Editor's picks: Who will win the WSL trophy and how the season will end?
After six months, the Barclays FA Women's Super League is finally back tomorrow. With an eventful summer transfer window, the most competitive women's league starts underway this weekend. And here we are again with another Editor's take where we asked our editors how the tournament would go and what we can expect and give their predictions and opinions on the English season 2020/21.
Who will be the winner of WSL and the teams to finish the top four?
Emma Kearl: Winner - Chelsea - Their strength and depth will set them apart from City. However, with Arsenal not in the Champions League, they cannot be discounted, I just think their signings attacking wise don’t give them enough of a lift. They will be reliant on Miedema, Mead, DvD, and Foord staying fit and on-form.
I think United could get third, maybe only by a point or Goal Difference. Manchester City will want silverware either cup wise or a good run in the Champions League, but I don’t think they have the depth to sustain it all, with an already key player in Hemp injured, new signings in Kelly and Lavelle are essential, filling a hole, despite their unquestionable talent. In addition, Sam Mewis is the natural successor to Jill Scott’s position as Jill moves into the coaching side of her career.
In regards to United, their new signings, Fuso and Battle are an unknown quantity. This could be the extra they need to hit that next step. Staniforth gives Casey midfield options and they will want to improve on last years’ standings. Emily Ramsey claiming the number 1 jersey also raises eyebrows that they have two first-team goalkeepers. This will help for rotation in the league, if Mary gets called up to the National Team, and keep that consistency high. All this with the addition of the potential transfer rumors of Christen Press and Tobin Heath, speak for themselves if it happens.
Chelsea are for me, the favorites to win the WSL this season and retain the title. They have so much quality and depth in their ranks, and they are overall the best team in the league. Adding Pernille Harder to an already star flooded attacking line is a massive statement of intent; they want to win everything and I think they will take the league title once again.
I don’t think the top 4 will change from last season. I have already chosen Chelsea as champions, and as for the other three spots, I believe Manchester City have the second-best squad in the league behind Chelsea. Despite changing managers, I think City will be the closest challenger to Chelsea due to the talent their squad possesses, their well-implemented playing style, overall consistency, and the ability to beat anyone. The fight for 3rd and the final Champions League spot is therefore going to be between Arsenal and Manchester United. I think Arsenal will edge this one and get 3rd. They have addressed their defensive problems with new signings Steph Catley and Noelle Maritz and also added a little more depth. Their squad is thinner than Chelsea and Manchester City, but they still have a lot of quality in their squad. I think Manchester United will get closer than the 13 points they finished below Arsenal last season, but I don’t think they will make up all those points. Despite most likely getting Christen Press and Tobin Heath over the line, I still think they lack quality depth in some areas and consistency.
We´re in for a very exciting WSL season. After an atypical season in which Chelsea secured the WSL title, much due to the fact that they were unbeaten as of the date of the league’s suspension, we can surely expect a strong start from all the teams that finished in the top three. Chelsea is probably starting ahead from the rest being the defending champions and having already won the Community Shield. Chelsea already had a very strong squad but with the arrival of top-class players such as Leuopolz, Fleming, and Danish superstar Pernille Harder and the return of Fran Kirby it’s evident that they are going to fight for every single trophy and they have the squad to do so. Chelsea has built a perfectly balanced team with (many) quality options for all the sectors of the field, capable of competing at the highest level in all competitions so I believe that in the end Chelsea will win the WSL title again and I dare to say finally dethrone Lyon and win the UWCL.
Without the pressure of playing in the Champions League this season, also eased by a very demanded and effective transfer window, that supplied the squad with fullbacks Steph Catley and Noelle Maritz and defensive midfielder Malin Gut, therefore adding depth to a defensive line in need for more options, as well as the recovery of key players such as Kim Little and Lia Wälti, Arsenal will be able to overcome a Manchester City that's returning to Europe's big stage. Based on the performance delivered in last week's Community Shield, I’d say that City still needs to work on achieving a perfect balance between defensive cohesion and attacking effectiveness to reach its full potential.
Manchester City will have a challenging season, trying to go as far as possible in the Champions League fighting for WSL glory and aiming for a cup victory. The club managed to sign two world cup winners, Sam Mewis and Rose Lavelle, and English international, Chloe Kelly three key players in a talented and young team that had already a setback with Lauren Hemp’s injury but that has the potential to fight for titles. Nonetheless, their UWCL campaign might overshadow their WSL performances and with that City might not be able to do as good as last season, finishing third behind Arsenal.
