drew Spence, Rosella Ayane, Jess Naz, and Nikola Karczewska managed to string together some good sequences, but, once again, failed to capitalize on chances. Nikola looked right at home against the imperious Chelsea back line, able to retain the ball and find her teammates under pressure. Her solid half culminated with a solid chance on an empty net from a tight angle that a Chelsea defender cleared off the line.
Tinja-Rikka Korpela replaced Becky Spencer at halftime, and was immediately called into action to make two fine saves. With a half-hour left to play, Rehanne Skinner brought on So-Hyun Cho and Celin Bizet for Rosella Ayane and Drew Spence, and moments later Ellie Brazil, Ramona Petzelberger and Kyah Simon for Nikola Karczewska, Angharad James, and Jess Naz.
I’m gonna be honest, I had a hard time following what was going on after the quintuple change. This was very much a “vibes” group, everywhere from the Cho-Petzelberger midfield (which I would not expect to see too often in the future) to our two tricky, dribbly young forwards and a renewed-looking Kyah Simon. I’m not sure this extremely defensively suspect side really neutralized Chelsea so much as Chelsea tired because they didn’t make a single change for the entire 90. What we lacked in organization, we made up for in fun. We had a few spells of quick, confident passing, and players like Cho, Petzelberger and Bizet got to showcase some of their style and flair. I really hoped someone might grab a consolation goal as well, but it wasn’t to be, and the game ended 2-0 for Chelsea.
All in all, it was a marked improvement from what we saw in Louisville, and against a much stronger side. Our energetic press is starting to return, and our exciting individuals are meshing together into a team more with every outing. I’d urge you all to keep in mind that it’s preseason, and that despite the score lines, we’ve still seen a lot to like. Of course, it’s not all sunshine and rainbows—I still have concerns about several players’ readiness for our level and style of play, namely Petzelberger, Brazil and Ayane.
Only time will tell, so in the meantime, bring on Manchester United, and stay tuned for a rundown of things we learned from preseason later this week!