A new season brings new possibilities for Chelsea. Emma Hayes’ domestic treble winners will look to both defend and build upon their prolific trophy cabinet during the 2021/22 season.
Chelsea wrapped up last year as WSL champions, but ended their most successful Champions League campaign in defeat against Barcelona. The fallout of the European final was a devastating one for the boss and her team.
A lack of depth in defence was Chelsea’s Achilles heel last year, especially with the injury of Maren Mjelde. However, the signing of Dutch international Aniek Nouwen, previously of PSV, will be crucial for the Blues.
Nouwen is an excellent addition to Chelsea’s backline. But with the departure of veteran defender Hannah Blundell to Manchester United, there is still a top-heaviness to Hayes’ squad.
Lauren James is also an exciting addition however it might be some time before her match debut due to persistent injury.
Hayes said: “[Lauren’s] long-term future is bright with us but we need to make sure that she’s got everything in place so that she can succeed on the pitch.”
The remainder of contracts went out to secure the futures of Chelsea’s brightest youth stars. Charlotte Wardlaw, Emily Orman, and Aggie Beever-Jones will be spending the season away on loan. Jorja Fox signed a deal on her 18th birthday to join the senior team.
The transfer window has been comparatively low-key after the huge signings of Pernille Harder and Sam Kerr for the 2020/21 season. Is it going to be enough to fortify the Blues in bidding for another Champions League final?
Chelsea’s pre-season games were stunted by the Olympic duties of eleven senior squad members. Friendlies were played against Arsenal, newly-promoted Leicester (behind closed doors), and Rangers. A final fixture with Aston Villa at home saw the full squad back in business, resulting in a 1-0 win for the Blues.
The absence of key players including Kerr, Fran Kirby, and skipper Magdalena Eriksson meant that the summer series was a testing one for Hayes’ champions. Victories were secured, but it was hard to see the total domination usually displayed by the Blues.
On the bright side, there was great Olympic success for Chelsea: Kerr captained Australia to narrowly miss out on a bronze medal.
Swedes Eriksson, Jonna Andersson and Zecira Musovic finished with silver medals. Canadian Jessie Fleming came home as a first time Olympic Champion.
The squad have demonstrated their dedication to international duty this summer. However, they will have their work cut out for them ahead of some challenging fixtures.
Chelsea meet Arsenal again for their opening match at the Emirates. They are undefeated by their London rivals in almost three years. However, Arsenal’s own impressive summer signings including Japan’s Mana Iwabuchi have bolstered their previously weaker side.
Chelsea might be taking an “if it’s not broken, don’t fix it,” approach to this season, with most of their title-winning squad staying put. This could be a wise move, as much of the experimentation done last year should now be paying off.
However, the investment of other top WSL clubs including Man City and Everton is not to be underestimated.