Chelsea Women: How Sam Kerr and Fran Kirby became the most lethal attacking duo in the Barclays FA Women's Super League

Chelsea Women, Sam Kerr and Fran Kirby
(Image credit: Getty Images)

When Sam Kerr joined Chelsea back in January 2020, Fran Kirby had all but disappeared from the Chelsea side. Struck down by an illness that left her wondering whether she would ever play football again, Kirby may have understandably felt worried that Kerr might be her replacement. 

At the time, Sam Kerr was Chelsea’s biggest signing ever with the Australian striker having dominated the W-League in Australia and the NWSL in America. She was widely seen as one of the best forwards in the world. 

Yet Kerr had a bit of a slow start to life in London with missed opportunities being the main concern in a season that was interrupted by the coronavirus pandemic. Some feared that she would not be able to adapt to the different style of the Barclays FA Women's Super League. 

Meanwhile, when Fran Kirby returned to fitness at the start of the 2020/21 season, it became clear that her fears of being left out were unfounded. Anything Kerr and Kirby could do as individuals would be more than topped by what they could do together.

Their impact as a duo was immediate, as Fran Kirby assisted Sam Kerr for Chelsea’s opening goal of the season against Manchester United. Although Chelsea ended up drawing that game, that combination was a sign of things to come. In that first season, Fran Kirby and Sam Kerr assisted and scored 13 times as a duo. It was an attacking partnership unlike anything ever seen in the FA Women’s Super League before. 

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As well as that initial goal against United, Kirby also assisted Kerr in Chelsea’s home game against Manchester City - three points that proved essential come the end of the season. In the Champions League too, the Kerr-by connection helped propel Chelsea to the final, with Kirby assisting Kerr in the quarter-final against Wolfsburg, and Kerr returning the favour in the semi-final against Bayern Munich.

This season got off to a flyer, with Kerr and Kirby combining for another four goals in their opening five Barclays FA Women's Super League matches. 

By mid-October they had reached a total of 17 goal combinations in the league since Kerr's arrival, the joint-most alongside Arsenal's Beth Mead and Vivianne Miedema – and it took Kerr-by just 23 games to reach that figure. 

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The affection between the duo is clear, with Sam Kerr calling Fran Kirby an “exceptional” player and regularly describing her as the best player in the world. Meanwhile their manager, Emma Hayes, has compared them to legendary Premier League duo Andy Cole and Dwight Yorke.

While Chelsea have plenty of players able to get on the scoresheet, none have proven to be as reliable as Kerr and Kirby over the past season. The duo have become close to talismanic for their team, and having already won three trophies together last season, they will be hoping to add even more this year. 

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Jessy Parker Humphreys is a freelance women's football writer. A Chelsea fan, Jessy has been following the women's game since being taken to the 2003/04 FA Cup final at Loftus Road and seeing Arsenal thrash Jessy's local side Charlton. Fortunately, Arsenal don't win quite as much as