The battle for fourth place will be as exciting. Manchester United may be some steps ahead but Casey Stoney's tactical decisions will most definitely define United's place and their intentions for the new season. It’ll be worth to keep an eye on teams like West Ham, Reading and especially Everton, that added quality to their squads with the loan of several international players, the signings of young talent from abroad, and even the return of some familiar faces to the WSL all of whom will most certainly bring their experience and quality to a league that keeps attracting the best players in the world.
Winner – Chelsea
This FA WSL season will be extremely interesting due to great transfer moves from many teams. We can expect a new quality brought to the league by foreign players. It is difficult to pick who will win this season, but for the moment I would place my bet on Chelsea. The previous season was very good for Chelsea, they've been playing well with a lot of regularity and their squad is very strong and well-balanced. In addition, the new signatures of Harder, Leupolz and Flemming put them in a good position to defend the championship title. The composure and the great vision of the game presented by Leupolz and the outstanding leadership skills of Pernille Harder are great advantages. Nevertheless, I wouldn't write Manchester City or Arsenal off. Both teams also made some interesting additions to their rosters this summer and they will definitely want to play for the highest stakes. I think the gap in the table between the top 4 teams at the end of the season will be really small.
Arsenal have signed Steph Catley, Lydia Williams, Malin Gut, and Noelle Maritz. These are very good reinforcements for the team, especially Maritz, who already had a chance to present her skills in the match against PSG and received a lot of praise for that game. Man City have signed two American world champions - Sam Mewis and Rose Lavelle. Both players will surely bring a lot of quality and experience to the team. The combination of their experience and youth of such players as Hemp or Stanway can be an effective weapon for the coming season.
Man United have signed Lucy Staniforth and two young players - Ona Batlle and Ivana Fuso. These are really great moves in terms of building a team that is sure to fight for the championship in the coming years. I think United are not yet to be placed in the top 3 this season, but 4th place is definitely within their reach. United is a young, promising team, so they can certainly repeat their success from the previous year because 4th place in the table in their rookie season can definitely be considered as a success.
Who will be the top scorer?
I am not sure but I don’t think it will be a top 2 team. A lot of players will be using this season to get themselves seen for their country’s Olympics side. Lauren James and Galton will want to improve from last season, and it can’t go unnoticed that mid-table teams have recruited well. If I was a neutral WSL fan, I want Dan Carter to have a good season as she deserves to be back on the National side.
West Ham have some serious firepower in Thomas, Leon, Lehman, and Van Egmond amongst others. Everton have unproven WSL talent in Gauvin and Raso as well who are no stranger to putting the ball in the back of the net. Izzy Christiansan who has been out of action after an injury, which cut short a mediocre spell at Lyon will want to push for a place back in the Lioness squad.
This is a very difficult one to answer due to all the quality strikers/goal scorers in the league. I think the three front-runners are Vivianne Miedema, Bethany England, and Pernille Harder. With the arrival of Harder, England might share the goals more with her and Sam Kerr. I’m not counting her out, but this might cause her to fall short of the golden boot. The same argument can be used about Harder, but with 27 goals in 21 league games in the Bundesliga, you can never count her out. Harder will be looking to take a leader role at Chelsea which can also mean that she will be their main goal scorer. As for Miedema, she is Arsenal’s definite main striker and main goal threat. I think it’s a toss-up between Harder and Miedema, but I think Miedema will edge it and become WSL top scorer again.
Vivianne Miedema/Pernille Harder/ (Beth England).
I think this season is going to be more of the same. Both are fantastic strikers that turn the work of their teammates into gold. Given their team's offensive power I wouldn't be surprised if this turns out to be a tight race won by who's capable of standing out in the big games or delivering a showoff performance against one of the “weaker” defensive sides. One thing's for sure, I cannot possibly see Sam Kerr getting closer to these two.
Chelsea announced the signing of Pernille Harder which made me rethink everything I had written.
Pernille scored 103 goals in 113 games for Wolfsburg, was the Bundesliga top scorer in 2019/2020, and was only one goal away from Miedema in the UWCL. They will obviously be the WSL top scorers but will Pernille be able to overcome the Dutch striker in her first season in the WSL? I still believe Miedema will deliver but Chelsea will give Harder much more to work with and her way of moving through the field will definitely be an advantage.
