Women’s Super League season preview
- Credit: Gavin Ellis/TGS Photo
This weekend will see the new Women’s Super League season kick off with Aston Villa taking on Manchester City opening the new 2020-21 campaign on Saturday before the likes of Arsenal, West Ham and Tottenham start the following day.
Josh Bunting previews all 12 teams with the same aim to become Champions of England in what is expected to be the most thrilling of seasons yet.
Where they finished last season-1st
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Top Goalscorer 19/20 - Bethany England
One to Watch- Pernille Harder.
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First up-Manchester United away.
Season expectations- Chelsea were crowned as Women’s Super League champions on a points per game basis in May. The Blues went the season unbeaten before the Coronavirus pandemic ended the campaign with immediate effect.
They also picked up the Continental Cup beating Arsenal 2-1 in the final thanks to a double from leading goalscorer Bethany England.
Chelsea have one of the biggest squads in the league and have added real quality to it this summer bringing in German International Melanie Leupolz, young Canadian star Jessie Fleming alongside another very promising player in Niamh Charles.
However they have also brought in Pernille Harder a world superstar from Wolfsburg, Harder had helped them win four consecutive German league and cup doubles since joining them in 2017.
She also starred in the club’s run to this seasons Women’s Champions League final, which they lost 3-1 to Lyon.
This year was the second season in which she had won Germany’s golden boot, having netted 17 league goals to win the award in 2018.
Chelsea won the Community Shield 2-0 at Wembley Stadium last Saturday thanks to goals from Millie Bright and Erin Cuthbert seeing off the challenge from Manchester City.
The Blues will be expected to retain their title once more with Sam Kerr entering her full season with the club she is expected to hit form and add plenty of goals to their game.
They will be fighting on all fronts this season and with the quality available could really have a chance of winning the UEFA Women’s Champions League when that starts up again later this year.
Where they finished last season-2nd
Top Goalscorer 19/20 - Pauline Bremer
One to watch - Chloe Kelly
First up-Aston Villa away
Season expectations - Manchester City were leading the title race when the season was called to a halt last season but lost out on the trophy due to points per game.
However it’s a new era at the Blues with a new manager in Gareth Taylor and he’s brought in some world class signings already in USA World Cup winning duo Rose Lavelle and Samantha Mewis.
Lucy Bronze and Alex Greenwood who have just won the Champions League with Lyon, Bronze for a third time it’s safe to say they aren’t messing about in the market.
Chloe Kelly who was top scorer at Everton last season is one to watch as she can play on the wing or as a number 9 and with Manchester City’s neat passing style of play she will break the lines at ease.
City play an extremely attractive style of play but a negative could be they enter the season with only one recognised striker as Bremer departed to Wolfsburg so Ellen White could feel more pressure to deliver on a regular basis.
They lost the traditional curtain raiser the Community Shield on Saturday but at 0-0 had Jill Scott sent off.
They have a young squad with the likes of Kiera Walsh, Georgia Stanway and Ellie Roebuck and Kelly already full England Internationals and are an extremely good side to watch going forward.
Defensively they kept the most clean-sheets last season with Roebuck a real star in the making between the sticks.
A number of players have missed key action in pre-season so questions will be asked about how quickly they can gel.
The target for Manchester City will be as ever to win the league and go deep in the Champions League.
Where they finished last season-3rd
Top Goalscorer 19/20 -Vivianne Miedema
One to watch- Noëlle Maritz
First Up- Reading Home
Season expectations- Arsenal have brought in one of the world’s best if not the best left-back in Steph Catley, Swiss duo Malin Gut and Noelle Maritz and goalkeeper Lydia Williams has also arrived.
The spine of the Gunners team remains the same with Leah Williamson and Jennifer Beattie partnering one another in the centre of defence, Lia Wälti anchors the midfield with Jordan Nobbs and Kim Little ahead of her as Vivianne Miedema spearheads the attack.
Arsenal have not dropped a single point against any team outside of the WSL’s big three in over two years now and without Champions League football this season that could really benefit them.
