#FAWSL: Big kick off this weekend

Chelsea beat man City in Community Shield
Chelsea and Manchester City were last season’s top two. (Photo: Eddie Keogh for The FA)

Saturday 5 September will see the 2020-21 Barclays FA Women’s Super League season kick off with Aston Villa taking on Manchester City.

Saturday 5 September

Aston Villa v Manchester City (Villa Park, 2.30pm) – live on BT Sport 2 & BT Sport YouTube

Sunday 6 September (2pm)

Barclays FA WSL

Arsenal v Reading (Boreham Wood FC, 12.30pm) – live on BBC Red Button & FA Player
Brighton & Hove Albion v Birmingham City (Crawley Town FC) – live on FA Player
Bristol City v Everton (Bath City FC) – live on FA Player
Tottenham Hotspur v West Ham United (Barnet FC) – live on FA Player
Manchester United v Chelsea (Leigh Sports Village, 2.30pm) – live on BT Sport 1

FA Women’s Championship

Charlton Athletic v Crystal Palace (VCD Athletic)
Coventry United v London Bees (Butts Park Arena)
Leicester City v Blackburn Rovers (Quorn FC)
Liverpool v Durham (Tranmere Rovers FC) – live on FA Player
London City Lionesses v Sheffield United (Dartford FC)

Josh Bunting looks at all 12 teams in what is expected to be the most thrilling of WSL seasons yet.

Chelsea

Manager – Emma Hayes
Where they finished last season – First
Top Goalscorer 19/20 – Bethany England
One to Watch – Pernille Harder

PA Images.

Chelsea have one of the biggest squads in the league and have added real quality to it this summer bringing in German International Melanie Leupolz, young Canadian star Jessie Fleming alongside another very promising player in Niamh Charles.

However they have also brought in Pernille Harder a world superstar from Wolfsburg, Harder had helped them win four consecutive German league and cup doubles since joining them in 2017. She also starred in the club’s run to this seasons Women’s Champions League final, which they lost 3-1 to Lyon.

Chelsea won the Community Shield 2-0 at Wembley Stadium last Saturday thanks to goals from Millie Bright and Erin Cuthbert seeing off the challenge from Manchester City.

The Blues could well retain their title with Sam Kerr entering her first full season with the club, as she is expected to hit form and add plenty of goals to their game.

Chelsea will be fighting on all fronts and with the quality available could really have a chance of winning the UEFA Women’s Champions League when that starts up again later this year.

Manchester City

Manager – Gareth Taylor
Where they finished last season – second
Top Goalscorer 19/20 – Pauline Bremer
One to watch – Chloe Kelly

Gareth Taylor leads his team out at Wembley Stadium. (PA Images)

It’s a new era at City with manager Gareth Taylor set for a first full campaign and he’s brought in some world class signings already, in USA World Cup winning duo Rose Lavelle and Samantha Mewis.

Chloe Kelly can play on the wing or as a number 9 and with City’s neat passing style of play, she will break the lines with ease.

A negative could be they enter the season with only one recognised striker, as Bremer departed to Wolfsburg, so Ellen White could feel more pressure to deliver on a regular basis.

They have a young squad with the likes of Kiera Walsh, Georgia Stanway and Ellie Roebuck and Kelly already full England Internationals and are an extremely good side to watch going forward.

Defensively they kept the most clean-sheets last season, with Roebuck a real star in the making between the sticks.

A number of players have missed key action in pre-season so questions will be asked about how quickly they can gel.

The target for Manchester City will be as ever to win the league and go deep in the Champions League.

Arsenal

Manager – Joe Montemurro
Where they finished last season – third
Top Goalscorer 19/20 -Vivianne Miedema
One to watch – Noëlle Maritz

Arsenal signing, Noelle Maritz
Noelle Maritz. (PA Images)

Arsenal have brought in one of the world’s best – if not the best – left-back in Steph Catley, Swiss duo Malin Gut and Noelle Maritz and goalkeeper Lydia Williams has also arrived.

The spine of the Gunners team remains the same with Leah Williamson and Jennifer Beattie partnering in the centre of defence, Lia Wälti anchors the midfield with Jordan Nobbs and Kim Little ahead of her, as Vivianne Miedema spearheads the attack. Miedema was the top goalscorer in both England and Europe last season, so with her the Gunners will always stand a chance of silverware.

