It was a disappointing Olympics campaign for Team GB under Hege Riise, where Canada won Gold, but club football is back! The WSL will now be shown on Sky Sports which is another big step in further projecting the league and womens’ football on the hole. Chelsea suffered heartache in the Champions League final last season but lifted the league title and so will be the team to beat. From Emma Hayes’ side to the newly promoted Leicester City, here are the new signings that have caught my eye…
Nikita Parris and Mana Iwabuchi to Arsenal
Going in alphabetical order and the first stop is Arsenal. It is all change for the Gunners with manager Joe Montemurro moving on as well as key players, such as Danielle van de Donk and Jill Roord. The Dutch duo may have departed by star striker Vivianne Miedema has stay put which is massive. New manager Jonas Eidevall has brought in attacking reinforcements in the form of Nikita Parris and Mana Iwabuchi. The former won a league title and the UCL with Lyon meanwhile, the latter lifted the World Cup in 2011. Parris and Iwabuchi both bring star-quality and proven ability to the table for Arsenal as they attempt to mount a stronger challenge against Man City and Chelsea’s dominance.
Hannah Hampton and Alisha Lehmann to Aston Villa
From the top of the table to a side who may well be in a relegation battle once again, Aston Villa. It was Villa that Arsenal acquired Iwabuchi from and to lose their star player is quite the problem. The player at the fore of replacing the Japanese international’s output is Alisha Lehmann, a striker who spent the later stages of last season at loan at Everton from West Ham. One person’s loss is another’s gain and with just one side facing the drop, Villa capturing Lehmann could come at the expense of the Irons and their position in the WSL. Hannah Hampton is the other big name through the door. She arrives from local rivals Birmingham having been a key cog in their side, so much so that she got a Lionesses call up. Hampton may still be awaiting that cap but regardless, she is a very talented English goalkeeper.
Danielle Carter and Rinsola Babajide to Brighton
There aren’t too many players who possess the legendary status in the WSL that Danielle Carter does. She was with Arsenal for over a decade where she hoisted the FA Cup, her four caps being quite underwhelming really. At 28, Carter still has a lot to give to the game as she showed with Reading last season. Joining Carter at Brighton is Rinsola Babajide, a highly rated forward on loan from Liverpool. Babajide could certainly learn a thing or two from the FA Cup winning striker but her performances on Merseyside are a sign of things to come!
Lauren James to Chelsea
There aren’t many young English players more spoken about in the WSL than Lauren James. The clubs she has ran out for says it all. She began at a very young age with Chelsea before joining Arsenal, Man United was where she made her name though. She was great to watch under Casey Stoney last season and James is one of a number of departures, including Stoney herself. It remains to be seen how prevalently James will feature on her return to Chelsea given the attacking talent that Emma Hayes has at her disposal. Pernille Harder, Sam Kerr and Fran Kirby makeup one of the strongest frontlines in the world and with James, Erin Cuthbert and Beth England ready to come off the bench, they truly are a force to be reckoned with.
Toni Duggan and Leonie Maier to Everton
Talking of forces to be reckoned with and following the downfall of Man United, Everton may well be the closest challengers to the big three this term. This will only be enhanced by Toni Duggan’s return, Parris isn’t the only scouser to be making a return to the WSL following a spell abroad. Her Atletico Madrid side were unable to beat Barcelona to the league title, another former side of hers, but what an experience that must have been. Duggan isn’t the only new signing for Willie Kirk as Leonie Maier joins from Arsenal. The German fullback was unable to establish herself as a regular under Montemurro yet even with the Australian moving on, she has gone elsewhere.
Jess Sigsworth, Molly Pike and Abbie McManus to Leicester
Newly promoted sides tend to bring in several new faces as they prepare for a new challenge and that is no different for Leicester City. WSL experience is a necessity and there is some of that for sure. Centre-half Abbie McManus is one such player, the England national having played over 100 times (across two stints) for Man City, going on to play for their city rivals and Tottenham too. Jess Sigsworth was a teammate of hers with Man United and she is another player who will run out for Leicester this campaign, a striker with a point to prove. The final of the three talents that I am highlighting is Molly Pike, a twenty-year-old whose move from Everton is certainly intriguing.
Ruby Mace, Vicky Losada and Hayley Raso to Man City
Onto another trio of new signings and Man City are certainly intent on wrestling the WSL title out of Chelsea’s grasp. In reality, it will come down to the two games between the pair as they will surely win the others more often than not. Everyone at Arsenal thought very highly of Ruby Mace so to lose the youngster is a blow, one made even worse given the destination. One can’t really see a way into the team for Mace. The same could be said for Hayley Raso who arrives from Everton. The Matilda’s star was excellent last season and is a great addition nonetheless. The last of the three knows how to beat Chelsea that’s for sure. Vicky Losada was part of the Barcelona side that put on a real clinic in the UWCL final in Gothenburg and her return to the WSL will certainly have heads turning.
Sophie Baggaley and Aoife Mannion to Manchester United
The reverse of newly promoted sides signing a number of players is relegated sides being picked off by the bigger sides. Ebony Salmon’s move to NWSL side Racing Louisville has paid off already as she has been amongst the goals recently and she was the heartbeat of Bristol City. Their other instrumental player, at the other end of the field, was goalkeeper Sophie Baggaley. She has been snapped up by Manchester United as they try to avoid disaster and her presence along with that of Mary Earps means that goalkeeper is one position they shouldn’t be worried about. Meanwhile, with Abbie McManus and Amy Turner moving on, the defence is less solid. This is something that the arrival of Aoife Mannion from the other half of Manchester can certainly help with!
Tameka Yallop and Lisa Evans to West Ham
Finally then to West Ham, who were able to put a few results together at the tail-end of last season so as to avoid relegation out of the WSL. The additions to their squad do look wide though, as long as they score enough goals anyway. Arsenal’s Lisa Evans joins on loan having lost her spot in the Arsenal XI. That is no sleight on the Scottish star though, Evans is quite some player and will only make her new side better. The same can be said for Tameka Yallop, a midfielder who played a big part for Australia at the Tokyo Olympics. A loss to the USWNT in the bronze medal match saw the Matilda’s walk away empty-handed but even so they were a team worth watching.