In the midst of COVID-19 panic, English football are, for now, proceeding with matches as scheduled. This means that Chelsea FC Women will presumably square off with Everton FCW on Sunday, and that they may be without star striker Bethany England.
UPDATE: The emergency meeting scheduled for Friday will likely change that situation, after Callum Hudson-Odoi and Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta both tested positive.
Chelsea’s leading goalscorer picked up an “ankle strain” in a training session and missed England’s final match at the SheBelieves Cup, against Spain, on Wednesday. The training pitch is being blamed as the culprit (although given the state of some pitches WSL clubs play on, she is probably used to less than stellar groundwork).
We’ve really got to start reconsidering sending players to America in the middle of the season!
Bethany England and Hannah Hampton (training GK) picked up their injuries in training. Both in protective boots and crutches as a precaution. #bbcfootball— Emma Sanders (@em_sandy) March 11, 2020
One of the more annoying things about England with England has been Phil Neville’s reliance on Ellen White, and inability to deploy tactics that take advantage of his best players. Against Japan, the lone start for Bethany England, the WSL’s second highest scorer had a couple chances that she uncharacteristically flubbed. But for the majority of the match, the Japan side wove in, out, and around a deeply talented England side, and as such, service was sparse.
That England only got 12 minutes off the bench against the USWNT while already down 2-0, plus a start in an uninspired England side torn apart by Japan, plus an ankle injury in training ahead of the team’s final appearance, is near the postal code of the worst case scenario. Hopefully she heals quickly and doesn’t have to miss much time.
The extremely luminous silver lining is that Chelsea did manage to add one of the best scorers in all of women’s football in January, Sam Kerr. However, she is still adapting to London and the WSL, and the team are still adapting to her. She plays differently than England, who frequently drops into midfield or drifts out wide to wing areas, and can score long-range chances; whereas Kerr likes to be closer to the center backs and is therefore a bit more reliant on the quality of the service she’s getting.
But they don’t call Kerr (arguably) the best goalscorer in women’s football for nothing. She makes hundreds of smart runs every match, is very quick, has great leaping ability and is a good enough dribbler to craft a chance even if a defender is facing up.
Still, it will take a full strength Chelsea side to finish the season the way they intend to — with two more trophies. Get well soon, Bethany!