2019/20 WSL Preview
Background image: Warren Smith
The FA Women’s Super League is the top-flight for women’s football in England. The 12-team division comprises clubs who enjoy the financial backing of established men's clubs. It has expanded by one team this season. Last term, Yeovil Town were relegated while Manchester United and Tottenham move up from the Women's Championship. For the first time, the Premier League top six are represented at the highest level by both genders. Arsenal will not find it easy to defend their title.
Manchester United enter as second-tier champions, winning the division by spending heavily on top talent. That's one way to catch up after being inactive from 2005-18. The board had a sudden change of heart regarding the viability of women's football. The sledgehammer approach worked on the finishing nails in the Championship. Now, Casey Stoney must prove her side can pound much more resilient opposition.
Spurs have fielded a team for 34 years but were never fully professional before this season. Not that they had a choice. Promotion isn't enough to earn a WSL license. Clubs must also guarantee a minimum investment that includes budgeting full-time players.
Arsenal won the title last year but lost Sari van Veenendaal in the summer. The Dutch keeper stood out at the World Cup in France, her shot-stopping abilities backing Netherlands to the final. Off to Atletico Madrid, Austrian Manuela Zinsberger steps into the role. Her talent helped Bayern Munich challenge Wolfsburg in the Frauen-Bundesliga.
Another European coming to London is Guro Reiten. The versatile Norwegian is comfortable in the middle or at the top end, scoring 51 goals in three seasons with LSK Kvinner while winning two league titles as well as a domestic cup. She’s joined Chelsea where Emma Hayes is looking to get the Blues back to the top after a rough season.
Manchester City took a gamble on South Korean international, Lee Geum-min. The 25-year-old scored six goals in ten games for Gyeongju KHNP, a good rate but a small sample size.
In addition, City signed Ellen White, arguably the most promising English talent. At the World Cup, she racked up six goals, making her the Lionesses' all-time scorer at the competition. She was also prolific for Birmingham City albeit without anything to show for her time. That shouldn't be an issue with the Sky Blues.
Nikita Parris pumped in 19 goals for Manchester City but not wanting the same second-place fate this year, she dumped Lancashire for Lyon. Losing the FWA Footballer of the Year is a massive blow which explains the arrivals of White and Geum-min.
Vivianne Miedema found the net 22 times along with 10 assists last year for Arsenal. She didn't stop at the World Cup, driving l'Oranje to the final. Arsenal expect her to pick up where she left off.
Aoife Mannion has been rated among England’s best young defenders since she was 19. Four years on, she's played with excellence for Birmingham City. The WSL's second-highest completion rate put her in the Team of the Year two years running. She’s made the trip up North to Manchester City, another player eyeing an easier route to silverware.
In the last four campaigns, the WSL has featured a big three including Arsenal, Manchester City and Chelsea. No other squad has cracked the top three places in that span. With United and Spurs throwing their hats in the ring the balance of power may shift but others have an eye on the brass ring as well.
On the other hand, Everton didn’t look the full ticket last year, winning just three games. Reinforcements may improve the team but the Toffees couldn’t get much worse. They conceded more than double the amount scored. Given the board hasn’t dispensed the head coach, Willie Kirk, Everton may find themselves struggling again.
The league kicks off tomorrow with the first top-flight edition of the women's Manchester Derby. It's a mirror image of the men's rivalry. City are the perennial powers, United the upstart moneybags. Add in that United did the Carlos Tevez ad nauseam, poaching several City players over the summer, this could be a heated affair.
Also on Saturday, Tottenham introduce themselves to Chelsea while the champion Gunners welcome mid-table West Ham. Look for the match between Birmingham and Reading later in the month, the two sides finished fourth and fifth in 2018/19.
Both teams chased the Champions League but fell short. This match will serve as a 6-point marker to see which has the best chance to make a push this season.