Picking a team of the season so far, a third of the way into a campaign that bears the scars of an elongated summer break, short pre-season and fan and atmosphere-free grounds, is not easy.
It is made harder still by the fact that in the Women’s Super League there would be a very legitimate case for the starting XI and bench to be made up entirely of Manchester United players. The achievement of Casey Stoney in building a brand new team and turning them into unbeaten table-toppers in the space of three seasons is really quite incredible. What is more remarkable is that it is hard to highlight individual performances or players who have lifted the team. Instead, they are an extremely effective and organised unit.
It all means that there are perhaps too few Red Devils in the XI I have picked because in the fiercely competitive world of meaningless best XIs, team players often get pushed aside by individuals who have helped to power their sides through games.
I will probably have to bear the wrath of the vocal Barmy Army while Chelsea fans can rightly bemoan the absence of many of their stars, in particular the injured Fran Kirby and terrier-like Erin Cuthbert.
Goalkeeper: Sandy MacIver (Everton) Is unlikely to push aside the more long-term heir apparent to Karen Bardsley for England, Manchester City’s Ellie Roebuck, but the 22-year-old’s transition from Clemson University, South Carolina to Everton No 1 has been impressive. It is perhaps a little unfair to have her edge the rest for her FA Cup final performance in a 3-1 defeat to City, but I make the rules.
Right-back: Ashleigh Neville (Tottenham) Strong in the tackle, great positional awareness and fast going forward, Neville has really grown into the WSL having climbed up from the third tier. Two goals in two games against Reading and Bristol City, both times to earn Spurs a point, shows she is stepping in where the forwards have struggled.
Centre-back: Leah Williamson (Arsenal) No centre-back looks quite as comfortable with the ball at their feet. She has reached the staggering milestone of 150 appearances in red at just 23 and looks to be forming a formidable partnership with Lotte Wubben-Moy. The pair were impressive in stifling Chelsea’s formidable forwards at Borehamwood.
Centre-back: Magda Eriksson (Chelsea) It is very difficult to choose between Eriksson and her partner at the heart of Chelsea’s defence, England’s Millie Bright. The Blues have conceded only three times in their six games and Eriksson, who has a hawk-like reading of the game and an eye for a pass, has been critical to an unbeaten league run that stretches back to January 2019.
Left-back: Emma Mitchell (Reading) Having left Arsenal for Tottenham on loan, Mitchell seemed to be rediscovering her love of football with regular starts and after a permanent move to Reading, she is starting to look back to her best. A flashed cross for Brooke Chaplen to head in against Spurs hinted at how much more she has to give.
Right wing: Chloe Kelly (Manchester City) Kelly’s arrival in Manchester was overshadowed somewhat by the entrance of US World Cup winners Rose Lavelle and Sam Mewis this summer. The slight but sturdy forward, who often plays wide, has frequently been City’s best threat going forward and she has four goals in seven league games to show for it.
Centre midfield: Alessia Russo (Manchester United) Another recruit from an American university, Russo has made the transition into the WSL look scarily easy. She had scored three goals in four league games and was starting to establish herself as United’s engine in the middle before needing surgery on a hamstring injury.
Centre midfield: Sam Mewis (Manchester City) The US women’s national team’s “tower of power” has easily proved to be the most imposing midfield presence in the league. She is so much more than her height, though, and her powerful driving runs caused City’s derby rivals all kinds of problems in their frantic 2-2 draw.
Left wing: Caitlin Foord (Arsenal) Foord has refound her rhythm having ended the brutal cycle of back-to-back leagues in Australia, the US and a stint in Japan. She has four goals and five assists in seven games and has linked up incredibly well with Vivianne Miedema.
Striker: Vivianne Miedema (Arsenal) The first name on this abstract team sheet. Miedema broke the all-time WSL goalscorer record with a hat-trick against Tottenham to take her tally to 52. She stalks the box, holds up the ball, creates space, gets back and nine times out of 10 you’d expect her to score.
Striker: Valérie Gauvin (Everton) The France international spearheaded Everton’s rapid start to the season, providing three goals and one assist in her five league games. A muscle injury picked up in the FA Cup final has probably sidelined her until after Christmas and the team have suffered a first league defeat and second draw since.
Substitutes Hannah Hampton (Birmingham), Amy Turner (Manchester United), Katie McCabe (Arsenal), Siri Worm (Tottenham), Ella Toone (Manchester United), Izzy Christiansen (Everton), Claudia Walker (Birmingham).