I think Vivianne Miedema and Pernille Harder are the two main contenders for the top scorer title this coming season. Pernille Harder finished as a top goalscorer in both the Swedish Damllsvenskan and German Frauen Bundesliga. She scored 27 goals in 21 matches in the recently finished Frauen Bundesliga season. We can therefore assume that Harder will quickly adapt to the physical requirements of the English league and may finish as a top scorer this season.
On the other hand, Vivianne Miedema takes responsibility for scoring goals at Arsenal. The Dutch international scores many goals each season. She has won the title of top goalscorer in the last two seasons and I think she can do so for the third time in a row in the coming season. It is hard to choose which of them will finish as a top scorer at the end of the season. But I bet on Vivianne Miedema.
Who will be the POTY?
I think it will be a defender. Most teams have recruited experienced defenders, such as Catley, Corsie, Kennedy, and wherever Lucy Bronze ends up. As the game becomes more attack-minded, players like Leah Williamson, Catley, Bright, and Houghton, are no stranger to pinging a perfect pass to their forward players for an assist.
I think Pernille Harder will be player of the year. She is the most all-rounded player in the league and oozes quality with everything she does. She’s going to score a lot of goals, but also provide many assists for her teammates. Harder will bring so much quality to Chelsea’s forward line and will be influential for them. Harder also has a tendency to almost always perform at a very high level. This consistency in her performances combined with goals, assists, and her all-round quality in every aspect of the game will ensure that she will be this season’s player of the year.
I'm pretty sure it's going to be a Chelsea player nabbing this award. I wouldn’t be surprised if Fran Kirby is the one getting it and I won't lie, after what she's been through it would be cathartic and one of those comeback journeys we all love to see. Obviously, with a player as Pernille Harder spreading her magic through the WSL grounds, she’ll definitely be a contender for this award and although she may need some time to adjust and adapt to English football, we’re all expecting the same performances that dazzled us in recent past.
I think Pernille Harder. She's a big name in women's football. When she is in shape, she is unstoppable. Even though this will be her debut season in the FA WSL, she will surely bring a lot of quality to the league and she will make a big impact on her new team. Considering how well she performed in the Swedish league and then in the German Bundesliga, there is no doubt that she will do equally well in England.
Who will win the Conti cup, and fa cup?
Conti - West Ham
FA Cup - Chelsea
Conti Cup: Manchester City
Manchester City have a very tough group with Manchester United, Everton, and Liverpool, but they are still favourites to go through due to them having the best squad with the most depth. In the knockout stages, everything is possible, and whilst it’s difficult to not pick Chelsea, I think Manchester City will lift the Conti Cup trophy this season. I don’t think Chelsea will win it this season because I feel like Emma Hayes will prioritize winning the league and the Champions League. Chelsea might therefore go with a more rotated squad and I don’t think they will win all the competitions they are participating in. I’m therefore picking Manchester City to win the Conti Cup.
FA Cup: Chelsea
Chelsea’s rotation and them most likely prioritizing other competitions can be used as an argument here too to not pick them. However, the FA Cup seems like an “easier” cup to win than the Conti Cup which can mean that they will get more away with the rotation. I do think Chelsea are favourites in every domestic competition, but I don’t think they will win every one of them. However, I do expect them to add a cup trophy in addition to winning the league, so I’m backing them to win the FA Cup.
Conti Cup Winner: Everton
After taking a look at the group stage draw I would say that this is the cup where we may get some surprises. This edition of the League Cup has more teams and we will see the bigger teams face each other while the underdogs are taking their chances to try and get as far as possible. That being said and bearing in mind that besides the 1st place only the two 2nd best teams get through, we may see some unexpected early exits and some teams position themselves to grab a place in the final and in the end the cup. I would love to see a team other than last season's WSL top three winning this one so I'm not gonna name one of them even though the most probable outcome will probably be a Chelsea victory. Everton has a very interesting squad with a perfect combination of young talent and experienced players and can be a team to look out for not only in the WSL but also in the cups where sometimes a very good day may turn into something big.
2019-2020 – Arsenal
2020-2021 – Manchester City
We've seen it all this year haven't we? Now, this is just another glitch in this simulation so we'll have two FA Cup winners in one single season. I feel that Arsenal still has some unfinished business with the whirlwind that was last season. Going from a team that could barely have 11 players on the pitch in March to playing at Wembley and winning the FA Cup on the 31st of October would be the perfect ending to what seemed a never ending nightmare. I’m not wild enough to say they win it back to back and I'll say Manchester City will win the 2021 edition.
Conti Cup - Arsenal
FA Cup - Chelsea
Teams that will be promoted and relegated?
