This Women's Super League preview appears in the August 2021 edition of FourFourTwo.
After two third-place finishes, it’s all change this season at Arsenal: 38-year-old Swede Jonas Eidevall has replaced Joe Montemurro after four years in charge, accompanying exciting signings in Mana Iwabuchi and Nikita Parris.
Injuries have been the Gunners’ largest obstacle in recent seasons, but moves have been made to bolster the medical staff. With the talismanic Vivianne Miedema set to stay, expect them to be involved in a three-horse race for the title with Manchester City and Chelsea.
FFT verdict: 2nd
Key player: Jordan Nobbs
Villa narrowly escaped relegation last season, but they have refreshed after pilfering new coach Carla Ward from troubled city rivals Birmingham – not to mention one of the country’s best young goalkeeping talents in Hannah Hampton.
The West Midlanders will now look to grow after surviving their maiden campaign in the WSL, and aspire for a much more comfortable mid-table finish. Losing Iwabuchi to Arsenal wasn’t ideal, though.
FFT verdict: 9th
Key player: Hannah Hampton
How to be a crisis club, by Birmingham City: 1) battle to survive with a threadbare playing squad; 2) rustle up some internal strife which leads to players making a public statement about their dissatisfaction with the facilities; 3) have a point deducted for not being able to field a team in a WSL fixture.
This summer hasn’t got any better either: their promising young coach Ward has defected to Aston Villa, so expect another season of struggle for the Blues – or more specifically, relegation.
FFT verdict: 12th
Key player: Christie Murray
Under Hope Powell’s guidance, the Seagulls have established themselves as a sturdy WSL outfit. Last season they recorded their highest ever WSL finish (6th), and aspirations will be for more of the same this time: keeping well away from any relegation battles and posting another respectable mid-table finish.
Brighton aren’t the most exciting team to watch in the world – but they’re also not much fun to play against.
FFT verdict: 7th
Key player: Inessa Kaagman
A first Champions League final capped another fine season for Chelsea, who scooped a second WSL title in a row after losing only once all campaign.
Their European jaunt ended badly against Barcelona, but while Emma Hayes has a tough balancing act, the west Londoners will be favourites to take their third consecutive domestic title.
FFT verdict: 1st
Key player: Fran Kirby
Everton finished a distant 5th last season, so the Toffees’ aim is to whittle down a 16-point gap to the top three (and Champions League qualification).
Coach Willie Kirk won’t be helped by a lengthy injury lay-off for star signing Valerie Gauvin, but he has been busy in the market, signing France international, Kenza Dali and the returning Toni Duggan. Expect a bigger push this time.
FFT verdict: 5th
Key player: Izzy Christiansen
Promoted Leicester have some big ambitions after dominating the Championship in their first season as a professional side, but will first want to establish themselves in the top flight.
The Foxes can aim to tread a similar path to their promotion predecessors, Aston Villa in taking baby steps.
FFT verdict: 11th
Key player: Paige Bailey-Gayle
City went from strength to strength under Gareth Taylor last year, after a slow start which cost them the title. By the end they were only two points off victors Chelsea, having been hampered in their quest for the trophy by a lack of depth at centre-forward.
The club have addressed that with the signing of Jamaican goal-getter Bunny Shaw, and though USA international Sam Mewis will be a huge loss this summer, Champions League-winning midfielder Vicky Losada should fill the gap.
FFT verdict: 3rd
Key player: Lauren Hemp
United were agonisingly close to qualifying for the Champions League, only to be pipped by a single point by Arsenal. They dropped off significantly in the second half of the campaign, though, and have since lost top-tier talent after the contracts of USA stars Christen Press and Tobin Heath expired. That’s not to mention coach Casey Stoney resigning in May, either.
Expect another 4th-place finish… but this time closer to 5th than 3rd.
FFT verdict: 4th
Key player: Leah Galton
Reading’s last three WSL finishes read 7th, 5th and 5th – so it would be no surprise if a solid Royals side end up in the same area of mid-table this time around.
They have lost key midfielder Fara Williams, however – she retired this summer at the age of 37 – and manager Kelly Chambers will find it difficult to replace the ex-England international with similar quality. But the acquisition of 33-year old forward Natasha Dowie looks like a smart one.
FFT verdict: 6th
Key player: Natasha Dowie
Tottenham are hoping to establish themselves as an upper-mid-table WSL outfit, but it’s difficult to see the north Londoners doing that this season without signing a good striker: four players shared top-scoring honours in 2020/21... with two goals apiece.
In the end, their celebrated signing of USA icon Alex Morgan in September only yielded four games, contributing towards an inconspicuous season on the outskirts of a relegation scrap. Have they got more in the tank?
FFT verdict: 10th
Key player: Shelina Zadorsky
The first aim for West Ham this term is not getting sucked into relegation trouble. It was all change in 2020/21 as Olli Harder (eventually) replaced the long-serving Matt Beard as manager, but a grim campaign yielded only three victories.
Now that Hammers players have had time to acclimatise to Harder’s hard-pressing style, however, they will be hoping for a much happier time of it. Australia international Tameka Yallop looks the pick of their summer arrivals.
FFT verdict: 8th
Key player: Claudia Walker
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