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Bright for Chelsea - but not for England? Chelsea defender gives Neville a headache in huge Arsenal win

17:18 IST 13/10/2019
Millie Bright England 2019
The 26-year-old recently lost her place in the Lionesses' side but was impressive on her return to Women's Super League action on Sunday

Millie Bright’s excellent form for Chelsea poses a centre-back conundrum for England boss Phil Neville that looks extremely difficult to solve.

The 26-year-old’s displays for the Lionesses have come in for criticism in recent months, with her World Cup campaign over the summer underwhelming and her performances for them since continuing in that vein.

For her club, however, she remains absolutely crucial and key to their sturdy defence which survived Arsenal’s free-flowing attack on Sunday to claim a statement 2-1 win at Kingsmeadow.

Leah Williamson, in the centre of the defence for the Gunners in that game, is the one who has taken her place at international level, with Neville raving about the 22-year-old after her impressive displays against Brazil and Portugal in England’s latest outings.

"There comes a point in a young player's development where you physically can't leave them out," he said. "When you put them in a game you know how they are going to perform. Now she's ready."

But Bright outshone her international team-mate in both players’ first games for their clubs since the break, dominating the defence and keeping Vivianne Miedema, the most feared striker in the division, as quiet as possible.

At the other end of the pitch, Williamson was calm and composed for the most part, but was crucially beaten by Fran Kirby for Chelsea’s equaliser, with the forward able to find Beth England to fire home and swing momentum back in the home side’s favour.

The general consensus among England fans and watchers is exactly as Neville puts it, in that Williamson, with all her quality and many years at the top ahead of her, simply has to play. But with Bright performing excellently for Emma Hayes’ side, can he really justify leaving her out?

Captain Steph Houghton is the player keeping out the latter, with her and Bright too similar in many departments to make them a compatible pair.

While Houghton performs well for her own club, Manchester City, too, it poses a real headache for Neville on who to make his starting pair and who are the best duo to play together, particularly during a time when his team are not in a great moment and the pressure is on him.

For Hayes, there is no such headache. Her Chelsea team is built around Bright’s brilliance, which they relied on heavily during the win over the Gunners.

The Blues were set-up in a 4-4-2 to catch Joe Montemurro’s side on the counter, and they did so brilliantly to claim three points, defending admirably when Arsenal piled on the pressure.

Now, the Gunners will make the trip to the Czech Republic this week to face Slavia Prague in the UEFA Women’s Champions League, travelling that Montemurro admitted troubled his side in the last round.

“It’s a new experience for us and to be brutally honest we are still getting used to it, it was a long week,” he said after his side beat Manchester United 1-0, fresh off the back of travelling to Italy to face Fiorentina.

While that problem continues to plague the reigning champions, and their injury hit squad, Hayes’ team can work on using that to their advantage.

The Blues did not qualify for European football last year, finishing third in the table despite their admirable attempts to win the continental title, just falling short of a massive win over Lyon in the semi-finals.

That could well be the difference for them this season, with Man City another contender who will have to juggle those demands.

But if any particular player is to make the biggest difference for Chelsea, in her current form, that looks like it will be Bright. Whether that will play her back into the England XI, however, is another matter.