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WSL Season Preview 18/19 /Manchester United's new Women's team

Women’s Super League Season Preview

Over the summer, women’s football has undergone a serious rebrand. Women’s Super League 1 has now become the FA Women’s Super League (WSL) which is Tier 1. The WSL will be made up of 11 teams with Brighton & Hove Albion Women and West Ham United Ladies being the two new additions to the top tier. For the following season, the numbers will be evened out through promotion and relegation.

Some of the best players in women’s football ply their trade in the Women’s Super League and the new improvements will advance the quality even further. Chelsea FC Women and Manchester City Women have been the dominant forces in the league for several years, but other teams have invested heavily which should increase competition and hopefully see additional sides challenge for the WSL title.

With more different teams in the WSL, the 2018/19 is set to be one of the best yet. Here, CloudSports Football takes a look at the title favourites, the teams most likely to claim the European places, teams to watch and much more.

Title favourites

Manchester City and Chelsea will be the main favourites challenging for the WSL title. Nick Cushing’s side failed to stop Chelsea winning the league last season. Over the summer months, Man City have signed talented youngsters like forward Caroline Weir from Liverpool and forward Lauren Hemp from Bristol City as they bid to regain top spot. They have also added defender Mie Jans from Brondby IF, defender Gemma Bonner from Liverpool, striker Tessa Wullaert from Wolfsburg and striker Janine Beckie from Sky Blue FC.

Chelsea enjoyed a fantastic 2017/18 campaign in which they scooped the WSL title as well as the FA Cup. They also went unbeaten in the league. The Blues have strengthened their side as they look to retain the title. Goalkeeper Lizzie Durack from Everton, defender Jess Carter from Birmingham City, forward Adelina Engman from Kopparbergs/Goteborg and defender Ali Riley from FC Rosengard are Emma Hayes’ latest recruits. Sophie Ingle has also rejoined Chelsea Women from Liverpool.

Favourites for Champions League places

There are only two Champions League places up for grabs in the WSL so competition is high. Chelsea and Manchester City secured the Champions League spots last season while Arsenal missed out by one point. The last time a team other than Man City or Chelsea finished in the top two was 2013. Arsenal and Reading Women are the sides most likely to upset the applecart and aim to break into the top two.

Teams to watch

Reading Women recorded their best ever finish last season when they ended the campaign in fourth place. Manager Kelly Chambers has created a strong, hardworking team full of youth and experience. Fara Williams, Brooke Chaplen, last season’s top scorer, Remi Allen and Natasha Harding are just some of the key players who will be expected to help Reading continue their progression in the top flight. Last season, the Royals beat Man City as well as drawing with Arsenal and Chelsea. They must build on these results if they are to have another successful season.

West Ham Ladies have made significant preparation for their first season in the top flight with many eye-catching signings. The Hammers, who will move from tier three to tier one, have signed goalkeeper Becky Spencer and defenders Claire Rafferty and Gilly Flaherty (Chelsea), midfielder Brianna Visalli from Chicago Red Stars and goalkeeper Anna Moorhouse from Arsenal.

The east London side have also added striker Esmee De Graaf from PEC Zwolle, midfielder Lucienne Reichardt from Ajax, Jane Ross, a striker, and midfielder Tessel Middag (Man City), striker Leanne Kiernan from Shelbourne Ladies, defender Brooke Hendrix from A.C.F. Brescia Calcio Femminile. Midfielder Julia Simic has moved to east London from Wolfsburg while defender Ria Percival has signed from FC Basel. Striker Alisha Lehmann from BSC Young Boys Frauen, and midfielder Kate Longhurst from Liverpool are the latest new recruits. The Hammers clearly have ambitions of remaining in the top flight for the foreseeable future.

Brighton & Hove Albion Women are another team to watch after they were promoted from WSL 2 last season. The Seagulls are managed by former England boss Hope Powell who is determined to ensure her side are ready to compete against the likes of Man City and Chelsea. Ahead of their first season in the restructured Women’s Super League, Brighton have signed forward Kayleigh Green from Yeovil Town, forward Ellie Brazil from Fiorentina, goalkeeper Sophie Harris from London Bees and defender Victoria Williams from Sunderland. It may take time but it will be exciting to see how Brighton adjust to a new league.

Players to watch

Birmingham City’s Aiofe Mannion is one of the best defenders in the league. She made her debut for the Blues in 2013 and has been a regular in the side ever since. Mannion is a key player for the team and she was named in the PFA WSL 1 Team of the Year for her superb performances last season.

Brooke Chaplen was crucial to Reading last season when she scored 12 goals in 25 appearances and finished the campaign as their top scorer in her debut season for the club. It remains to be seen whether the attacking midfielder can keep up her goalscoring form next season. Her goals will be pivotal once again if Reading are to build on their highest WSL finish of fourth.

Player of the year

Forward Fran Kirby has had a formidable three years since joining from Reading. Kirby was able to make the step up to WSL 1 and hasn’t looked back since. She is a natural goalscorer and netted 22 goals in all competitions for the Blues last season. Kirby was named the PFA Women’s Player of the Year and I expect her to retain the award next season.

Top scorer

Ellen White finished the season as the league’s top scorer with 15 goals. She has gone from strength to strength in recent years, for club and country. Other teams such as Chelsea and Man City have plenty of attacking options so the goals are spread out more while White is Birmingham’s main striker. For this reason, I think she will be the WSL’s top scorer once again.

Manchester United Women’s team

For the first time in 13 years, Manchester United will have a women’s team. After disbanding in 2005, Man United decided to develop young female players instead. Izzy Christiansen is just one example of a player who developed with the Red Devils and then moved to rivals Man City when she wanted to pursue a professional career. She is now at Lyon with former Man City team-mate Lucy Bronze.

Man United will be competing in the Women’s Championship for their first season. England captain Casey Stoney will manage the side and she will be assisted by former Bristol City Women manager Willie Kirk. The Red Devils’ first squad has generated plenty of excitement. There are two England internationals, former Liverpool goalkeeper Siobhan Chamberlain and left-back Alex Greenwood, who is captain. There are seven former United youth players in the squad including Katie Zelem who returns after a year at Juventus. Striker Jessica Sigworth has joined from Doncaster Rovers Belles where she was the league’s top scorer last season with 16 goals. Casey Stoney has a young, exciting squad at her disposal and their maiden campaign in the Championship is set to be an interesting affair.

Follow @marissatom16 and @CSportsFootball to stay updated!

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