The WSL is finished, everybody! Football clubs have triumphed, progressed, stabilized, plateaued, regressed and, most damningly, been relegated. So, let’s have a look at the final league table in the Women’s Super League and, more importantly, what that means for every football club going forward. We’ll go from the bottom of the table all the way through to the very top.
BIRMINGHAM CITY – 12TH (RELEGATED)
Birmingham City finished off the WSL season with a remarkable performance against their local rivals Aston Villa, a 1-0 win, only their third win of the season. Birmingham were one of 8 founding clubs and finished 2nd, higher than current WSL champions Chelsea, who finished 6th.
The Blues haven’t had an easy season by any means, losing 17 out of 22 games, conceding 51 along the way. Darren Carter is likely to have a mass exodus on their hands, as they’ve got many talented players in their ranks and on their books, but who could leave St Andrews this summer?
Well, I think Marie Hourihan will leave. The 33-year-old has played in the top flight of English football since 2007, and I think that she could explore pastures new in America or Australia instead of in the second tier. It’s a similar situation with the likes of Veatriki Sarri, Louise Quinn, Emily Ramsey, Lisa Robertson, Harriet Scott, and a few others.
LEICESTER CITY – 11TH
Leicester City finished their league season with a defeat, but that didn’t matter as they knew they were safe on Wednesday. The Foxes just got promoted last season and this was their first-ever season in the Women’s Super League, so it must be revealing knowing that they won’t be the new ones next season, even if Liverpool already have experience.
Speaking of Liverpool, Leicester City could look towards Liverpool as a bed of potential talent, and even the Championship more generally, with the likes of Veatriki Sarri, Abi Harrison, Louise Quinn, Leanne Kiernan, Sophie Hillyerd, Marie Hourihan, Amy Rodgers, Beth Hepple and more who could help them strengthen their depth and quality instantly.
Leicester’s season has been a bumpy one, but you’d expect that from a new club. They’ve also lost 17 games, but have picked up more wins than the Blues. The Foxes will look to push on from here, and when you look at what West Ham, Spurs and Man Utd have done in recent years, it’s still possible, even if it didn’t come as quick as many thought it would.
Manager Lydia Bedford was happy with the Foxes’ showing against Spurs, saying, “I was really pleased with the resilience in our first-half performance. We went out unsure about what shape Spurs would turn out with and I felt we defended really resiliently in that first half, kept compact and created a few opportunities on the counter-attack. It’s crucial that in key moments like this next season, we’ll hopefully be able to turn that into a draw or maybe even go on and win it, but that’s a learning curve.”
EVERTON – 10TH
Now, if you don’t watch women’s football much and have read some of my earlier articles (which you can find on my author page) you can see that Willie Kirk was talking about challenging the top 3 at the start of the season. But, not only are the top 3 intact, but Everton is 27 points away from it and 36 away from the title.
It has not been the season that Everton’s board, fans and players all across the board, and this disappointment stretches to the women’s team. They have heavily regressed in the last year, and they have completely switched with Spurs in terms of challenging the top 3/4,
Gauvin and Emslie are now gone, and with talk of Gabby George going, Everton’s long-term ambitions are looking shaky. Their rivals are looking to strengthen, and Everton’s men’s team are getting the focus in the boardroom, it seems like it could be a dangerous season next year for Everton if they don’t get their act together this summer, and do some more business. They have hired Brian Sørensen as manager, to replace interim boss Chris Roberts, but he’ll look to bring in his own players.
ASTON VILLA – 9TH
As previously mentioned, Villa lost on the final day vs Birmingham, but that wasn’t representative of their season. It’s been a much more successful season for the Villans, as they have gone from strength to strength. They finished 10 points off from relegation, an increase of 7 from last season, and have been competitive, losing just 1-0 to Chelsea twice, drawing 0-0 to United, and beating Brighton & Hove Albion 1-0.
Villa will of course miss experienced defender Anita Asante next season due to the 37-year-old’s retirement. They will need to replace her next season, and the likes of Louise Quinn aren’t out of Aston Villa’s reach at all. They may need to do some shopping around in the summer if they want to go up the table.
