Liverpool FC Women 2022-23 Preview
After over two months of pre-season preparations, Liverpool FC Women are finally about to kick off their 2022-23 WSL season. The Reds are back in the top flight this year and looking to do more than merely survive. Ahead of the new season the TLO staff took some time to dig into some of the big storylines from the offseason, talk about the things we’re looking forward to this year, examine potential reasons for concern, and more.
Part 1: Offseason Additions
There is usually quite a bit of turnover from season to season in the Women’s game, with most contracts only guaranteed a year at a time. Matt Beard was able to keep the majority of his FA Women’s Championship title winning side together, with just four senior players leaving along with one Academy graduate.
In their stead, the Reds signed four players, all of whom should be considered significant additions. Eartha Cumings will back up Rachel Laws in net but should push the veteran for minutes. Emma Koivisto has starter potential at right wing-back, while Gilly Flaherty has a wealth of top flight experience at center back. Shanice van de Sanden has also returned to the Reds’ exciting and potent attack. Who is the signing you’re most excited about?
Gabe: It’s hard not to say Shanice van de Sanden. In the few glimpses we’ve been given during preseason, she has stepped right into a very good attack and immediately elevated the level of play with her speed, vision, and delivery. Forwards Katie Stengel and Leanne Kiernan should be salivating at the thought of the service in the box after the Dutch winger skins a fullback and forces extra defenders to step to her.
Steph: Listen, we all know that the answer is Van de Sanden. She understands the club, having already played here for two seasons. And more importantly, she’s just a winner. A Champions League winner and Division 1 Feminine league winner. Her return feels like a statement that Liverpool are a team with ambitions of reclaiming their former greatness. She can hopefully be the final piece to take Matt Beard’s attack from WSL2 level to the top tier place that it will need to be if they want to guarantee they keep their spot in the top flight.
Ritika: Ban de Sanden. Done. It’s good to have her back and it feels like a testament to, and a promise of, what we can do again.
Part 2: Current Squad
Manager Matt Beard has strengthened an already a very solid side. The move back into the WSL is a big one, though, with the team facing some of the best players in the world week in and week out. How do you feel about the current composition of the squad?
Steph: I feel like I’m never the greatest judge of these things. However, I will say that I like how Beard has put together a multi-faceted side, particularly in attack and defense, that he could pick and choose from to suit any situation. Kiernan and Stengel pose different threats up front, while in defense they have dynamic wing-backs and a unit that went two months without conceding a goal last season. The step up to the WSL will be big, though, and we’ll have to see how these players stack up against some of the best in the world.
Gabe: I think Matt Beard and the backroom staff have done a very nice job of building a squad that’s both strong and deep, and has done well to sign key players to new extended contracts. The attack in particular seems stacked with players who can be swapped in and out without any real drop in quality, with players like Yana Daniels, Razza Roberts, Carla Humphrey, and Megan Campbell offering plenty of positional flexibility as well. The only area that seems a little light is central midfield. There are currently four players for two spots, but three of them are more attack-minded. It would be nice to see another controller like Ceri Holland brought in for cover.
Ritika: I wouldn’t mind a few additional signings in midfield, as Gabe already mentioned. Honestly, the squad that Beard has built out is a solid one and I’m excited to see how the team stacks up against some very, very strong WSL sides.
Part 3: Reasons for Excitement
There’s a lot to be excited about ahead of the season kicking off. We’re back in the WSL, there have been some big signings, a great young core, the return of a derby at Anfield. Who or what has you most excited for this season?
Gabe: I know this is kind of sad, but honestly I’m most excited that we can WATCH EVERY MATCH THIS SEASON!!! No more hoping and waiting to hear that a match will be streamed at the last minute, every single WSL game is available live (Paramount + and FA Player in the US; Sky, BBC, FA Player in the UK).
Ritika: We’re back! It’s so good to be back!
Steph: It feels like the wait has been interminable. After such a huge release of tension when the Reds got promoted, I was ready for the season to start immediately. I am very interested in seeing how Beard has tweaked the team and formations to take on more elite competition.
Part 4: Reasons for Concern
While I think we are all hopeful, is there anything that gives you concern about the level of competition, a particular player or position, etc?
Gabe: Liverpool have a wealth of experience in central defense, but as a team there is not much speed on the position. Players like Niamh Fahey and Gilly Flaherty read the game very well and are great with positioning, but they will be dealing with some very fleet-footed attackers in the WSL. Assuming Matt Beard sticks with the 3-4-3, there is not much cover in midfield to help protect the back three from counter attacks, especially when the wing backs are pushed high.
Steph: While a promotion and a trophy are always welcomed, I’m concerned that a bad start will derail our confidence early on and burn too quickly through the post-victory glow.
Ritika: Gabe’s mentioned the general issues with the squad, so I’m going to go ahead and mention a concern we’ve had for several years now: Prenton Park. The pitch has posed a lot of problems for multiple teams, and many visiting teams have said it just isn’t the kind of pitch befitting a WSL team.
Part 5: Season Expectations
Liverpool won their division last season, but it is a big step up back into the WSL. Where do you think they finish?
Gabe: It is a big step from the FA Women’s Championship to the WSL, as we saw by the struggles of Leicester City last year. Still, I think Matt Beard has a very solid and settled squad that can battle with most teams in the league. I’m saying Liverpool finish solidly mid-table in 6th (of 12).
Steph: I want to see that we’ve learned from last season and are progressing on. I’d like to see the new signings make an impact and for Liverpool to prove that they are capable of holding their own in the WSL. Gabe mentioned mid-table. That sounds great to me. A solid run in the domestic cup wouldn’t hurt either.
Ritika: Listen, I just want us to not get relegated again. I think we can finish mid-table but I’ll be happy if we remain in the league and use that momentum to keep attracting excellent talent.
Part 6: Predicted Starting XI
Assuming no injuries, what do you think is the starting XI against Reading?
Gabe: Laws; Koivisto, Flaherty, Fahey, Matthews, Hinds; Holland, Kearns; van de Sanden, Stengel, Lawley
Steph: Laws; Koivisto, Flaherty, Fahey, Matthews, Hinds; Holland, Kearns; van de Sanden, Kiernan, Lawley
Ritika: Laws; Koivisto, Flaherty, Fahey, Matthews, Hinds; Holland, Kearns; van de Sanden, Stengel, Lawley