Miedema was the top goalscorer in both England and Europe last season so with her the Gunners will always stand a chance of silverware.
When Arsenal won the title in 2018-19 they didn’t play in the Champions League so it gives the squad more time to recover on title rivals Manchester City and Chelsea.
Arsenal’s squad depth is also better than what it was last season with Gut if needed rotating with Lia Wälti in centre defensive midfield.
Montemurro likes a tight squad but at the end of last season with Beth Mead a number of others injured it affected them but with more options this season nobody should rule the Gunners out in the title race.
Where they finished last season- 4th
Top Goalscorer 19/20 -Lauren James
One to watch- Ona Batlle
First up - Chelsea home
Season expectations - Manchester United enter their second season in the Women’s Super League after an excellent first campaign finishing fourth.
Stoney has built solid foundations at the club and over the summer has brought in Lucy Staniforth, Ona Batlle and Ivana Fuso.
Two world superstars are heavily linked with Tobin Heath and Christen Press that could change their whole season.
They like to play with a good intensity, press high and are quick in the transition and with a further Champions League spot opening for the WSL for 2021-22 they will be certainly looking to qualify for Europe’s elite stage.
Lauren James at just 18 is clinical when she gets the ball in the box and once again she’ll be one that many defenders in the league will fear.
Sunday’s opening game with champions Chelsea will be a very early indicator if they can keep up with the best teams in the division.
Manager- Kelly Chambers
Where they finished last season-5th
Top Goalscorer 19/20 - Fara Williams
One to watch- Danielle Carter
First up- Arsenal away
Season expectations - Reading are one of the toughest sides in the WSL to beat, Kelly Chambers has recruited well this summer bringing in Emma Mitchell and Danielle Carter from Arsenal are huge signings of intent.
The Royals are very solid in defence and have also brought in New Zealand international goalkeeper Erin Nayler who is another fine addition to the league.
Reading will be aiming to break into the top four this season and with experience throughout the squad there is no reason why they can’t do that.
Former Arsenal star Carter has suffered injuries keeping her out of the past two seasons but if she stays fit there is no doubt she will score goals and could lead the Royals onto something special.
Where they finished last season- 11th
Top Goalscorer 19/20 - Abbi Grant
One to watch - Emma Kelly
First up - Brighton and Hove Albion away.
Last season was another transition for Birmingham City and expect 2020-21 to be the same with a new manager at the helm.
Carla Ward has come in from Sheffield United and has already brought in some quality in Northern Ireland International Chloe McCarron and Scotland captain Rachel Corsie as well as Christie Murray.
Before Ward’s appointment many had written them off, a certainty for relegation some would say however with her managerial experience City could be a big surprise.
They struggled in scoring goals last season but with Emma Kelly in the team now one of the finest young talents in the league at just 23 she should certainly chip in with a few.
McCarron is also a player that will add a lot of quality to Birmingham this season, she moves the ball quickly and is very comfortable in possesion.
Birmingham’s target for the new season is to avoid relegation and with Ward at the helm they could be on to even better things.
Manager - Karen Hills and Juan Amoros
Where they finished last season-7th
One to watch- Alanna Kennedy
Top Goalscorer 19/20 - Rianna Dean
First up - West Ham United home
Season expectations - Tottenham Hotspur enter their second season in the Women’s Super League after a very successful debut season.
Tipped by many at the start of last season to go back down Spurs defied the odds and finished in seventh spot.
They also broke the attendance record in the Women’s Super League when they played host to Arsenal in November as 38,000 entered the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium as the Gunners won 2-0.
Spurs have made several key summer signings in Alanna Kennedy and Shelina Zadorsky from Orlando Pride.
They are a very quick side on the counter attack and will catch teams out especially with the pace of Rosella Ayane who is an underatted player in the league as she is extremely creative.
The aim for Spurs will be a top six finish and then maybe try to push for a top four spot but that will be extremely hard due to the recruitment of the other sides.
