5 Takeaways From the Women's FA Cup Quarter Finals

Everton FC v Chelsea FC - Women's FA Cup: Quarter Final
Everton stunned Chelsea in the Women's FA Cup quarter finals | Lewis Storey/Getty Images

The Women's FA Cup quarter finals took place over the weekend just the seven months after the last eight draw had originally been made.

Arsenal eventually broke down a stubborn Spurs side to book their place in the semi finals with a 4-0 win in the north London derby, Manchester City edged past second tier Leicester with a narrow 2-1 victory, and spot kicks were required to separate Birmingham and Brighton after the pair had played out a 2-2 draw, with Birmingham emerging victorious from 12 yards.

The shock of the weekend went to Everton, who eliminated WSL champions Chelsea thanks to a 2-1 win at Goodison Park. The Toffees will meet Birmingham on Wednesday, while Manchester City and Arsenal play on Thursday.

Let's take a look at what we learnt from the weekend's action.

Manchester City Are Still Finding Their Feet Under Gareth Taylor

Georgia Stanway, Gareth Taylor
City fans will have to be patient with Taylor | Charlotte Tattersall/Getty Images

When Manchester City announced the appointment of new boss Gareth Taylor in May, comparisons were instantly drawn to former boss Nick Cushing. Like his predecessor, Taylor was an internal appointment having spent a number of years coaching in the City setup, and this was his maiden senior managerial job - and first in the women's game.

Cushing went on to enjoy remarkable success at City, building a team brand and identity, forging a reputation as the best club for fostering young talent and lifting six major trophies in the process. But this didn't happen overnight. It took a season and a half for City to really hit their stride and find some consistency under Cushing before they established themselves as one of the top teams in the country.

However, Cushing was effectively building a team from scratch while Taylor already has an excellent framework for a squad at his disposal, a selection of world class arrivals and substantial expectations. It shouldn't take him a full 18 months to get his side playing to his tune - but instant success could be a big ask.

They could only edge past a Leicester team who - although fully professional now - are still a second tier side. Having required two defensive mix ups to get the better of Aston Villa during their opening day win before being held to a draw by Brighton, bigger results would be expected from a squad of City's quality. But as Cushing showed to devastating effect, patience is key.

Leicester Have So Much Potential

Remi Allen, Jill Scott
Remi Allen is an excellent signing for Leicester | Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images

Although now a fully professional outfit, Leicester's hopes of causing a cup upset were dampened by the rule that only six new players could be registered for the rescheduled FA Cup quarter finals - a blow given the Foxes' squad overhaul this summer, where 13 new recruits were brought in.

Yet they still went toe to toe with their world class opponents and gave City a real scare. They were tenacious and adventurous out of possession and showed no fear in the face of the defending FA Cup champions.

With the infrastructure now in place at Leicester and the stature of the club, the potential is there for them to not only gain promotion, but firmly establish themselves as a WSL side.

Maybe the Top Three Aren't Pulling Away After All

Valerie Gauvin
Everton pulled off the shock of the round by beating Chelsea | Lewis Storey/Getty Images

With Chelsea and Manchester City bringing in an assortment of blockbuster signings there was a fear that however great for the league these flash new recruits would be, they would only widen the already substantial gulf in class between Chelsea, City and Arsenal and the rest of the division.

However, Manchester United - without their plethora of exciting new talent at this stage - held Chelsea to a draw on the opening day of the season, and Everton followed this up with a stunning 2-1 win over the Blues in the FA Cup quarter finals - Chelsea' first domestic defeat since April 2019.

Hayley Raso was superb for Everton, exploiting Chelsea's vulnerability at right back with natural midfielder Maren Mjelde continuing to be deployed there. Raso, alongside fellow January arrival Izzy Christiansen, are effectively new signings for the Toffees, having been made to wait over half a year for their debuts following coronavirus and injuries.

Everton rode their luck at times and Sandy MacIver pulled off a selection of fine saves, but like United the Toffees demonstrated they are capable of going toe to toe with the league's best. United and Everton could well be in the mix to threaten the top three this season.

Arsenal Are Ruthless

Jordan Nobbs
Arsenal hit four goals in the final 20 minutes | Naomi Baker/Getty Images

Tottenham put in a gutsy, determined, rugged performance against the Gunners. They kept them out for 73 minutes and arguably pushed their rivals as close as they ever have before... but still lost 4-0.

The first time Spurs put a foot wrong all game Jordan Nobbs instantly capitalised with a sumptuous lob to give Arsenal the lead.

They were then merrily carved open on three more occasions with Lisa Evans the beneficiary. The versatile Scotland international, who has often operated at fullback for Arsenal, was clinical, netting the Gunners' third hat-trick in as many games. It's now 19 goals in just three outings for the Gunners. Utterly ruthless stuff.

Victory Could Be Huge for Birmingham

It's been a bleak 12 months for 2012 FA Cup winners Birmingham. The Blues went from knocking on the door of the top three during the 2018/19 season (they remain the last team to have beaten Chelsea in the league), to narrowly avoiding relegation the following campaign.

Losing boss Marc Skinner to the NWSL in January 2019 was a blow, and Birmingham have since seen countless senior players depart, including Ellen White, Aoife Mannion, Lucy Staniforth, Kerys Harrop and Rachel Williams.

Carla Ward was only placed in charge three and a half weeks before their WSL season opener - which they lost 2-0 to Brighton. However, against the same opponents in the FA Cup, they dominated the game and eventually emerged victorious via spot kicks. Birmingham are without a win in the WSL since December 2019, and this result could be a massive confidence boost.

With promising signinga Jamie Lee-Napier and Mollie Green brought in before the transfer deadline, Ward could gradually be turning fortunes around at Birmingham.