Women’s Super League: Why this season is a must-watch as Chelsea start title defence against Arsenal

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 (The FA via Getty Images)
(The FA via Getty Images)

Kelly Simmons, the FA’s director of the Women’s Professional Game, is convinced this season’s Women’s Super League will be “special and significant” — and it is difficult to see it any other way.

The WSL’s landmark broadcast deal with the BBC and Sky Sports, worth £7-8million a season for three years, has provided the women’s game with the exposure it has long craved.

“There is a minimum of 57 live games across Sky and BBC,” says Simmons, ahead of the new season, which gets under way when Everton play Manchester United tonight.

“We know 18 of the 22 games on the BBC are going to be on BBC One or BBC Two, so there’s some fantastic slots for us to build awareness, build our fanbase and promote the WSL. It feels like a special and significant season for the women’s game and will really help break through into that regular, frequent and profiling coverage that we’ve been working towards.”

The broadcast deal has come at the perfect time because the WSL looks incredibly competitive going into the 2021-22 campaign.

Chelsea, coached by Emma Hayes, will again be the team to beat as the Blues target a third straight title. Chelsea, who completed a domestic Treble last season and also reached the Champions League Final, boast a formidable frontline which includes Fran Kirby and Sam Kerr, while the signing of Manchester United winger Lauren James, brother of Chelsea defender Reece, only adds to their talents.

There is, however, a strong chasing pack and Arsenal are one of those looking to knock Chelsea off their perch. There is a buzz around the Gunners following the appointment of Swede Jonas Eidevall, who has replaced Joe Montemurro, while the signings of Mana Iwabuchi and Nikita Parris have also raised hopes they can challenge for the title.

“I want to continue winning trophies and so do Arsenal,” said Parris, who left Lyon to move to north London.

Arsenal host Chelsea on Sunday in the pick of the fixtures from the opening weekend.

Manchester United and Manchester City will also expect to have a say in the title race, with City hoping to avoid a fifth successive runners-up finish in the WSL.

Their manager, Gareth Taylor, has bolstered his squad in the form of Jamaica striker Khadija Shaw and former Barcelona captain Vicky Losada, and City believe this could finally be their year.

Lower down the table, Tottenham and West Ham will also want to improve on their eighth and ninth-place finishes last season.

After a rocky start, the Hammers began to make progress under manager Olli Harder and the New Zealander wants to “shift the culture and playing style” at the club, and there is reason for optimism going forward.

Tottenham, too, are looking up, not down. Spurs have long been in Arsenal’s shadow when it comes to the women’s game, but England assistant coach Rehanne Skinner, who was hired by Spurs in November 2020, is starting to make her mark in north London.

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