European League Preview Capsule: FA Women's Super League
After an eventful and busy summer for women’s soccer, players have returned to their European clubs to get league play started for the 2021-22 season. Some leagues have expanded, while others have brought in extra stars, as they all seem to gain exposure each year. This is the fourth installment of a five-part series looking at some of the top leagues in Europe.
2020-21 Champion: Chelsea – 57 points (22 games)
2020-21 Golden Boot: Sam Kerr, Chelsea – 21 goals
How to watch: NBCSN, NBCSports.com or The FA Player
First match: Reading at Manchester United, 2:45 p.m. ET, September 3
Final matchday: May 8, 2022
This league may be the most debatable when it comes to the favorite entering the season. While other clubs may have done more work in the offseason, Chelsea still has the squad to get it done domestically again this season. There are still some questions about the depth of the defense, and they even lacked cohesion in the back at times last season, but Chelsea’s strengths certainly outweigh any of the slight weaknesses. It’s hard to doubt the club as long as Emma Hayes is in charge, and, with Sam Kerr and Fran Kirby leading the front line (nicknamed Kerr-by, write it down), it’s hard to see anyone slowing the Blues down. And that’s not even mentioning Pernille Harder, WoSo’s most expensive transfer ever. She could make an even bigger impact this season if she finds a permanent role within the starting XI. Whoever gets the most minutes in attack, the depth of just those three players is enough to keep Chelsea in the driver’s seat for now.
Last year the closest challenger was Manchester City, which nearly had the trophy but failed to take all three points in a late-season thriller against Chelsea. The Citizens will certainly be a threat again, but I’m taking Arsenal to be the top challenger as the league will go through London one way or another. Last season was a disappointing year for Arsenal, as the club finished closer to fourth place than second place for the first time since 2014, but the talent is still there. Vivianne Miedema is still one of, if not the best striker in the league, and she’ll get some extra help from Nikita Parris, who returns to England after two years with Lyon. Mana Iwabuchi also joins the Gunners after a strong season with Aston Villa, and she has already opened her account with a goal in Champions League play for Arsenal. Iwabuchi will likely be slotted in to connect the attack with a strong midfield that still includes Kim Little and Katie McCabe.
Players to Watch:
There are plenty of players to keep an eye on throughout the season beyond the stars from the two clubs mentioned above. It starts with Manchester City, which still has the talent to make plenty of noise this season, specifically in the attack. Chloe Kelly and Lauren Hemp worked well together last season, combining for 16 goals and 19 assists, but Kelly went down with an ACL injury at the end of the season. Will Hemp be able to find a new wide partner? Manchester United will rely even more on Ella Toone, who returns after being the club’s leading scorer as a 20-year-old last season. Ivana Fuso should also get more minutes for United, which will lead to you hearing her name a whole lot more often.
Newcomers to Watch:
The WSL may not have made the marketing splash it did last year when it signed American stars to short-term contracts, but the league still grabbed some talent from outside of England. Former Juventus midfielder Aurora Galli became the first Italian player to join the league, and she is expected to make an immediate impact at Everton. The Toffees also brought home Toni Duggan, who may not be what she used to be but is still someone who can get Everton closer to competing for a Champions League spot. American fans may be familiar with Olympic gold medalist and former Florida Gators star Deanne Rose, who will play in her first professional season with Reading FC. Khadija “Bunny” Shaw, another CONCACAF star, left France after leading the league in scoring and is joining Manchester City’s attack.