WSL 2020/21 Season Preview: New Signings, Key Players, Rising Stars, Prediction & More

No top flight women’s football has been played in England since February as a result of the coronavirus pandemic forcing the abandonment of the 2019/20 campaign.

Nearly seven full months later, fans up and down the country have been starved of action and are desperate to see the return of their favourite teams and players.

So what better way to whet your appetite for the new season than reading 90min's club-by-club breakdown of what you can expect from a campaign that promises to be the best yet.


Last Season: 3rd

Key Player: Vivianne Miedema

Breakout Star to Watch: Malin Gut

Manager: Joe Montemurro

Major Ins: Steph Catley (Melbourne City), Malin Gut (Grasshopper), Lydia Williams (Melbourne City), Noelle Maritz (Wolfsburg)

Major Outs: Louise Quinn (Fiorentina), Pauline Peyraud-Magnin (Atletico Madrid), Katrina Veje (Rosengard), Danielle Carter (Reading), Emma Mitchell (Reading)

The goal for Arsenal has always and will always be the title, something which they fell short in last season. Injuries have proven to be the biggest obstacle for the Gunners over the last 18 months, but the squad looks stronger with Australian internationals Steph Catley and Lydia Williams.

However, whether they have enough to compete with Chelsea and Manchester City, both of whom have strengthened considerably since last season, is another question.

Prediction: 3rd

Aston Villa

Last Season: 1st, Championship (promoted)

Key Player: Emma Follis

Breakout Star to Watch: Sian Rogers

Manager: Gemma Davies

Major Ins: Chloe Arthur (Birmingham), Anita Asante (Chelsea), Diane Silva (Sporting CP), Lisa Weiss (Lyon), Caroline Siems (Turbine Potsdam), Ramona Petzelberger (Essen), Stine Larsen (Fleury 91)

Major Outs: Jade Richards (released), Kerri Welsh (released), Alice Hassall (Coventry United), Phoebe Warner (Coventry United), Melissa Johnson (Sheffield United), Charlotte Greengrass (released), Sophie Maierhofer (Duisburg), Daniela Kosinska (released)

If the fortunes of Manchester United, Tottenham and West Ham in recent years is anything to go by, well organised newly promoted sides fare better in the WSL than stagnant established clubs. The immediate target of avoiding relegation therefore looks infinitely achievable for Aston Villa.

Villa have proven they are an ambitious club with the off-field recruitment of Eniola Aluko as technical director and have been busy in the transfer market.

Prediction: 9th

Birmingham City

Last Season: 11th

Key Player: Christie Murray

Breakout Star to Watch: Emma Kelly

Manager: Carla Ward

Major Ins: Christie Murray (Liverpool), Rachel Corsie (Utah Royals - loan), Chloe McCarron (Linfield)

Major Outs: Brianna Visalli (Houston Dash) , Adrienne Jordan (OL Reign), Alexandra Brooks (Blackburn), Chloe Arthur (Aston Villa), Lucy Staniforth (Man Utd), Kerys Harrop (Tottenham), Rachel Williams (Tottenham)

Having finished fourth in 2018/19, only two points behind Chelsea, Birmingham then only narrowly avoided relegation last season. A difficult campaign was to be expected after a raft of player departures last summer. Sadly, that has been repeated and makes for an even tougher year.

Established WSL veteran Rachel Williams and regular England international Lucy Staniforth are both significant losses, joining Tottenham and Manchester United respectively.

Prediction: 12th (relegation)

Brighton & Hove Albion

Last Season: 9th

Key Player: Felicity Gibbons

Breakout Star to Watch: Megan Connolly

Manager: Hope Powell

Major Ins: Katie Startup (Charlton), Katie Robinson (Bristol City), Nora Heroum (AC Milan), Inessa Kaagman (Everton), Lee Geum-min (Man City – loan), Rebekah Stott (Melbourne City)

Major Outs: Lea Le Garrec (Fleury 91), Katie Natkiel (Crystal Palace), Amanda Nilden (Eskilstuna United), Sophie Harris (Watford), Fern Whelan (released), Ini Umotong (Vaxjo), Matile Lundorf (Juventus), Laure Hartley (Lewes - loan), Ellie Hack (Lewes - loan)

Brighton did just enough to stay out of danger last season to secure a third consecutive campaign as a WSL club. Bizarrely, they struggled against sides immediately above them like West Ham and Tottenham, but got good results against Chelsea, Manchester United and Everton.

