Women's Super League preview: Can anyone stop Chelsea?

Women’s Super League preview: Can anyone stop Chelsea?

After a week’s delay due to the death of Queen Elizabeth II, the Women’s Super League will begin its new campaign on Friday.

Last season went down to the wire, with Chelsea beating Arsenal by a point to win the league title on the final day of the campaign, so it will be interesting to see if we get a dramatic repeat of that this time around.

Here’s what you need to know about the 2022-23 WSL season.

How the WSL season works

Many marquee clubs compete in the English top flight, notably Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United and Tottenham.

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

The WSL season consists of 22 games with clubs playing home and away between now and May 28. The first-place team won the English league title and also qualified for next season’s UEFA Women’s Champions League.

The second- and third-placed clubs also secure Champions League spots. The last placed team is the second division of the women’s competition. Liverpool were promoted to the WSL this season, while Birmingham City were relegated to the Women’s Championship in 2021-22 after finishing last in the WSL.

Chelsea look at the four-peat

Chelsea are strong favorites to win their fourth successive Women’s Super League Cup and continue their complete dominance of the English game. The Blues were almost unbeaten in 2021–22, winning 18 of 22 games with just two defeats. The London-based club’s campaign saw a nine-game winning streak end, with their final defeat of the campaign on 12 December.

The core of that Championship squad remains intact, with notable stars such as forward Sam Kerr (last season’s Golden Boot winner), Fran Kirby (one of the league’s best players) and goalkeeper Anne-Catherine Berger in 2021-22. 3rd in clean sheets) back for the Blues.

Coach Emma Hayes has been busy in the off-season transfer window, bringing in some recruits to bolster an already strong side. Among the new arrivals are Canadian centre-back Kadisha Buchanan, French full-back Yves Perisset, Czech wing-back Katarina Svetkova, Swedish midfielder Johanna Retting Conrad and Serbian captain Jelena Konkovic.

Arsenal best bet to beat Chelsea

Chelsea have dominated the WSL since its formation in 2010, winning the championship on five occasions, and finishing in the second round twice. By all accounts, the title is theirs to win again in 2022-23, as no other team has the same star quality and roster depth.

But if there’s one side that can end Chelsea’s bid for a fourth straight WSL crown, it might be Arsenal. The Gunners were one of only two teams to beat Chelsea in 2021-22, winning 3-2 against the Blues in the opening week of the campaign. Arsenal sat at the top of the table for a good part of the season before starting to stumble around Christmas, thus opening the door for Chelsea to make their magical run. Even still, Arsenal pushed right to the end, and only conceded the title on the last day of the season.

Swedish coach Jonas Ideval, entering his second year in charge, has transformed the Gunners into a high-energy team that used high pressure to unbalance their opponents during his first season.

Not only did Arsenal re-sign top scorer Vivian Miedema, but they also added some notable pieces in the off-season, notably Swedish forward Lena Hurtig and American goalkeeper Keelan Marquez. They can also rely on forward Beth Meade, who helped England win this summer’s European Championship, winning the Golden Boot (as top scorer) and the Golden Ball (tournament MVP) along the way. Helped to win.

Canadian content: Buchanan arrives in the WSL

From a Canadian perspective, the big news in the WSL centers around Kadeisha Buchanan joining Chelsea.

Buchanan, from Toronto, has been one of the world’s best centre-backs for Olympique Lyonnais for the past six seasons, helping the French club to five domestic championships and five UEFA Champions League titles. Her arrival bolsters a Chelsea defense that only conceded 11 goals in the WSL last season.

Buchanan isn’t the only Canadian on the books at Chelsea, as she joins London, Ont., native Jesse Fleming, who had a breakout campaign as a key figure in the Blues’ midfield in 2021-22.

Elsewhere, Canada’s center back, Shelina Zadorski, also from London. Ont., is set to play in his third season for Tottenham Hotspur, while forward Dan Rose, from Alliston, Ont., is back at Reading FC and looking to have a strong rookie season in 2021-22 Looking forward to when she scored three goals in 2021-22. 18 appears as a starter.

After scoring 13 goals in four seasons for West Ham United, Canadian winger Adriana Lyon, of Mississauga, Ont. from, made a major career move when she signed with Manchester United in the off-season.

Player to watch: Vivian Medema

Vivian Medema had an MVP-like season for Arsenal in 2021-22, as the Dutch striker finished second in the league in goals (14) and tied for the most assists (eight).

Medema has been a positive asset for the Gunners since joining the London-based club from Bayern Munich in 2017, scoring 74 goals in five seasons in the WSL. Despite interest from Barcelona and Paris Saint-Germain, she signed a new contract with Arsenal in the off-season, declaring that winning titles with the Gunners would be as important to her as winning them at any other club. The comparison makes more sense.

John Molinaro is one of the leading soccer journalists in Canada, having covered the game for over 20 years for several 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. TFC Republic can be found over here.

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