I don’t think Liverpool will be promoted but will have a good run in the Conti Cup. They need a full re-build, and 12 months in the championship will be the perfect place; just as United did when they started out.I think it will be a 3-way fight between Leicester, Sheffield, and Durham. However, Blackburn are an outsider.
As for relegation, Brighton have to be considered, they can compete with anyone on their day but that day doesn’t come around often enough. Birmingham before the appointment of Carla Ward, was a given for relegation, as a few weeks before the season, they had a bare squad and no manager. However, since her appointment, they have recruited well with Christie Murray, Mollie Green (not yet announced, officially), and Rachel Corsie on loan. They still are contenders but have more firepower to get them out of trouble.
I have also added Villa to this list, however I think they will be OK. Gemma and Eni have brought in a good mix of experience with Anita Asante and Petzelberger, seasoned WSL players such as Chloe Arthur, and new blood in Stine Larsen, Diana Silva.
I think the fight for promotion is going to be between Leicester and Sheffield United. Leicester are building something very exciting and they have some very good players within their squad. As for Sheffield United, they went very close last season and you have to expect them to be up there this season too. However, they have lost manager Carla Ward and some of the players they had on loan last season have gone back to their original club or elsewhere. Despite that, they have brought in a very good manager in Neil Redfearn and some other good players to bolster their squad. I think it’s gonna be close, but I’m picking Sheffield United to gain promotion.
As for relegation from the WSL, there are a few teams which are going to struggle this year. Birmingham have to be considered because of their thin squad. They have appointed a great manager in Carla Ward, but their squad is thin and doesn’t have that much quality. This makes them a real relegation candidate. I also think Bristol City might struggle this season. They are struggling for goals and are heavily reliant on Ebony Salmon upfront. They also conceded the most goals in the league last season (38). They managed to avoid the drop last season, and they will once again have to fight for their survival this season. It’s also possible to mention Brighton and newly promoted Aston Villa, but I think both of them are going to be alright. Villa have had a big overhaul of their squad and needs their new signings to gel quickly, but I think they have enough to survive.
I also think Brighton are gonna have enough quality to stay up as they have brought in very interesting signings in Inessa Kaagman and Nora Heroum. In conclusion, I think Birmingham will get relegated. Their squad is so thin and lacks the required quality to stay up. They need an overhaul and a restart, and a trip to the Championship might be good for them. I just can’t see them stay up for another season with the state the club is in.
I believe Liverpool will do everything to get back to the WSL after the disaster that was being relegated. The club argued that if the remaining games of the season were to be completed,they would have avoided relegation. However, it's well worth noting that Liverpool as an institution with such a relevant cultural impact and a football club with a great financial power should have done more for its women's team. The lack of investment and the regrettable conditions in which the players had to perform led to this unfortunate outcome. Those footballers deserve better and I’m certain they will honor the club's jersey and secure that promotion back to the WSL.
Many people have said that Aston Villa won't have what it takes to remain in the WSL but I say that Villa will avoid relegation this season and it will be Bristol City who will play in the 2nd tier next season. Unfortunately, I don't see this young squad being able to do better than last season and truth be told they barely made it. I’ll say, nevertheless, that it's refreshing to see a WSL side believing in their youth and supporting them the way Bristol's doing it.
Sheffield United did great last season in the FA Women's Championship, but it was Aston Villa who managed to finish in the first place and win the promotion. I think Sheffield United will emphasize their ambitions this season and they are serious contenders to win promotion to the FA WSL. However, I wouldn't write off Leicester City. Leicester has a great squad, good players such as Esmee De Graaf, Charlie Devlin, Ruesha Littlejohn. This is a new team, but they can follow Manchester United's footsteps and win promotion to the FA WSL in their rookie season.
I think Aston Villa, the team that got the promotion to the FA WSL this season, will stay in the league. In my opinion, Birmingham City will be relegated. They lost Lucy Staniforth who was the engine of the team and I think it will be hard to replace her. This is a factor that definitely weakened the team. Brighton Hove Albion may also be a candidate for relegation. I think one of the two teams I mentioned will be relegated at the end of the 20/21 FA WSL season.
With these ‘big names’ like Mewis, Lavelle, Harder, Catley, Jess Fishlock, Rachel Daly joining the league, this year looks the most competitive and promising year for Women's football in England. Even though the top three looks stronger than before, the match is still won on the pitch and we can expect few more surprises and we can look back during the Christmas break where things stand and if the editors' have made the right choice.