A greater degree of consistency is therefore going to be important for the Seagulls in 2020/21, although the goals of departed forward Ini Umotong will be missed.

Prediction: 10th

Bristol City

Last Season: 10th

Key Player: Sophie Baggaley

Breakout Star to Watch: Aimee Palmer

Manager: Tanya Oxtoby

Major Ins: Ella Mastrantonio (Western Sydney Wanderers), Aimee Palmer (Man Utd), Megan Wynne (Tottenham), Jemma Purfield (Liverpool), Emma Bissell (Man City)

Major Outs: Poppy Pattinson (Everton), Olivia Chance (released), Katie Robinson (Brighton), Eartha Cummings (Charlton), Jeon Ga-eul (released), Frankie Brown (released), Loren Dykes (Cardiff)

Last season threatened to be disastrous for Bristol City after they failed to win any of their opening nine games, which included a record 11-1 defeat at the hands of Arsenal. Ultimately, their campaign was saved by a gritty 1-0 win over Manchester United in January.

The aim for the Robins is to pull away from the threat of relegation and break into the middle pack of clubs. Poppy Pattinson is an important loss, but watch out for Aimee Palmer instead.

Prediction: 11th


Last Season: 1st, Champions

Key Player: Bethany England

Breakout Star to Watch: Niamh Charles

Manager: Emma Hayes

Major Ins: Melanie Leupolz (Bayern Munich), Niamh Charles (Liverpool), Jessie Fleming (UCLA), Pernille Harder (Wolfsburg)

Major Outs: Adelina Engman (Montpellier), Deanna Cooper (Reading), Anita Asante (Aston Villa), Ramona Bachmann (PSG)

Chelsea went unbeaten en-route to being award the 2019/20 title on points per game and have strengthened again this summer. That includes the recruitment of Danish striker Pernille Harder, who is legitimately one of the best players in the world.

Emma Hayes is a world class manager and the Blues have an almost unfair embarrassment of riches when it comes to attacking options. Australian superstar Sam Kerr is still to come good as well. The big question is whether they or Manchester City have strengthened most.

Prediction: 1st (champions)


Last Season: 6th

Key Player: Lucy Graham

Breakout Star to Watch: Sandy MacIver

Manager: Willie Kirk

Major Ins: Poppy Pattinson (Bristol City), Ingrid Moe Wold (Madrid CFF), Nicoline Sorensen (Brondby), Rikke Sevecke (Fleury 91), Valerie Gauvin (Montpellier), Claire Emslie (Orlando Pride - loan), Damaris Egurrola (Athletic Bilbao)

Major Outs: Inessa Kaagman (Brighton), Hannah Cain (Leicester), Kirstie Levell (Leicester), Taylor Hinds (Liverpool), Chloe Kelly (Man City), Emma Doyle (Blackburn)

Chloe Kelly is a disappointing loss to Manchester City this summer, but Everton have recruited well and the signing of French international striker Valerie Gauvin is a particular coup. Add to that a first full season for Izzy Christiansen and Sandy MacIver and the Toffees look strong.

It has been a significant transformation from flirting dangerously with relegation in 2018/19, to starting the 2019/20 campaign in fine form. This summer is another shot in the arm.

Prediction: 5th

Manchester City

Last Season: 2nd

Key Player: Rose Lavelle

Breakout Star to Watch: Tyler Toland

Manager: Gareth Taylor

Major Ins: Chloe Kelly (Everton), Sam Mewis (North Carolina Courage), Rose Lavelle (OL Reign)

Major Outs: Tessa Wullaert (Anderlecht), Pauline Bremer (Wolfsburg), Lee Geum-min (Brighton - loan), Matilde Fidalgo (Benfica), Emma Bissell (Bristol City)

Manchester City have had a change at the top following last season’s departure of long-serving boss Nick Cushing, with Gareth Taylor now the one in charge. He has already been well armed with a stunning summer of recruitment that has brought USWNT superstars Sam Mewis and Rose Lavelle.

Chloe Kelly, last season’s WSL breakout star, is another coup in the market. But have City done enough to get ahead of a Chelsea side who look similarly formidable?