Carla Ward is a perfect fit going forward for Villa, and if they give her the players that she asks for, there’s no good reason why they can’t be hot on the heels of Spurs, Brighton and West Ham. They will have difficulty finding replacements for Jill Scott and Anna Patten, but they can bring back Freya Gregory, and if in need, bring back N’Dow or Haigh, who are on loan at Coventry United.
READING – 8TH
Reading went up against Manchester City on the last day, losing 4-0, even though it didn’t really feel like one. This season could have been a lot worse, with relegation on the cards until a shocking 9 game spell without a loss dragged them from 12th all the way to fifth. They beat the likes of Chelsea, Aston Villa, Brighton and Everton during that run, and drew to West Ham.
However, the Royals didn’t win a single game outside of that spell, but did pick up draws against Spurs, Villa and Reading. They will need to work on their consistency next season, but Kelly Chambers’ side showed that they have the quality needed to pick up a few points and compete.
With Brooke Chaplen gone, Reading will need to strengthen not only its quality They should be looking for a source of goals outside of Natasha Dowie, who was responsible for 28% of their goals this season, and should be looking for someone quality in midfield to feed those balls into her.
Manager Kelly Chambers expressed similar sentiments saying, “For me, it’s been a season of two halves. Starting with a squad that had eight to 10 changes in one transfer window. So, what I’m excited about next season is [that] there’s a big foundation of this squad that stay for next season.
And we’ve laid that foundation now and it’s for us, it’s kind of what’s next. “We need to look towards next season and go right, this is us, how do we progress moving forward? That’s what excites me. We haven’t got big turnovers and we’ve got a solid squad already, and if we can add a few to that we could be a little bit stronger.”
BRIGHTON & HOVE ALBION – 7TH
Brighton bowed out of the WSL with a 1-1 draw against Everton, and this match was actually symbolic of their season. The Seagulls have dropped some stupid points this season, including losing all three to Aston Villa, Reading, Leicester City and Birmingham City, and losing the aforementioned 2 against Everton.
All 5 of those teams finished below them this season, and if they had picked up those 14 points, then they would have finished just 2 points off Manchester United, and would only be 7 points away from Champions League football, so you can really see the significance of those matches.
Brighton will need to look search the transfer window a bit this summer, as they’ll need to look at replacing Swedish duo Zigiotti Olme and Kullberg, who joined from BK Häcken in January. Hope Powell will look to incorporate Katie Startup into the squad (she’s been out on loan with Liverpool this season) and get a new loan spell for Katie Robinson, who will need more game time before coming back to Brighton’s first team.
WEST HAM UNITED – 6TH
West Ham United were resilient in their 2-0 loss against Arsenal on the final weekend, and their placement of 6th in the league is beyond what many expected of the Irons this season. Olli Harder’s side went from strength to strength throughout this campaign, and their positive results are looking to be built upon for next season.
However, Olli Harder won’t be there with them, as he has left West Ham. In an interview on the West Ham website, he said, “I am proud and honoured to have had the opportunity to work for West Ham United and share this experience with our amazing staff, players, and, of course, incredible fans.
Having reached a Conti Cup quarter-final, an FA Cup semi-final and earned more points this season than in any WSL season in the Club’s history, I believe I’m leaving the club in a really good place. I am sure that if it continues to build on this platform of success, the future is bright.”
New manager Paul Konchesky (who has been working with the women’s team will take over, with him saying it was “a very proud moment for [him]”. However, he’ll be without club captain Gilly Flaherty, as she announced that she was leaving the club. It’s going to be hard for West Ham’s already leaky defence without her, so securing the back is going to be a big priority, and who better than a former professional defender?
TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR – 5TH
Well, Spurs beat Leicester City 1-0 on the final day of the season, and the low margins says a lot about the fact that Spurs have the closest goal difference (+1), and have drawn 22% of this season’s WSL games. Rehanne Skinner’s side will want to push that top 4 more than they ended up doing, with them finishing closer to Reading in 8th than United in 4th, and closer to Everton in 10th than the Champions League spot.
Tottenham will look to slowly add to their group of tight-knit players. This may include one or two signings, likely to be a prolific striker (such as Abi Harrison, Leanne Kiernan or, if they want a more proven striker, someone like Natasha Dowie, Ebony Salmon or Pauline Bremer.
