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FA WSL 2021-22: Signings to Watch

Updated: Sep 4, 2021

The FA Women's Super League returns this weekend and it promises to be bigger than ever with stars galore. Last season saw Chelsea winning the title with Manchester City finishing just 2 points behind them in second. Arsenal finished in third while United ended up fourth after a sluggish finish to what was a fantastic start to their campaign. Everton, who finished fifth, saw their progress in the early part of the season derailed by a series of injuries to key players.

Things have shifted though; it’s a new dawn with a lot of changes to a lot of teams. Arsenal, Manchester United and Birmingham City have seen a change in management. The stars have continued to pour into the WSL, as the league continues to be a hot destination for talented players.

In this article we will underline some signings that could potentially be game changers for their teams and help them achieve their season goals— which could be anywhere from winning the league or grabbing a European spot to simply surviving the relegation.

Bunny Shaw (Man City, 24, Striker)

City lacked a goalscorer up top last season, and they have made sure to address that issue head-on going into this season by signing the top scorer from D1 Arkema (French league): Khadija Shaw.

The 24 year-old Jamaican international finished the previous season as the leading goalscorer and assist provider for Bordeaux. Bunny Shaw, as she is fondly called, is a prolific goalscorer. She is deceptively quick, having excellent acceleration, allowing her to move through gears and create separation from her marker. She has got a venomous shot on her with minimal backlift, making her a threat even from range. Her hold-up play is brilliant, she’s capable of being an outlet for her side should they need one. The ability to turn and then run with the ball upon receiving makes her a really good target player.

They will begin this season without the services of Chloe Kelly, who was probably the signing of the season in 20-21. They will also be without Ellen White due to an injury, so City fans will be hoping Shaw settles in quickly and starts to deliver from the get go.

Anna Anvegård (Everton, 23, Striker)

Everton have probably had one of the best transfer windows in the world. Missing out on silverware last year and suffering injuries which derailed their league campaign, Everton have made sure to address the squad depth issues faced last season all while making quality additions.

They have addressed the outgoings and replaced them with suitable players that will help them to take the next step in the league. Anna Anvegård is one such signing. The 2018 Swedish breakthrough player of the year is a prolific goalscorer, with multiple golden boots to her name.

Anvegård has the potential to be one of the best strikers in the world. The trait that separates her from the rest is her anticipation and awareness in the box. She is aware of where the goal is with everything she does. She occupies great positions increasing her chances to score. Her positioning to receive passes helps her side move up the field. At 167 cms (5 ft 5 ins), Anvegård isn't the tallest, but she is decent in the air.

Yui Hasegawa (West Ham, 24, Attacking Midfielder)

West Ham have seen a lot of changes to their team with a total of 11 players arriving, and they have quietly managed to have a good window. One of the best signings they’ve made is of the 24 year-old Japanese International Yui Hasegawa.

The nimble-footed midfielder is a delight on the ball, capable of playing through the center or out wide as an inverted winger. Hasegawa is brilliant in 1v1 attacking situations, she is extremely skilled on the ball making it difficult for opposition to take it off of her. She has got everything in her attacking repertoire from short quick exchanges to long balls over the top into space. When deployed out wide Hasegawa has a tendency to drift inwards and operate from the halfspaces, vacating the space on the wide areas for her fullback partner. She has a brilliant cross on her and is a very able finisher herself.

Hasegawa is the face of the new generation of players for Nadeshiko Japan. She encompasses the quick feet, short passing exchanges and spatial awareness that we have grown accustomed to with Japan NT.

Hanna Bennison (Everton, 18, Central Midfielder)

If there is one signing that has the most potential when it comes to her footballing ability, it’s the Swedish wonderkid, Hanna Bennison for a record club fee.

Willie Kirk has struck gold with this one. Bennison will provide the team depth and add a different dimension to their midfield. Bennison, voted Goal’s Women’s NXGN winner in 2021, is a multi-faceted midfielder. Her close control on the ball and her spatial awareness are some of the very best in the game. She always wants to be on the ball and pull strings in the offensive phase of the game to help her team score. Operating in half-spaces, Bennison constantly causes the backline problems with her passing and ball reception.

Her vision to slice through defences and play a teammate behind is brilliant. She has got good range in her passing allowing her to distribute and control the tempo for her side. She also has a great shot on her, making her a threat from range.

Mana Iwabuchi (Arsenal, 28, Attacking midfielder)

After a 6 month spell at Aston Villa where Iwabuchi’s magic was on display, she has made her return to Europe and it’s been a gift that just keeps giving. Iwabuchi has already given glimpses of what she is capable of producing in the preseason games and UWCL qualifiers, scoring a belter of a goal against PSV in the Champions League qualifiers.

In simple words, Iwabuchi is an established baller. Her silky first touch and close control means the ball sticks to her feet while dribbling through traffic. She is very press resistant despite her diminutive frame, and she can navigate tight spaces with ease. This close control helps her draw fouls from opposition. Her ability to constantly scan her surroundings and take measured touches that maximise her team’s chances to score is absolutely brilliant. She can link-up really well with her teammates with quick exchanges, disrupting opposition defences. To top all of this, she is a brilliant finisher, making her very much a complete attacking package.

Vilde Bøe Risa (Manchester United, 26, Central Midfielder)

Manchester United seem to have lost some steam after losing their head coach, Casey Stoney, and a young talented player in Lauren James. United had issues with their build-up and in all set-piece situations. They have identified and addressed one of these areas with the signing of Vilde Bøe Risa.

