Connect with us

Sport

Who will challenge Chelsea for the title?

Who will challenge Chelsea for the title?

[ad_1]

The FA Women’s Super League will celebrate its 11th anniversary when the 2021-22 season officially kicks off Friday.

Chelsea looks like a strong favourite to win a third consecutive English top flight title, while bridesmaid Manchester City will attempt to end a run of four straight second-place finishes by claiming its first championship in six years.

Here’s what you need to know about the 2021-22 FA WSL season.

How the FA WSL works

The FA WSL is highlighted by several marquee clubs, most notably Arsenal, Chelsea, Manchester City, Manchester United, Tottenham and West Ham United.

Advertisement

The 12-team field is rounded out by Aston Villa, Birmingham City, Brighton & Hove Albion, Everton, Leicester City and Reading.

The FA WSL season is 22 games long with clubs playing each other home and away between now and the second week of May. The first-place team is crowned English league champion and also qualifies for next season’s UEFA Women’s Champions League. The second- and third-place teams also secure Champions League berths. The last-place side is relegated to the FA Women’s Championship, the second division.

The title favourite

Chelsea was absolutely ruthless in 2020-21 winning 18 of 22 league games with just one loss en route to repeating as English champion. The Blues will be looking to make it three in a row, and it’d take a brave soul to bet against them doing it.

The core of the championship squad remains intact including forward Sam Kerr (last season’s FA WSL’s Golden Boot winner), Fran Kirby (tied for the most assists in the league with 11) and goalkeeper Ann-Katrin Berger (a league-high 12 clean sheets). Also back are captain Magdalena Eriksson and fellow centre back Maren Mjelde, who quarterbacked the league’s top defence (just 10 goals against).

Chelsea’s top-rated attack (69 goals in 2020-21) has been bolstered by the addition of 19-year-old forward Lauren James from Manchester United, where she scored 28 goals in all competitions over the previous three campaigns.

Advertisement

The other contenders

Manchester City finished two points behind Chelsea at the end of last season, while Arsenal finished nine points back, and there’s every reason to believe both clubs will push Chelsea right until the end again in 2021-22.

American midfielders Rose Lavelle and Sam Mewis both returned to the NWSL, representing big losses for Manchester City. Forward Chloe Kelly and top-rated defender Lucy Bronze are currently sidelined with knee injuries and there are no set timelines for their returns.

On the positive side, Manchester City managed to bring in reinforcements with the signing of Jamaican forward Khadija Shaw (the French league’s top scorer last season with 22 goals for Bordeaux) and stylish playmaker Vicky Losada, who helped Barcelona win the 2020-21 UEFA Women’s Champions League.

Arsenal boasted the third-best defence last season, anchored by centre back Leah Williamson, who returns for her ninth FA WSL campaign with the Gunners. Dutch forward Vivianne Miedema finished second in league scoring with 18 goals, and this season she’ll be helped in the attack with newcomers Nikita Parris (who finished second in scoring with Lyon in France last season) and Japanese veteran Mana Iwabuchi (who joined the Gunners from Aston Villa).

Canadian content

Five members of Canada’s gold medal team at the Tokyo Olympics will compete in the FA WSL, with one player set to make her English league debut.

Advertisement

Shelina Zadorsky went on loan with Tottenham (from the NWSL’s Orlando Pride) last August, and the Canadian centre back quickly adapted to life in England – so much so that Spurs signed her to a permanent deal in January and also gave her the captain’s armband for a few games. Zadorsky signed a new contract in May that will run until June 2022, another sign of just how important she’s become to Spurs in a short period of time.

Forward Adriana Leon (West Ham United) and Janine Beckie (Manchester City) have been in England for a few years and have established themselves as key contributors for their club with Beckie scoring seven goals in all competitions last season.

Jessie Fleming made her professional debut in 2020-21 after playing NCAA soccer at UCLA, and had a small role in helping Chelsea repeat as English champions and reach the UEFA Women’s Champions League final. After a strong Olympic showing, the hope is that Fleming will get more of an opportunity to play for Chelsea this season.

Deanne Rose is a newcomer to the FA WSL. A product of the University of Florida, Rose was selected 10th overall in the 2021 NWSL Draft by the North Carolina Courage, but she didn’t end up playing for them because she was finishing school. The 22-year-old forward made a bold move in signing with Reading in July, choosing to begin her pro career in one of Europe’s top leagues, rather than in the NWSL.

Golden Boot favourite

Chelsea’s Sam Kerr made her FA WSL debut during the second half of the 2019-20 campaign, but she was limited to just four appearances. The Australian forward made up for lost time last season when she played in all 22 of Chelsea’s games and scored 21 goals to win the Golden Boot as the FA WSL’s top scorer. She also finished fourth in the league in assists with seven, playing a pivotal role in the Blues’ run to a second consecutive domestic championship. The majority of Chelsea’s championship remains intact, meaning the 27-year-old Kerr is likely primed for another 20-goal campaign.

Advertisement

John Molinaro is one of the leading soccer journalists in Canada, having covered the game for over 20 years for a number of media outlets, including Sportsnet, CBC Sports and Sun Media. He is currently the editor-in-chief of TFC Republic, a website dedicated to in-depth coverage of Toronto FC and Canadian soccer. To check out TFC Republic, click here.

[ad_2]

Trending