A thrilling Barclays Women’s Super League season reaches its exciting conclusion this weekend. We look back at the people and moments that defined it
By Chris Miller, Writer
The Women’s Super League entered a new era this year, with dozens of matches shown live on Sky Sports and the BBC, giving viewers lots more opportunities to see the commitment, skills and sheer class of the league’s players and coaches. Ahead of the UEFA Euro 22 tournament taking place in England this summer, this raised the profile of women’s football like never before – plus it made for fantastic entertainment!
Arsenal and Chelsea have spent the season locked together in a battle for the title, with Manchester United and Tottenham on their heels. After a disastrous, injury-hit start, Manchester City propelled themselves up the table and into Champions League qualifying contention, while there have been some impressive showings from the likes of Brighton, Reading and West Ham.
The final round of matches takes place on Sunday 8 May, with live coverage on Sky Sports Football/HD and BBC One HD. So who has exemplified the brilliance of the WSL this year? We looked back over the season to pick some of our favourite players and moments.
Player of the season
There’s certainly a case to be made for Chelsea’s irrepressible Sam Kerr, the Australian striker who bangs in goals for fun, as well as Man Utd’s classy midfielder Ella Toone, but Beth Mead gets our vote.
The Arsenal forward was disappointed to be left out of the GB Olympics squad last summer but bounced back in terrific style, kicking off with two goals in the 3-2 win over Chelsea and sustaining her high-energy, creative game throughout the season. Along the way she scored her 50th WSL goal and broke the all-time league record for assists – not to mention bagging three hat-tricks on England duty.
Coach of the season
Emma Hayes was rewarded for her success with Chelsea with the prestigious The Best FIFA Coach award in 2021, and she’s had another impressive season with the Blues. But she’s coaching a very well-funded team in a league with a big gap between the haves and have-nots, so we’re more inclined to award this to Tottenham’s Rehanne Skinner.
Without anything like the resources available to Arsenal, Chelsea and Man City, Skinner has led Spurs (in only their third WSL season) into the top half with smart tactics based on a solid defence – they’ve conceded more than two only twice. And her team achieved some outstanding results, including a win at City and a hard-fought draw against Arsenal.
Most improved player of the season
When Barcelona thrashed Chelsea in last year’s Champions League final, fingers were pointed at the Blues’ shaky defence – particularly Jess Carter. The former Birmingham player was repeatedly at fault as Barca raced into a four-goal lead within 36 minutes.
Fast-forward a year and Carter is now a mainstay of the best defence in the WSL, forming an imposing partnership with Millie Bright that’s also been recreated at international level. Comfortable at full-back or in central defence, she’s unrecognisable from the player left helpless on the Gothenburg turf last May and should be a shoo-in for England’s Euros squad.
Disappointment of the season
Long established in the top flight of women’s football, Everton hoped this would be the season they broke into the upper echelon of the WSL. They’d signed a clutch of European stars – including the Swedish trio of Anna Anvegård, Nathalie Björn and Hanna Bennison – to add to the proven firepower of France striker Valérie Gauvin and returning club legend Toni Duggan.
But manager Willie Kirk was sacked after five games with the team in eighth, and his highly rated replacement Jean-Luc Vasseur was emphatically unable to reproduce the success he achieved with Lyon. He got the boot in February after the Toffees dropped to 10th, while Gauvin hotfooted it to the US. Next season can’t come soon enough…
Goal of the season
This year saw some superb long-distance chipped goals, notably Kayleigh Green’s for Brighton at Birmingham, and one from Reading’s Natasha Dowie at home to Leicester. For its sublime technique and clinical precision, however, the best was Caroline Weir’s in the Manchester derby.
At 0-0 and with time running out, the Scotland midfielder robbed Katie Zelem and surged forward. Just outside the penalty area she slowed, swung that refined left foot and executed a perfect 20-yard shot just beyond the reach of keeper Mary Earps. It was a goal made no less special by the fact that she’d scored almost exactly the same one against United the previous year.
When are the final matches of the WSL season on TV?
Two matches will be selected for live TV coverage on Sunday 8 May.
One starts at 11am on Sky Sports Football/HD (CH 513/503) and the other is on from 11.45am on BBC One HD (CH 101).
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