Bøe Risa will help United in the first two phases of the game i.e. build-up and progression. Her forward passing nature will help United move the ball into the dangerous areas. The range on her distribution means she can switch the point of attack swiftly. On the ball Bøe Risa has got a really good first touch and close control allowing her to receive under pressure and play through it. The forward passing nature becomes vital in another scenario where she can break opposition lines in one pass.

She can also be a team’s creative hub and be a source of chance creation in the attacking third. This is helped by her brilliant vision to pick out players and exploit spaces. An amazing player who finally gets her big move and United get a player who solves their issues with forward passing.

Frida Maanum (Arsenal, 22, Midfielder)

Arsenal have undergone some serious changes this season after slipping down as the third best team in England. The team has seen departures of Roord, Van de Donk, Lisa Evans and Leone Maier. The midfield was thin already and with departures this was hit further. Arsenal did manage to bring in some Scandi reinforcement to help with that.

The 22 year old Norway international is one of the very best young players in the country. Maanum is a very well-rounded midfield asset that can offer different things based on demands. Maanum excels in the attacking third of the pitch. The weight on her passes is absolutely brilliant. She has got excellent vision to play passes through a needle’s eye and her close control makes her very press resistant. Maanum has set-pieces in her arsenal as well, capable of delivering accurate balls for her teammates. She has a vicious shot on her, making her a very capable threat from range.

Maanum contributes really well in defensive situations as well. Her reading of the game to intercept opposition plays without lunging into challenges is brilliant. She is an excellent presser without the ball, helping her side regain possession very high up the pitch. An excellent player who is definitely ready for bigger things!

Rinsola Babajide (Brighton, 23, Winger)

Babajide is back in the WSL after a season in the Championship with Liverpool. In the season that saw Liverpool be relegated, Rinsola was a beacon for hope and a leading light for Liverpool’s attack, often carrying the majority of the load in terms of attack.

Babajide is a flamboyant winger, who is a menace to deal with. She primarily plays on the left hand side. Her quick acceleration and dribbling ability stands out the most, allowing her to take on players and beat them with ease. She loves to drive forwards with the ball at her feet, helping her side progress the ball into dangerous areas. A decent finisher of her own, Babajide can be the source of creation and scoring alike.

Brighton have lost a good chunk of their squad and Babajide might have to share a good load of the attack.

Aniek Nouwen (Chelsea, 22, Center Back)

Chelsea won the league and finished runners-up to Barcelona in the UWCL last season. The duo of Kerr and Kirby terrorized the defences in the league. Despite all the firepower in the attack for the team the defence on a lot of occasions looked vulnerable and lacked depth.

Aniek Nouwen will offer them solidity and add defensive depth to the side. The 22 year-old right footed CB has plenty of experience already having amassed 100+ senior appearances already. Nouwen’s ability to read and intercept opposition play is amazing. Her decision making to identify situations where she needs to step out quickly and when to buy time before engaging in a defensive duel is brilliant. She is physically dominant and has decent pace on her allowing her to close down opponents and cover space effectively.

Another aspect that makes Nouwen a brilliant asset is her ability on the ball. She is very comfortable in possession and has got brilliant range on her passing. This is a really sought-after trait in modern football where the emphasis on building out from the back is ever increasing.

Hayley Raso (Man City, 26, Right wing/wing back)

Another one of City’s solid business in the transfer market saw them secure the services of the Aussie International Hayley Raso, who comes into this season on the back of a brilliant campaign with Everton and an Olympics tournament with the Matildas.

Raso can be deployed as a winger or a wing back, providing the tactical flexibility to Gareth Taylor’s side should they look to switch systems. Raso has an engine like no other, capable of romping up and down the pitch tirelessly. She consistently helps out her defensive partner on the flank. Her pace is probably her biggest asset, making her so difficult to catch up with in a foot race. She uses this to dribble past players and play one in for her teammates in the box.

After dealing with injuries for a good part of her career Raso is back doing what she does best - burning defences with her blistering pace. Hopefully she can stay healthy for seasons to come, and deliver the goods that she is capable of delivering *touches wood.*

Natasha Dowie (Reading FC, 33, Striker)

Dowie arrives from AC Milan after a successful season where they finished second. She finished as the team’s second-top scorer, behind Giacinti, with 12 goals. Dowie also finished as the team’s joint top assist provider in the league with 5 assists.

She brings plenty of experience into the side and is a proven goalscorer. Besides the goals Dowie also adds a creative punch to the teams she plays for. Her ability to take on players and cross the ball is brilliant. She has good vision on her allowing her to spot runners and break defences. She can be the focal point of attacks and is equally capable of playing the supporting role facilitating her strike partner.

Kyah Simon (Tottenham Hotspur, 30, Striker/Wide forward)

Last season Tottenham Hotspur scored a total of 16 goals with 4 players finishing the season with 2 goals. Quite clearly they lacked goalscorers. On top of that, they lost their joint top goalscorer and assist provider, Siri Worm, to Frankfurt. Spurs have brought in some reinforcement to help resolve that. Kyah Simon is one of those reinforcements.

Arriving from PSV Eindhoven, Simon is capable of playing through the middle and out wide, giving her side some flexibility. Playing out wide, she is capable of delivering good crosses into the box. Her workrate off the ball is great. She has got a good shot on her, capable of firing one from range as well.

Tameka Yallop (West Ham, 30, Midfielder)

Another excellent recruitment from West Ham. Yallop comes fresh from Australia’s Olympics campaign where they finished 4th. Yallop, capable of filling in multiple roles from playing as a wide midfielder, an attacking midfielder through the center or upfront, adds a layer of versatility to this West Ham side. She has plenty of experience having played in multiple leagues and delivered quite well everywhere.