Emma Hayes highlights importance of Chelsea squad depth during congested March
Chelsea manager Emma Hayes has highlighted her team’s performance against Manchester United in the WSL over the weekend as an indicator of ‘why the squad matters’.
The Blues won the game 1-0 to go top of the WSL, leapfrogging United with a game in hand still to play and taking firm control of the title race in their quest for a fourth successive triumph.
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When the starting XI was announced an hour prior to kick-off, there was no Guro Reiten, no Erin Cuthbert and no Jelena Cankovic, while Fran Kirby and Pernille Harder also remained sidelined.
It potentially gave a full strength United the chance to land their first ever win against Chelsea after previously losing all but one game – a draw in September 2020 – against the Blues.
United dominated with 67% of the ball at Kingsmeadow. Marc Skinner’s team had averaged 2.7 goals per game in the WSL prior to kick-off, but could find no way through as Chelsea prioritised defensive solidity and created chances for matchwinner Sam Kerr with long balls.
“That was our third game in a week, and it's three points. We've had injuries and illness in the squad so to do that shows exactly why the squad matters,” Hayes explained.
“We knew we would be without the ball, so we had to be structured and defensively I thought we were. I think we could have won by more.”
Chelsea’s squad depth remains invaluable as March continues. Hayes pointed out that the United game was a third in a week, but it is also the third of seven scheduled before the end of the month.
The Blues will visit Reading in the FA Cup quarter-finals this coming Sunday, before a huge trip to Manchester City is sandwiched between Champions League clashes against holders Lyon. The demands also won’t let up there, with Aston Villa in the WSL to come on 2 April before club football pauses for the next women’s international break that month.