The new WSL season is edging tantalisingly closer after six long months without action. Proceedings get underway with Aston Villa versus Manchester City on Saturday 5 September, before the remaining sides kick off their campaigns the following day with a bumper Sunday of Super League activity.
Although WSL fans have been starved of any on field talking points for over half a year, off the pitch there has been plenty to tuck into.
Some of the biggest transfers in the league’s history have been completed this summer, and the new arrivals are just one of many things to look forward to ahead of the 2020/21 season.
Clubs have taken full advantage of the uncertainty surrounding the NWSL, with some of the league’s biggest stars joining the English top flight to get guaranteed game time, transforming the WSL into one of the most talented and international top flights in the world.
Manchester City bringing in one member of the USA’s esteemed World Cup winning team in Sam Mewis was exciting enough. Then they only went and recruited the 2019 tournament’s major breakout star and one of the finest wingers in world football in the shape of Rose Lavelle. It is the first time two USA internationals playing at the very peak of their powers have arrived on English shores.
But it hasn’t stopped there. Reading have signed Wales icon Jess Fishlock on loan – the midfielder returning to the WSL for the first time since 2012 – and Everton, West Ham and Tottenham have also got in on the act by raiding Orlando Pride for an assortment of players.
The Toffees have signed Claire Emslie, the Hammers have brought in Emily van Egmond and Spurs have recruited Allanna Kennedy and Shelina Zadorsky. Manchester United are reportedly on the brink of signing World Cup winners Tobin Heath and Christen Press, which would be nothing short of huge.
One of the most exciting and technically gifted players England have produced since Karen Carney and Kelly Smith, Kirby has been a joy to watch since bursting onto the scene with Reading as a short-haired 21-year-old.
But the attacking midfielder has returned to full fitness ahead of the new season, adding further potency to an already frightening Blues’ forward line.
The popular striker has endured horrific luck with injuries over the last two years, rupturing her ACL twice in the space of 14 months.
Carter has since departed Arsenal after 11 years at the club and joined Reading ahead of the new season – the ideal place for her to rebuild her career and pull herself into international contention once more.
Excitingly, her first competitive game in a Reading shirt could come against former club Arsenal on the opening Sunday of the season.
WSL newbies Aston Villa are definite dark horses this season.
Villa have built an exceptional women’s football setup. Gemma Davies is one of the most exciting young managers in the English game, and coupled with director of football Eni Aluko’s shrewd recruitment strategy this summer, the Villans can be expected to do more than just fight for survival during their debut season in the top flight.
Having beaten Liverpool in last season’s Continental Cup and given Chelsea a good game in the quarter finals, Villa have already demonstrated that they can mix it among the rest of the WSL.
The WSL were only offered a glimpse of what Sam Kerr can do prior to the season’s curtailment. The global superstar was still finding her feet in England after joining Chelsea in January, becoming part of an already pretty ridiculous forward line.
Emma Hayes had adjusted her formation in order to accommodate both Kerr and Beth England, and has since signed exciting youngster Niamh Charles. They will also welcome back Fran Kirby, and boast the energetic Erin Cuthbert and Guro Reiten – one of last season’s most impressive performers.
The Blues are also reportedly poised to sign Denmark captain, 2018 UEFA Player of the Year and the all round insanely talented Pernille Harder from Wolfsburg, because their forward line wasn’t stupidly good enough already.
There is stiff competition in the WSL when it comes to the most ridiculous forward line.
World Cup bronze ball winner Rose Lavelle joins an attack that already includes Ellen White, Georgia Stanway, Lauren Hemp, Janine Beckie and fellow new arrival Chloe Kelly.
City also boast a similarly ridiculous midfield. Sam Mewis will be jostling for a starting spot alongside Keira Walsh, Jill Scott and Caroline Weir. How new boss Gareth Taylor intends to slot everybody in is anybody’s guess.
Manchester United were the best of the rest last season. Their success was built on a mean defensive foundation – with only Chelsea and City conceding fewer than Casey Stoney’s side.
They have since added real attacking quality in Lucy Stanniforth who can potentially help the Red Devils close the gap on the top three.
Everton have also been busy in the summer, with the signings of Valerie Gauvin and Claire Emslie particularly exciting as they look to build on last season’s impressive showing.
Last season’s title race was so tight that the team who finished second ended up being crowned champions.
Both Chelsea and City have strengthened massively to make them potential European powerhouses, and the title race could be a battle between two of the finest sides assembled in WSL history.
But don’t rule out Arsenal. The Gunners’ have not made the high profile signings that their title rivals have, but new arrival Noëlle Maritz was outstanding during their Champions League defeat to PSG, while new full-back Steph Catley is among the best in the world.
Much has been made of Arsenal’s lack of squad depth – but the Gunners left Jordan Nobbs on the bench for their Champions League quarter final, such is the competition for places in midfield. Their lack of European football could be a boost in their bid to win back the WSL title.
Exciting times in the English second tier. Liverpool will be vying for a return to the top flight at the first time of asking, but with just one promotion place they won’t have it easy.
Leicester have launched a fully professional women’s side and brought in a selection of experienced WSL players. The signing of former Reading midfielder Remi Allen is particularly shrewd.
Sheffield United narrowly missing out on promotion last season, and although they have lost boss Carla Ward to Birmingham, she has been replaced by Neil Redfearn – who led Doncaster Rovers Belles to the WSL in 2018.