Football’s coming (back). League around the world have made steady progress in their efforts to return to a degree of normality behind closed doors, and the FA Women’s Super League is the next to receive the green light.
Chelsea, who were handed last season’s title based on points per game, will return hoping to silence the critics, while closest title rivals Manchester City will use the disappointment of 2019/20 to fuel their upcoming campaign.
Former England goalkeeper Rachel Brown-Finnis – who will be involved in BT Sport coverage of the FA WSL throughout the season – has spoken exclusively to RadioTimes.com, sharing her opinions on the teams and players to watch going into the new season.
She expects a three-horse race for the title with an outside contender seeking to close the gap, and predicts one club could be in real danger going into the new season.
Check out Brown-Finnis’ FA WSL predictions for the season ahead.
Chelsea. They won the league obviously last season and went toe-to-toe with Manchester City. They’re the top two.
I think Arsenal definitely will be back in the mix this year. They dropped outside of that top two last year but were fighting on in the Champions League and maybe that had its toll on them without a particularly big squad.
Joe Montemurro has added to his squad to ensure if they’re in that situation again it wouldn’t happen. Emma Hayes went through that dilemma at Chelsea three or four years ago where her squad was just too thin to compete on all levels. Look at the size and quality of her squad now – it’s unbelievable.
It’s not through any coincidence though, it’s exactly what she wanted to do, to prepare her club to compete on every level.
United have strengthened. They’re only in their second WSL season and the strides they’ve made, the players they’ve brought in, show that they mean business. They’re in their infancy with a young manager, they’ve got some homegrown players and some players who were there before they existed.
They lost their starting goalkeeper after having a baby, so they’ve had quite a few ups and downs but they just seem like a really strong outfit. They’ve got players who have now been a part of the club for two seasons, and that sense of ‘team’ and ‘belonging’. They’re underdogs while wearing a Manchester United shirt; they’re out fighting to prove that they are worthy of wearing that shirt and showing what that represents.
For Aston Villa, it’s a big step up (from the Championship) but I’ve seen the investment they’ve got, the infrastructure that they have, Eni Aluko as a sporting director which is a smart move as she’s played abroad as well in terms of recruitment. That takes all the headache away from the manager, so I don’t think they’ll struggle.
I fear for Birmingham. They’ve haemorrhaged players who have done everything to stay at the club – top players – who have felt they’ve had no other option but to leave the club. They’ve only got 14 players listed as signed, professional players.
But look at Tottenham when they came up last season. They got off the mark and got points on the board early and could cruise the second half of the season. It’s key for teams to get off the mark, score some goals, get points on the board. If you can score goals, you’ll be safe.
It adds such credibility to the league when you’ve got World Cup winners from last summer coming and joining at the peak of their careers. You’ve got Rose Lavelle and Sam Mewis who both signed for Manchester City.
These are players who are at their most exciting and want to get better by coming to the WSL. You’ve got Sam Kerr who has already signed for Chelsea, a number of Australians coming over to sign, like Steph Catley, players who are captains of their national teams.
I can’t wait for fans to get in, it’s great that the TV cameras are going to be there and people are going to be able to access football through The FA Player, which was a huge success last season, BT Sport and BBC. On every platform women’s football has become more accessible because people want to watch it because the product has never been better. Simple as that.
This season BT Sport is showing more Barclays FA Women’s Super League matches than ever before.
The season kicks off with Aston Villa vs Manchester City on Saturday 5 September live on BT Sport 2 and available for free on btsport.com, BT Sport App, YouTube and Facebook from 2pm.