Spurs will look to push the top 4 again next season, and they have the foundations to do it. But for them to really push away from the rest of the pack, they need to score more goals. That’s why a striker is so necessary. If you look at the WSL top scorers list, it’s absolutely dominated by the top 4, to the point where Louise Quinn is one of the most prolific outside of it. But they’ll need a slight bit of depth, and definitely a top-quality striker.
MANCHESTER UNITED – 4TH
It’s not been the season Manchester United would have wanted, mainly because they’ve narrowly missed out on the Champions League yet again. If things had gone their way on the final weekend, then it would have been great for the team, and we’d be theorising about how next season goes. But City didn’t hand them any favours, and they lost 4-2 to Chelsea in what was a very tightly fought match, meaning that it’s another season outside Europe for the Red Devils.
Marc Skinners side has a lot going for it, and they will improve over time, with youngsters such as Ella Toone, Emily Ramsey, Alessia Russo, Fran Bentley, Ona Batlle, Ivana Fuso, Sophie Baggaley and Carrie Jones all constantly improving. But they need some experience to lead them through the big games.
Man United will need to be near perfect to get the top 3 unless they can start beating the top 3 themselves. They didn’t win a single game against Man City, Arsenal or Chelsea this season, so they can’t expect to finish above them. Unless they can get this sorted out, then they can’t expect to be playing in Europe.
MANCHESTER CITY – 3RD (UWCL)
Early in the season, it was looking like we’d see a new team occupying this third-place spot. But after a 4-0 win against Reading, Manchester City have secured Champions League football (if they can get through qualification this time!). It’s been a rollercoaster season for the Citizens, but they managed to squeak back into the European spots.
After gameweek 7 (31% through the season), Manchester City were sitting in 8th. They had lost 4 games so far and had drawn to arch-rivals Manchester United. But after that, they went on 2 unbeaten spells, one 5 game streak which took them from 7th to 5th (then they lost to Chelsea), and a 9 game winning streak taking them from 5th to 3rd.
City’s firepower was through the roof in the last few games, scoring 21 goals in their last 4 matches. After a very rocky road, Gareth Taylor has guided them to a League Cup trophy, and they are in an FA Cup final set to take place on the 15th. They need to be more consistent to get a second league title, but they’ve been fabulous to watch recently.
ARSENAL – 2ND (RUNNERS UP)
Arsenal won 2-0 against West Ham in their final game of the season, but it wasn’t enough, as Chelse’s win against United secured them the title. There were eruptions around Meadow Park when Chelsea went behind, but even this match was a very tough deadlock to break, and by that time, Chelsea were on its way to their 3rd consecutive WSL title.
The Gunners’ summer transfer window looked to set them up for success. Nikita Parris was a proven goalscorer in the WSL, Mana Iwabuchi was going to bring in the flair that they had missed, Sørensen was sure to replace Maier swiftly, Maanum was going to address Van De Donk’s departure and Heath was sure to bring in the experience and winning mentality needed.
Well, barring Maanum, none of them worked out as they meant to. Parris only scored 1 goal, Iwabuchi couldn’t do much in 491 minutes, Sørensen played a groundbreaking 161 minutes and Heath’s absences meant that she didn’t help the team as much as possible. Even Wienroither and Souza haven’t worked out brilliantly, but time will tell for those two.
It’s been a season of disappointment for Jonas Eidevall, as Arsenal fail to lift any silverware at all. However, they do have a lot they can build on, but any potential exit of Vivianne Miedema is sure to hurt. Jen Beattie could also be on her way out, but we’ll have to wait and see.
CHELSEA – 1ST (CHAMPIONS)
Chelsea’s win against Manchester United secured them the title again, and their performance on that day proved why they deserved it. Hayes’ side battled from behind twice, going 1-0 down, then 2-1 down, but they still ended up with a 4-2 win, a testament to their mental strength.
Chelsea only lost 2 games this season, and that was thanks to their already insane depth, as well as 1 or 2 signings. Lauren James hasn’t even been able to make her mark on this Chelsea side, so they could be an even more frightening prospect next season with the 20-year-old fit and ready.
Emma Hayes will have her sights set on the Champions League next season, but she’ll have a chance for another piece of silverware, the FA Cup, where they face Manchester City in the final. It’s her chance to avenge Gareth Taylor’s win in the League Cup final, and it’s another chance for Chelsea to win.