By Andrew Crawshaw
The WSL starts this Weekend, a week before the Men’s PL.
This season, as last year, there are 12 teams in the WSL. Aston Villa were promoted from the Championship and Liverpool relegated. The teams competing are therefore:-
Arsenal, Aston Villa, Birmingham City, Brighton and Hove Albion, Bristol City, Chelsea, Everton, Manchester City, Manchester United, Reading, Spurs, West Ham.
Here is a table to remind us where the teams finished when lockdown curtailed last season.
The final league tables were calculated on a points per game basis as teams had completed a different number of games (Birmingham the least with 13 and Man City and Brighton the most on 16).
Chelsea were, without doubt, the class team in the league last year ahead of Manchester City and ourselves. Chelsea and City therefore have qualified for the Women’s Champions League for this season, we failed to qualify as our run to the last 8 last season wasn’t enough. Changes to the rules of that competition mean that this season the top three clubs in the WSL will qualify.
The FA have a live streaming platform for Women’s matches – go to The FA Player. It should have live coverage of all WSL matches amongst others. In addition the BBC will show one selected match on their red button sport pages and on their internet sports output. BT Sport will have one match per week, (sadly this game will see the FA Player output reduced to to sound only). NBC have pretty much full coverage for those in the USA.
The season kicks off on Saturday when newcomers Aston Villa are at home to Manchester City. Kickoff is 14:30.
Sunday games are:-
12:30 – Arsenal v Reading – BBC Red Button
14:00 – Bristol City v Everton
14:00 – Brighton v Birmingham
14:00 – Spurs v West Ham
14:30 – Man United v Chelsea
Who will be the front runners and who are likely to be the alsorans?
It is difficult to see a change in the top three clubs from last season. Chelsea have strengthened an already strong team and will certainly be the team to beat. Man City and Arsenal have also strengthened and there really isn’t a lot to chose between these two for the runners’ up and third place. Last year we won and lost against City but were well beaten both home and away by Chelsea.
Manchester United are likely to be the best of the rest, as they were last season. To progress they will have to start taking points off the top three teams and I don’t think they are yet strong enough to do that.
Aston Villa are a relative unknown; unbeaten last season in the Championship, I suspect they will be good enough not to be part of the relegation scrap.
The poorest remaining teams from last season are Brighton, Bristol and Birmingham, all were rather cannon fodder for the top teams and whilst they have all tried to improve their teams, I can’t look past this being a similar pattern this season. None of them scored enough goals and all let in far too many.
We need to improve our performances against physical teams. Chelsea bullied us off the pitch twice last year and PSG did the same in our last-8 Champions League match. The same thing has nearly happened against other WSL teams but our overall class has enabled us to beat the teams who finished lower than us in the League table. Indeed it has been a few years since we lost a league match against any team other then Chelsea and City. City we can normally cope with, even if we don’t always beat them.
Looking to our match on Sunday.
Two of our team from last season joined Reading so it is an early reunion with Danielle Carter and Emma Mitchell. If fully fit Dani Carter will undoubtedly be capable of causing our defenders trouble (she has basically been out of the game for the past two seasons with ACL problems). Their other main threat is midfielder Fara Williams.
Our new signings this season have been defenders which should enable our wingers who were repurposed into full backs to resume their more upfield status. In Vivianne Miedema we have the top scorer from the past two seasons and she now has competition from Australian Caitlin Foord for the central striker role.
I did a fuller breakdown of our squad in the piece previewing our Champions League match against PSG There have been no further squad additions since then.
Games between ourselves and Reading are usually tight but we undoubtedly have a much stronger squad. With the exception of our third goalkeeper Fran Stenson all senior squad members are full internationals
A solid win to Arsenal scoring three goals, Reading scoring one at most.
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