Women's Super League Q&A: Chelsea's rivals may be feeling the Blues!

Women’s Super League Q&A: Chelsea’s rivals may be feeling the Blues again! Champions look stronger than ever to retain their crown ahead of the new season

  • The Women’s Super League season starts on Friday with Man United v Reading 
  • Champions Chelsea are favourites to retain the title ahead of the new campaign 
  • Four teams have new managers and there’s been plenty of exciting new signings 
  • Sportsmail looks at the contenders, new signings and new bosses before kick-off

The Women’s Super League returns on Friday and it is set to be bigger, better and more competitive than ever.  

Manchester United host Reading in the opening game of the season while champions Chelsea face a tough trip to the Emirates to face challengers Arsenal on Sunday. 

Sportsmail runs the rule over the contenders, new signings and new bosses ahead of the big kick-off.

The Women’s Super League returns tonight and it is set to be bigger, better and more competitive than ever

Yes, but it won’t be easy. Emma Hayes’s side only won the title by two points, with Manchester City taking them to the final day. But the Blues are stronger now.

Hayes has added to her squad without losing any key players. The bulk of Chelsea’s team have been together for years while their devastating attack of Sam Kerr, Pernille Harder, Fran Kirby and Beth England is unrivalled.

City dropped just two points from November to May last season but a slow start, as signings were bedding into the team, was their downfall.

Chelsea’s devastating attack of Sam Kerr, Pernille Harder, Fran Kirby and Beth England is unrivalled

Manager Gareth Taylor faces a similar problem going into the new campaign. USA stars Sam Mewis, Rose Lavelle and Abby Dahlkemper have gone back to America, while Lucy Bronze will miss the start of the season through injury. Chloe Kelly, who provided 10 goals and 11 assists, is a long-term absentee after rupturing her ACL in May.

City have made exciting signings including Jamaican striker Khadija Shaw, ex-Barcelona midfielder Vicky Losada and Australia internationals Hayley Raso and Alanna Kennedy — but it will take time for them to gel.

Arsenal and Manchester United have new managers (Jonas Eidevall and Marc Skinner) and it is hard to judge how they will settle. 

The Gunners looked good in pre-season and have a better chance of challenging City and Chelsea, while the realistic ambition for United is breaking into the top three. City remain the biggest threat to Chelsea but Hayes’s side are clear favourites.

Who are dark horses?

Everton could push for a place in the top three. To do that they’ll have to get past United, fourth in the last two seasons.

Toffees boss Willie Kirk has been shrewd with transfers, bringing in experience as well as exciting youngsters. Toni Duggan is back while 18-year-old Sweden star Hanna Bennison has joined for a club-record fee.

Kirk has the upper hand over United boss Skinner because he’s had time to shape his squad, but they have a lot to prove. They did not pick up a point against the top four last season and that has to change if they’re to challenge for a Champions League spot.

Everton have made some exciting signings including Hanna Bennison (above) and could be dark horses this season

Best new signings 

Lauren James (Chelsea)

James signed from Manchester United in a record deal between WSL clubs that could rise to £200,000. The 19-year-old sister of Chelsea’s Reece has so much potential and will improve under Hayes. She offers the Blues something different in attack.

Alanna Kennedy (Man City)

The Australia international was impressive for Spurs last season and for the Matildas at the Olympics. She can play at centre back and in midfield, but City need shoring up in defence after the loss of Dahlkemper and Gemma Bonner, and the injury to Bronze.

Nikita Parris (Arsenal)

The England forward, 27, returns to the WSL after two years with Lyon, where she won four trophies including the Champions League. She will offer the Gunners pace in attack and take some of the scoring pressure off Vivianne Miedema. The former City forward is 11 goals behind her team-mate and six behind Ellen White in the WSL’s all-time scoring charts.

Chelsea signed Lauren James from Mancheseter United in a record deal between WSL clubs that could rise to £200,000

Manchestser City have signed Alanna Kennedy (left) while Arsenal signed Nikita Parris (right)

The new managers

Jonas Eidevall (Arsenal)

The Gunners have replaced Joe Montemurro with Eidevall, from Rosengard, and he has had three Champions League qualifiers to get into the swing of it. The early signs are all positive.

Marc Skinner (Man United)

Casey Stoney left big shoes to fill but Skinner, 38, hopes he can take the club a step further by reaching the Champions League.

Carla Ward (Aston Villa)

Villa appointed Ward, 37, after her resignation from Birmingham City. She worked wonders to keep the Blues in the WSL after starting the season with 10 players.

Scott Booth (Birmingham)

Former Scotland striker Booth joined the Blues after six years in charge of Scottish champions Glasgow City, where he won five titles. Here, he faces a WSL relegation fight.

Jonas Eidevall was appointed Arsenal manager following the departure of Joe Montemurro

What impact will the new TV deal have?

More money for clubs and more coverage for fans. Sky have promised to give the WSL the full ‘Sky Sports treatment’ and have recruited experience in Jacqui Oately and Karen Carney – who has been tasked with being the ‘Gary Neville of women’s football’. 

We can expect more in-depth analysis and greater access to players. Sky will show 35 games while 22 matches will be free to air on the BBC. 

The latter have been long-standing supporters of the women’s game and their coverage will be just as vital. The extra money involved means clubs have even more to fight for this season. The higher you finish, the bigger the prize.

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