The 2020/21 Women's Super League season kicked off over the weekend, with all 12 top flight clubs in action on one of the two days.
Here's a look at things we learned from the opening exchanges...
Arsenal Are Still Good
It’s not that Arsenal were written off over the summer, but with Chelsea and Manchester City both strengthening by bringing in world class superstars it was easy to forget about the Gunners.
Arsenal were champions as recently as 2018/19 when they won the WSL in style. And while they slipped away slightly from the Chelsea and City last season, they ensured they will firmly be part of the conversation in 2020/21 by thrashing Reading 6-1 to kick off the campaign.
This was not simply an annihilation of relegation fodder either. Reading are a very capable side who have done good transfer business off the back of finishing fifth last season.
Fresh Start for Danielle Carter
After suffering two ACL injuries in the space of just 14 months and her summer departure from Arsenal after nine long years, Danielle Carter marked her WSL debut for new club Reading with the consolation goal against her former side.
It was a bittersweet moment for Carter, who will have been gutted to be on the receiving end of such a pummelling, but a goal for a new team, injury-free, feels like a fresh start to a new chapter.
Man Utd Need Forwards
It is little surprise that former England centre-back Casey Stoney has made Manchester United one of the best defensive units in the WSL and she was delighted to see her team go toe-to-toe with champions Chelsea and come away with a deserved point following a 1-1 draw.
United outscored all seven teams who finished below them in the final WSL table last season, but to really compete with the three giants above them they need to find the net more regularly.
Stoney didn’t have too many options last season, with teenage starlet Lauren James finishing as top scorer. James is only just making her way back to fitness and started on the bench against Chelsea, while Jess Sigsworth and summer signing Ivana Fuso are injured.
United have been heavily linked with USWNT forwards Tobin Heath and Christen Press, which would be a huge boost in terms of both quality and depth.
Chelsea Will Get Better
Manchester United were fully deserving of their point against Chelsea, but the reigning champions will improve as their squad knits together more.
2019/20 WSL Player of the Season Bethany England and new signing Pernille Harder, each world class, started the game on the bench. Australian superstar Sam Kerr was preferred, while creative linchpin Fran Kirby was at last back in action after a lengthy illness last season.
Everton Are Dark Horse Material
Everton didn’t miss Chloe Kelly in their opening day thrashing of Bristol City. The emerging England star left to join Manchester City in the summer, but the Toffees enjoyed a fine 4-0 start to the new campaign and could threaten for a ‘best of the rest’ finish in fourth place.
23-year-old club captain Lucy Graham was the star of the show, assisting her team’s opener, scoring two of her own and then assisting the fourth. Debutant Nicoline Sorensen impressed, while it was important for new striker Valerie Gauvin to also get in on the scoring.
The Toffees will face tougher tests than a Bristol side who are expected to be embroiled in a relegation fight, but this big early win away from home bodes well.
Only Okay from Man City
Manchester City were the first to kick off the new season when they faced newly promoted Aston Villa at Villa Park 24 hours ahead of the rest of the league.
City have had all the attention in recent weeks because of their captures of World Cup winners Sam Mewis and Rose Lavelle, yet it wasn’t an explosive performance against Villa.
City dominated the game and prevailed 2-0, but the two goals were both the result of defensive lapses rather than crafted quality. Mewis started and improved as she settled into the game, but Lavelle has not been available for selection so far.
Source : 90min