The WSL season is FINALLY (almost) here! With a Women’s World Cup this summer, as well as ANOTHER international break at the end of September, the start to the season was pushed back to October. The Liverpool FC Women will kick off their season on Sunday as they travel to London to take on a very tough Arsenal side in front of over 45,000 at the Emirates stadium. With the season quickly approaching, we’ll give you a primer on the things to know about this year’s iteration of the Reds.
Players Out (10)
- Katie Stengel (Transfer)
- Megan Campbell
- Rhiannon Roberts
- Megan Campbell
- Leighanne Robe
- Ashley Hodson
- Carla Humphrey
- Rylee Foster
- Eartha Cumings (Transfer)
- Charlotte Clarke
- Natasha Dowie (End of loan/retirement)
Players In (7)
- Teagan Micah
- Grace Fisk
- Jenna Clark
- Marie Höbinger
- Sophie Roman Haug (Transfer)
- Mia Enderby
- Natasha Flint
Liverpool outperformed the expectations of most last season, finishing 7th with a very veteran squad. As manager Matt Beard looks to build a side able to compete for a spot in European competition, he expressed his desire to replace and ageing core with players more in their prime and ready to compete for starting positions. Most of the outgoing players were older rotational players or reserve players. The biggest loss will certainly be striker Katie Stengel, who was given the opportunity to transfer to the NY/NJ Gotham in the NWSL.
The ten outgoing players were replaced with seven incoming players, all of which look to be in contention for significant minutes. Teagan Micah was brought in to compete with the ageing Rachael Laws for the starting spot in net. Grace Fisk and Jenna Clark will likely be in the mix for regular starting spots in the center of defense, with Fisk being a known commodity in the WSL after an impressive season with West Ham last year. Austrian Marie Höbinger is an exciting midfielder who could immediately push for a starting role.
Sophie Roman Haug will be the main player tasked with replacing the goals provided by Stengel. The Norwegian striker , who was reported to have been brought in for a club record transfer fee of £100,000, is a good finisher in the box and should thrive if given service. Natasha Flint provides a WSL proven forward who can partner with Roman Haug or provide some quality depth. Mia Enderby is an exciting young player who will likely provide a spark off the bench.
Big Story Lines
The (Re)acquisition of Melwood
Earlier this summer, it was announced that Liverpool had purchased the Melwood training facility back as a home base for the LFC Women. The Women had previously been training at Tranmere’s training ground with less than ideal facilities and training pitches. The Melwood facility was rehabilitated over the summer, and the squad moved in just a couple of weeks ago. Having an elite facility has already been noted as a big boon to recruitment, and it signals that the Liverpool ownership are finally ready to take the LFC Women seriously. Next step is a new home ground.
Matt Beard Contract Extension
The manager was brought in to help guide Liverpool back to the heights he oversaw when the club won back to back WSL titles under his tutelage. In his two years since rejoining the club, he earned promotion back to the WSL and saw the team finish solidly mid-table in the top flight the following season. He was rewarded with a contract extension ahead of his third year back with the club as he looks to continue to build to club into one that competes for titles again.
Can Liverpool Start Well?
Like last season, Liverpool have a difficult stretch of games to start things off. Matt Beard has quite a few new faces he has been working to integrate into the team, and likely the starting line up during the long preseason. If Liverpool are to challenge for a spot in the top four, as Beard has stated is the goal, the Reds will need to get some results out of matches against teams that finished above them last season (Arsenal, Aston Villa, and Everton) in the opening month of play.
Where will the goals come from?
Liverpool have lost their top goal threats from the last two seasons through transfer (Katie Stengel), long term injury (Leanne Kiernan, Melissa Lawley, Shanice van de Sanden), and retirement (Natasha Dowie). Sophie Roman Haug will be expected to pick up the mantle from Stengel as the line-leader and main goal threat, but Flint has shown during preseason she can find the back of the net against quality opponents. Liverpool struggled to create goals during preseason, only notching more than one score against Leicester City.
Melissa Lawley looks to be close to a return having joined training recently. Her return would provide a creative boost for the club that was sorely lacking at times last season. The biggest question is when Leanne Kiernan will return, and when she does, can she return to top goal scoring form after more than a year missed from injury.
Expected Line Up (3-5-2)
GK - Teagan Micah
CB - Grace Fisk, Gemma Bonner, Jenna Clark
WB - Emma Koivisto, Taylor Hinds
MF - Ceri Holland, Fuka Nagano, Marie Höbinger
ST - Natasha Flint, Sophie Roman Haug
With the quality of the players brought in this summer, expect to see several new faces as regular starters. Teaghan Micah didn’t have much of a preseason to get bedded in due to the World Cup, but it seems likely she’ll take the starting gloves sooner rather than later. Grace Fisk and Jenna Clark both seem like they have nailed down starting spots in the center of defense, leaving one additional spot for veterans Gemma Bonner and Jasmine Matthews. Club captain Niamh Fahey is out for 6-8 weeks with a calf injury.
Emma Koivisto was one of Liverpool’s most important and impressive players last season. Her ability to combine and progress the ball, as well as put in solid service from the right, will be a big boon again to the attack. Taylor Hinds had a step back last season in her real first test in the WSL, but she is a good leader on the pitch with plenty of room to grow.
It may surprise some, but Marie Höbinger looks to have done enough to earn a starting spot over Scouser Missy Bo Kearns. Höbinger has been an absolute live wire all preseason, showing to be a creative force as well as a fantastic presser. Fuka Nagano is the lynch pin in the midfield, controlling the tempo of the match. Her presence lets Ceri Holland cover pretty much every blade of grass on the pitch.
Up top, the line will likely be led by two new players Sophie Roman Haug and Natasha Flint. Flint could be replaced by a speedier/craftier option like Leanne Kiernan, Shanice van de Sanden, or Melissa Lawley once they are back fit.
Liverpool’s goal last year was to just make sure they stayed up in the WSL after their return to the top flight. After a slow start to the season, the Reds began to gel and churn out results through the winter and spring. In the end, they finished a comfortable seventh. Liverpool showed they could play with the top teams on any given day, but struggled with consistency.
This year, with a bevy of signings expected to make an instant impact and a new training facility, Matt Beard and his side have an aim of challenging for a spot to qualify for European competition. It will be a tall task as both Chelsea and Arsenal have recruited very well, and the likes of Manchester City, Manchester United, and Everton all have strong sides as well. Liverpool finished 23 points behind Arsenal in the third qualifying spot, and while I believe there will be a marked improvement, it won’t be enough.
My expectation: 5th
How do you see it going for the Reds this season. What are your biggest worries and the things you are most excited about?