Prediction: 2nd

Manchester United

Last Season: 4th

Key Player: Millie Turner

Breakout Star to Watch: Ivana Fuso

Manager: Casey Stoney

Major Ins: Lucy Staniforth (Birmingham), Ona Batlle (Levante), Ivana Fuso (Basel)

Major Outs: Aurora Mikalsen (Tottenham), Aimee Palmer (Bristol City), Lizzie Arnot (Rangers), Siobhan Chamberlain (released)

Manchester United finished an impressive debut WSL season as ‘best of the rest’ in fourth place. Casey Stoney’s side competed well against the bigger sides, losing only narrowly to Manchester City, Arsenal and Chelsea, but appeared to run out of steam after December.

With no major losses and new faces adding depth, United will hope to find greater consistency this time around. Another fourth place is on the cards, but a smaller gap to the ‘big three’.

Prediction: 4th


Last Season: 5th

Key Player: Fara Williams

Breakout Star to Watch: Lily Woodham

Manager: Kelly Chambers

Major Ins: Emma Mitchell (Arsenal), Danielle Carter (Arsenal), Deanna Cooper (Chelsea), Erin Nayler (Bordeaux), Jess Fishlock (OL Reign - loan)

Major Outs: Jade Moore (Orlando Pride), Rachael Laws (Liverpool), Maz Pacheco (West Ham), Jo Potter (released), Sophie Howard (released), Remi Allen (released), Charlie Estcourt (released), Millie Farrow (released), Maxime Bennink (PEC Zwolle), Lisa-Marie Karlseng Utland (Rosenborg)

There has been a fair amount of movement in and out and Reading since the end of last season when the Royals impressively finished fifth. There have been a few significant losses in that, including Jade Moore. But former Arsenal forward Danielle Carter is a coup signing if she stays fit.

This a very experienced squad and Reading will have the quality to beat anyone on their day, but the competition for places between fourth and eighth is going to be fiercer than ever.

Prediction: 6th

Tottenham Hotspur

Last Season: 7th

Key Player: Rianna Dean

Breakout Star to Watch: Jessica Naz

Manager: Karen Hills & Juan Amoros

Major Ins: Kerys Harrop (Birmingham), Rachel Williams (Birmingham), Aurora Mikalsen (Man Utd), Alanna Kennedy (Orlando Pride - loan), Shelina Zadorsky (Orlando Pride - loan)

Major Outs: Sophie McLean (London Bees), Chloe Morgan (Crystal Palace), Coral-Jade Haines (Crystal Palace), Megan Wynne (Bristol City), Jenna Schillaci (retired)

Tottenham did well in their debut season in the WSL and first year as a professional club. There is nothing to suggest they will struggle now, although the quality that other similar clubs like Manchester United, Everton, West Ham and Reading have added will make it hard to improve.

Spurs have made quality additions of their own, with Rachel Williams a proven WSL veteran and Alanna Kennedy, Shelina Zadorsky bringing international quality from the NWSL.

Prediction: 8th

West Ham United

Last Season: 8th

Key Player: Rachel Daly

Breakout Star to Watch: Ruby Grant

Manager: Matt Beard

Major Ins: MacKenzie Arnold (Brisbane Roar), Maz Pacheco (Reading), Katerina Svitkova (Slavia Prague), Hawa Cissoko (ASJ Soyaux), Nor Mustafa (Eskilstuna United), Ruby Grant (Arsenal), Emily van Egmond (Orlando Pride - loan), Rachel Daly (Houston Dash - loan)

Major Outs: Katharina Baunach (retired), Anna Moorhouse (Bordeaux), Tessel Middag (Fiorentina), Esmee de Graaf (Leicester), Vyan Sampson (released), Ruesha Littlejohn (Leicester), Julia Simic (AC Milan), Filippa Wallen (Apollon Limassol)

It has been another summer of new faces at West Ham, who are looking to try and rise up the WSL table after another season in which they remained among the middle block of clubs. They were holding onto the coat tails of that group a little in 2019/20 and would hope to be more competitive.

The signing of England international Rachel Daly in particular is a major asset, although her loan deal only covers the first half of the season and there is a danger any impact is then lost.

Prediction: 7th

Predicted Final 2020/21 WSL Table

1. Chelsea

2. Manchester City

3. Arsenal

4. Manchester United

5. Everton

6. Reading

7. West Ham

8. Tottenham

9. Aston Villa

10. Brighton

11. Bristol City

12. Birmingham

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Source : 90min