Arsenal have not dropped a single point against any team outside of the WSL’s big three in over two years now and without Champions League football this season, that could be of real benefit to them. When Arsenal won the title in 2018-19 they didn’t play in the UWCL, so it gives the squad more time to recover on title rivals Manchester City and Chelsea. The Gunners’ squad depth is also better than what it was last season with Gut – if needed – rotating with Lia Wälti in centre defensive midfield.

Montemurro likes a tight squad but at the end of last season, with Beth Mead a number of others injured, it affected them but with more options this season, nobody should rule the Gunners out in the title race.

Manchester United

Manager – Casey Stoney
Where they finished last season – fourth
Top Goalscorer 19/20 – Lauren James
One to watch – Ona Batlle

manchester United's new signing, Ona Batlle
Ona Batlle

Manchester United enter their second season in the Women’s Super League after an excellent first campaign. Stoney has built solid foundations at the club and over the summer has brought in Lucy Staniforth, Ona Batlle and Ivana Fuso.

They like to play with a good intensity, press high and are quick in the transition and with a further Champions League spot opening for the WSL for 2021-22, they will be certainly looking to qualify for Europe’s elite stage.

Lauren James at just 18 is clinical when she gets the ball in the box and once again, she’ll be one that many defenders in the league will fear.

Sunday’s opening game with champions Chelsea will be a very early indicator as to whether they can keep up with the best teams in the division.

Reading

Manager – Kelly Chambers
Where they finished last season – fifth
Top Goalscorer 19/20 – Fara Williams
One to watch – Danielle Carter

Reading new signing, Danielle Carter
Danielle Carter. (Photo: Kunjan Malde for The FA)

Reading are one of the toughest sides in the WSL to beat, Kelly Chambers has recruited well this summer. Bringing in Emma Mitchell and Danielle Carter from Arsenal are huge signings of intent.

The Royals are very solid in defence and have also brought in New Zealand international goalkeeper Erin Nayler, who is another fine addition to the league.

Reading will be aiming to break into the top four this season and with experience throughout the squad, there is no reason why they can’t do that.

Carter has suffered injuries in the past two seasons but if she stays fit, there is no doubt she will score goals and could lead the Royals onto something special.

Everton

Manager – Willie Kirk
Where they finished last season – sixth
One to watch – Valérie Gauvin
Top goalscorer 19/20 –  Chloe Kelly

Everton's new signing, Valerie Gauvin
Valerie Gauvin. (PA Images)

Everton – like many WSL clubs – have recruited well this summer, despite losing Chloe Kelly, they have filled her spot with French international striker Valérie Gauvin. While she was their big summer signing, they’ve also brought in Poppy Pattinson, Ingrid Moe Wold, Nicoline Sorensen, Rikke Sevecke and Damaris Egurrola.

The recruitment from the Toffees could push them onto the next level and break into the top four of the division. They could be the surprise package of the season and a team that will be exciting to watch due to their energy. Everton have such a young squad and play attractive football to go with it, and will enjoy their first full season at Walton Park.

Tottenham Hotspur

Manager – Karen Hills and Juan Amoros
Where they finished last season – seventh
One to watch – Alanna Kennedy
Top Goalscorer 19/20 – Rianna Dean

Spurs two new loan signings
Alanna Kennedy and Shelina Zadorsky. (PA Images)

Tipped by many at the start of last season to go back down, Spurs defied the odds and finished in seventh spot. Spurs have now made several key summer signings, including Alanna Kennedy and Shelina Zadorsky from Orlando Pride.

They are a very quick side on the counter attack and will catch teams out especially with the pace of Rosella Ayane, who is extremely creative.

The aim for Spurs will be the top six and then maybe try to push for a top four spot, but that will be extremely hard due to the recruitment of the other sides.

West Ham United

Manager- Matt Beard
Where they finished last season – eighth
One to watch – Maz Pacheco
Top Goalscorer 19/20 – Adriana Leon

West Ham's new signing, Emily Van Egmond
Emily Van Egmond

West Ham have just added loan signing Rachel Daly to their squad and the England international joins seven other new players in: Mackenzie Arnold, Maz Pacheco, Emily Van Egmond, Hawa Cissoko, Ruby Grant, Nor Mustafa and Katerina Svitkova.

