Welcome to Full Time, The Athletic’s women’s football column – a one-stop shop every Monday to discuss the big issues of the game in England and Europe.
The main story
Tottenham Hotspur striker Martha Thomas may not have been as critical as she was when she missed Aston Villa’s goal in the 72nd minute.
When she scored her third goal of the game, Thomas not only completed a hat-trick to seal a 4-1 win over Spurs, but she was also surpassing the Women’s Super League goalscoring record in a single season. She now has six goals in four games this campaign – beating her previous record of five at Manchester United in 2021-22 – and is ahead of Brighton & Hove Albion’s Elisabeth Theland (four) and Manchester City’s Jill Roard in the WSL goalscoring chart. , Arsenal’s Katie McCabe and former United teammate Rachel Williams (all three).
The 27-year-old Scotland international joined Spurs from Manchester United at the end of the transfer window. England international Bethany England is set to be sidelined for some time as she recovers from hip surgery, while Polish forward Nikola Karzewska left for Bayer Leverkusen on loan to be replaced by Thomas Thomas. She played just 408 WSL minutes for United last season, mostly from the outfield.
However, Thomas has been crucial to Spurs’ bright start, scoring in each of their four league games and helping them improve their total to 50 per cent from last season. The top-half WSL side’s 4-2 win at Villa was their first since defeating Manchester City on September 12, 2021.
When asked about her impressive season, Thomas praised Spurs coach Robert Villaham. “Maybe playing under someone who I know believes in me,” she said. “That’s important, that’s when I play my best football. I am playing in my right place.
“If she gives a good player faith and confidence, you can see what happens to her,” Villaham said after the match. Those national team players sitting on the bench at the big clubs, sometimes if you put faith in them, you’ll find it in them.
Spurs recruited fairly well in the summer, with under-the-radar signings such as Finnish midfielder Olga Ahtin and Swiss centre-back Luana Bühler. Midfielder Grace Clinton, 20, on loan from Manchester United, was rewarded for her performance at England’s first senior call-up last week. Villaham’s side looked well organised, with wins over Villa, Brighton and Bristol City and a positive opening day display against Chelsea, albeit in defeat.
As the battle to reach the top of the WSL heats up and more clubs look to invest in their women’s teams, Spurs’ first season should be a lesson in awareness. Star names can provide instant buzz both on and off the field. . And now, England themselves may be wondering where they stand as they return to full fitness.
You might have missed it.
Normally you’d expect to see WSL players spilling out of a coach or arriving in their car before a game, but that’s not the case for Chelsea midfielder Sjoeke Nusken. The 22-year-old Germany international cycled to Kingsmeadow ahead of her second start for the club and her performance was as impressive as her environmental credentials.
Sjoeke Nusken actually turned on the bike to Kingsmeadow and took a perfect hat-trick bag on Brighton. 🤣🚲 pic.twitter.com/xyGRYR9tjd
— London Blue Podcast ⭐️⭐️ (@LondonBluePod) October 22, 2023
Nusken equalized for Chelsea on the stroke of half-time after scoring a goal at Brighton. She scored again after the break and assisted Agnes Beaver-Jones to give Chelsea a 4-2 win. All of this came as a surprise to the player who many thought was signed to become a defensive midfielder for the WSL champions.
“I play everywhere in midfield, so sometimes I play in the ’10’ or in the pivot,” Nusken said after the game.
Manager Emma Hayes agreed: “She wants to go forward and between No.8 and No.10. But she’s on the front foot, very aggressive and gets into the box.
The only sour note was that Nusken was denied a perfect hat-trick – her 74th-minute attempt was blocked by Guro Bergsvand’s own goal. “I touched the ball,” Nusken said She took her match ball and returned home on her bicycle.
Player of the week
Leicester City and Manchester City were uncharacteristically level and the home side were made to work hard to win 1-0, ending their unbeaten start to the season. Leicester stayed in the game thanks to the tireless efforts of defender Sophie Howard, who almost certainly scored themselves. Playing in the center of the back three, Howard was given the unenviable task of marking Buny Shawn — City’s top scorer last season (31 in all competitions).
Howard was dragged out of his position in the first half, but moved to upset Shaw in the second. Her efforts were ultimately futile but the Scotland international’s dogged defense was an example of how well organized manager Willie Kirk has shown this side.
The moment of the week
Arsenal striker Vivian Miedema finally returned to WSL action at the weekend, 11 months after suffering a ruptured ACL against Lyon in the Champions League. The Netherlands international, who was selected for last week’s Nations League game against Scotland on Friday and next Tuesday, was substituted late in her side’s win over Bristol City.
The real and emotional impact of ACL injuries on female elite athletes
With striker Beth Meade returning to action last week, coach Jonas Ideval’s attacking options are exhausted. “It’s a very exciting time,” Ideval said after the game. “I’m very happy for the players who have been away for a long time, worked very hard and are now back on the pitch.
Republic of Ireland captain Cathy McCabe said: “To have them both back in the same week is really special for the team.”
Of the list of remaining ACL injuries, only defenders remain – England captain Leah Williamson and Austria international Laura Weinreuter.
What’s happening next?
When the international game ends, the domestic club season comes to a halt, with the Nations League games and Olympic qualifiers being the focus of many. England face Belgium home and away on Friday and next Tuesday.
The winner of the Ballon d’Or will be announced on October 30. It is certain that Spain’s Alexia Putelas, who won the last two years in a row, will leave her title. Barcelona midfielder Aitana Bonmati, who won the World Cup with Spain, is the favorite to win this year’s trophy.
WSL action resumes on November 4. The following day, Arsenal and Manchester City will face each other for the first time this season.
(Top photo: Alex Burstow/Arsenal FC via Getty Images)