Women's Football

Emma Hayes explains why Brighton & not Everton are challenging the WSL's big clubs

Jamie Spencer
Brighton are impressing in the WSL this season
Brighton are impressing in the WSL this season / Warren Little/GettyImages

Chelsea Women manager Emma Hayes has explained why Brighton’s ‘amazing’ approach has made them a bigger threat to the WSL’s big clubs this season than an ambitious Everton.

Everton, who have been improving each season in recent years, were the focus of a lot of attention during the summer because of the level of investment on new players – including a statement ‘six figure’ sum spent on teenage Sweden international Hanna Bennison.

But the Toffees have struggled since the actual action kicked off, losing four of their opening six WSL games and have already been through a change of manager. Three of those defeats have been against Chelsea, Manchester City and Arsenal, yet the results were extremely one-sided and not indicative of a team that is about to break open the top three and ruffle any feathers.

Instead, Brighton have proven to be an impressive force. Under the experienced guidance of former Engand manager Hope Powell, the Seagulls broke into the top half of the WSL last season and were the only team to beat Chelsea – and have kept that momentum going in 2021/22.

Speaking on the Wrighty’s House podcast in a live recording with Barclays, Hayes explained that it was wrong to expect so much from Everton and pointed to Brighton as the real success story.

“I mean, [Brighton are] built to do it this way. Not in a rush, take their time. Proper recruitment, brilliant coaching, great culture. £8m facility all for the girls, which I think is amazing. Something everybody can reflect on,” she said.

“Everybody tipped Everton and I thought that was ludicrous - not because they’re not good players, top players - but it took Pernille Harder a whole year to settle in and Sam Kerr at least six months [at Chelsea]. At least, maybe a little longer. And that’s the reality.

“For those Everton players, when you’ve had eight or nine come in, it’s difficult. For Hope, she’s had that group [at Brighton] and it’s established.”

Arsenal and Chelsea are locked in a two-horse race for the WSL title, while Manchester City face a fight just to finish in the top three because of their difficult start to the season. As well as Brighton, Tottenham have also started extremely well, while Manchester United remain a threat.

“I think the race for third will go the whole way,” Hayes said. “Just like anything in football, like I said, playing Man City a week ago and playing them now, you learn certain things. The second half of the season, fixtures become even tougher because that’s when the teams get into their stride.

“You size each other up, you figure it out. The big difference now is, because everybody’s been professional a few years, squads are larger. You’re no longer getting the situations where those with less players fall away…stability is the most important thing.”

For more from Jamie Spencer, follow him on Twitter and Facebook!