Matt Beard’s side are very good in turning over possession and are good in the transition – one of their main strengths – and with better quality going forward could succeed all expectations.

The Hammers will he hoping for another top eight finish but could challenge for the top six.

Brighton and Hove Albion

Manager – Hope Powell
Where they finished last season – ninth
One to watch – Inessa Kaagman
Top Goalscorer 19/20 – Aileen Whelan

Brighton's new signing Inessa Kaagman
Inessa Kaagman. (Photo: Lynne Cameron for The FA)

Brighton could also be one of those teams that could cause a surprise this season. Albion have brought in signings of real quality, as Netherlands international Inessa Kaagman joined from Everton and Nora Heroum has also linked up with the Seagulls from AC Milan.

Brighton are expected to finish mid table but they could threaten the top half especially if they can go on a good home run.

They are a well disciplined team, so will be hard to break down and took points off champions Chelsea last season. They do have the quality to get results, so an assault on the top half will be their aim heading into the new campaign.

Bristol City

Manager – Tanya Oxtoby
Where they finished last season – tenth
One to watch – Carla Humphrey
Top Goalscorer 19/20 – Ebony Salmon

Bristol City top scorer, Ebony Salmon
Ebony Salmon. (Photo: Kieran McManus for The FA)

The Robins made a late surge last time round and Ebony Salmon’s goals were crucial, as they will be once again in 2020-21. Salmon netted five WSL goals last season, to see them break away from the relegation zone just in time.

They’ve put a lot of faith in youth for the new season, as they’ve brought in Ella Mastrantonio, Aimee Palmer, Megan Wynne – who has picked up a season-ending ACL injury – Jemma Purfield and Emma Bissell.

The Robins were very inconsistent last season and they need to improve on that ahead of the new campaign.

The seasons aim will be to avoid relegation but that could be very tough to do with such a young squad, however, Carla Humphrey is an extremely technical player and she will be one that will hope to get them on the front foot.

It could be a very tough season as they move into their new home Twerton Park, so confidence from early-season form will be vital.

Birmingham City

Manager – Carla Ward
Where they finished last season – eleventh
Top Goalscorer 19/20 – Abbi Grant
One to watch – Emma Kelly

Birmingham City's loan signing, Rachel Corsie
Rachel Corsie. (PA Images)

Last season was another transition for Birmingham City and expect 2020-21 to be the same with a new manager at the helm. Carla Ward has come in from Sheffield United and has already brought in some quality in Northern Ireland International Chloe McCarron and Scotland captain Rachel Corsie, as well as Christie Murray.

Before Ward’s appointment many had written them off, a certainty for relegation some would say, however, with her managerial experience City could be a big surprise.

They struggled in scoring goals last season but with Emma Kelly in the team now – one of the finest young talents in the league at just 23 – she should certainly chip in with a few.

McCarron is also a player that will add a lot of quality to Birmingham this season, she moves the ball quickly and is very comfortable in possession.

Birmingham’s target for the new season is to avoid relegation and with Ward at the helm, they could be onto even better things.

Aston Villa

Manager – Gemma Davies
Where they finished last season – First in FA Women’s Championship.
One to watch – Ramona Petzelberger
Top Goalscorer 19/20 – Melissa Johnson

Aston Villa signing, Anita Asante
Anita Asante, (Photo: Kunjan Malde for The FA)

Newly-promoted Aston Villa are going to be a side to watch this term, Gemma Davies has recruited so well.

Villa have made some coups in the window that will allow them to play free flowing attacking football that they want to play. Scottish International Chloe Arthur has joined alongside Anita Asante, Diana Silva, Lisa Weiß, Carlo Siems, Ramona Petzelberger and Stine Larsen.

It could indeed be a season to remember for the Villa Park side, who kick off with a baptism of fire into the league.

Villa will undoubtedly be targeting against a relegation battle but something special could be brewing at the club and a seventh or eighth place might just be possible.

#FAWSL: Homegrown player quotas and loan deal limits agreed

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