West Ham United:
Manager- Matt Beard
Where they finished last season-8th
One to watch- Maz Pacheco
Top Goalscorer 19/20- Adriana Leon
First up - Tottenham Hotspur away
Season expectations - Like many teams in the league West Ham United have also recruited well this summer bringing in seven new players.
Mackenzie Arnold, Maz Pacheco, Emily Van Egmond, Hawa Cissoko, Ruby Grant, Nor Mustafa and Katerina Svitkova have all joined the East London side ahead of the new season.
West Ham are very good in turning over possesion and are good in the transition one of their main strengths, and with better quality going forward could succeed all expections.
The Hammers will he hoping for another top eight finish but could challenge for the top six.
Manager- Willie Kirk
Where they finished last season-6th
One to watch- Valérie Gauvin
Top goalscorer 19/20- Chloe Kelly
First up - Bristol City away
Season expectations - Everton like many WSL clubs have recruited well this summer, despite losing Kelly to Manchester City they have filled her spot with French international striker Valérie Gauvin.
Everton have such a young squad and play attractive football to go with it, they play with so much energy and will enjoy their first full season in their new home of Walton Park.
Gauvin was their big summer signing but they’ve also brought in Poppy Pattinson, Ingrid Moe Wold, Nicoline Sorensen, Rikke Sevecke and Damaris Egurrola.
The recruitment from the Toffees could push them onto the next level and break into the top four of the division.
They could be the surprise package of the season and a team that will be exciting to watch due to their energy.
Brighton and Hove Albion:
Manager- Hope Powell
Where they finished last season-9th
One to watch- Inessa Kaagman
Top Goalscorer 19/20-Aileen Whelan
First up - Birmingham City home
Season expectations - Brighton could also be one of those teams that could cause a surprise this season.
Albion have brought in signings of real quality as Netherlands international Inessa Kaagman has joined from Everton, Nora Heroum has also linked up with the Seagulls from AC Milan.
Brighton are expected to finish mid table but they could threaten the top half especially if they can go on a good home run, they are a well disciplined team so will be hard to break down.
They took points off champions Chelsea last season at home so they do have the quality to get results, an assault on the top half will be their aim heading into the new season.
Manager- Tanya Oxtoby
Where they finished last season-10th
One to watch- Carla Humphrey
Top Goalscorer 19/20- Ebony Salmon
First up - Everton home
Season expectations - Bristol City finished 10th last year due to a late surge, Ebony Salmon’s goals were crucial and they will be once again in 2020-21.
Salmon netted 5 WSL goals last season as the Robins broke away from the relegation zone just in time.
They’ve put a lot of faith in youth for the new season as they’ve brought in Ella Mastrantonio, Aimee Palmer, Megan Wynne who has picked up a season ending ACL injury, Jemma Purfield and Emma Bissell.
The Robins were very inconsistent last season and they need to improve on that ahead of the new campaign.
The seasons aim will be to avoid relegation but that could be very tough to do with such a young squad however Carla Humphrey is an extremely technical player and she will be one that will hope to get them on the front foot in games.
It could be a very tough season as they move into their new home Twerton Park so early season form for confidence will be vital.
Manager - Gemma Davies
Where they finished last season-1st in the FA Women’s Championship.
One to watch- Ramona Petzelberger
Top Goalscorer 19/20- Melissa Johnson
First up - Manchester City Home
Season expectations - Newly promoted Aston Villa are going to be a side to watch in the Women’s Super League this season. Gemma Davies has recruited so well.
Expected to be in a battle against relegation Villa could surprise many this campaign.
Scottish International Chloe Arthur has joined alongside Anita Asante, Diana Silva, Lisa Weiß, Carlo Siems, Ramona Petzelberger and Stine Larsen.
Villa have made some coups in the window that will allow them to play free flowing attacking football that they want to play.
It could be a season to remember for the Villa Park side who kick off on Saturday against Manchester City at home a baptism of fire into the league.
Villa will undoubtedly be targeting against a relegation battle but something special could be brewing at the club and a 7th or 8th placed finish might just be possible.