Far behind the top four at the end of the 2020/21 season, but at the top of the teams below. That was the outcome for Everton when the Women’s Super League ended back in May.
Coming from what many would call a very successful transfer window, can Willie Kirk get these new signings to perform at the level to challenge Chelsea, Manchester City, and Arsenal?
Turning the tide
The expectations of the Merseyside team might never have been higher than they are right now. Kirk’s side looked decent already last season but struggled noticeably when going up against the top teams. It was not just the goal-scoring that lacked but the defence also took some hits with injuries that disturbed the consistency of working as a functional unit.
Injuries to striker Valerie Gauvin and centre-back Rikke Sevecke cut their seasons in two halves. The Dane looked very good at the beginning of last season, and was unlucky to have her form disturbed. A concussion suffered against Chelsea kept her out of play for weeks.
It would have been fair to say that early on, no one would have had those expectations for the Toffees playing in England’s highest division. Especially when looking at the investments made by the likes of the reigning league champions, the Sky Blues from Manchester, and the Gunners.
But now, this summer’s transfer window might have changed that.
A total of 12 players have left the Toffees for various reasons – end of loans, contract expirations, and retirement. The club hasn’t wasted time with replacing these players though, as nine new signings have been added.
Players in, players out
We were left to witness 12 departures from Merseyside.
- Ingrid Moe Wold (retired)
- Jill Scott (end of loan spell)
- Chaney Boye-Hlorkah (released/signed for Aston Villa)
- Alisha Lehmann (end of loan spell/signed for Aston Villa)
- Georgia Brougham (released/signed for Leicester City)
- Maeva Clemaron (released/signed for Tottenham Hotspur)
- Tinja Korpela (released/signed for Tottenham Hotspur)
- Molly Pike (released/signed for Leicester City)
- Hannah Coan (released/signed for Blackburn Rovers)
- Abbie-Leigh Stringer (released/signed for West Ham)
- Elise Hughes (released/signed for Charlton Athletic)
- Hayley Raso (released/signed for Manchester City)
The two biggest losses are perhaps Jill Scott and Hayley Raso. But, looking at the players that have been added into Willie Kirk’s squad, it’s hard not to get excited about what Everton might be able to accomplish for the upcoming season.
- Kenza Dali from West Ham United
- Courtney Brosnan from West Ham United
- Toni Duggan from Atletico Madrid
- Anna Anvegård from FC Rosengård
- Nathalie Björn from FC Rosengård
- Hanna Bennison from FC Rosengård
- Leonie Maier from Arsenal
- Aurora Galli from Juventus FC
- Cecilia Ran Runarsdottir from KIF Örebro
Player to watch
It’s hard not to mention Swedish national team striker Anna Anvegård here. She is the Damallsvenskan’s top scorer for two years running. In 2018, her first season playing in the Swedish top-flight, she managed to score 14 goals, finishing as the league’s second-highest scorer, before claiming top spot in the 2019 and 2020 seasons.
Sweden’s playmaker and Real Madrid forward, Kosovare Asllani praised Anvegård as one of the best box players and strikers she has ever seen in Swedish football.
Everton need a proper No.9 who cannot stop scoring and Anvegård could be the one. Last weekend she made her first appearance for the Toffees in their last preseason game against Hibernian FC Edinburgh.
It took Anvegård 13 minutes to find the back of the net and score her first goal for her new club. Everton won the game 2-0.
At the back, it’ll be interesting to see how a hopefully, more functional unit, will fare. Sevecke and Björn could work out as a centre-back pair, and Maier adds great experience as a defender at the highest level.
Last season’s standout performances
Everton managed to reach the FA Cup final at Wembley last season, from the postponed 2019/20 FA Cup. Their biggest achievement was when they beat the big Blues from London, Chelsea. The win at Goodison Park came in September, a 2-1 victory in the Cup quarter-final.
Few might have thought that Everton would be able to turn that game around when Chelsea’s Erin Cuthbert put the guests in an early lead. But two beautiful and well-timed headers, one from Lucy Graham and one from Valerie Gauvin, put an end to doubt. That performance left room for thoughts that Everton could have been up there to fight for the Champions League spots last season.
However, injuries to key players might have been one reason for Kirk’s side to lose track a bit. The season’s last game, a re-run of the quarter-final match at Goodison, saw Chelsea win handily. Even without having to perform 100%, they knocked Everton out in the fifth round of the 2020/21 FA Cup, winning 3-0 at home at Kingsmeadow.
Everton scored 39 league goals last season and conceded 30. Compared to the top three, where Chelsea scored 69, Man City 65, and Arsenal 63 the difference was quite telling. The top scorers for Everton were Izzy Christiansen and Simone Magill, scoring six goals each for the Toffees.
Willie Kirk might be having an exceptional and luxurious problem of which 11 players he is going to pick to start the WSL season.
Maybe the Toffees, on paper, are still a little bit behind the top three. But this season I think, that without the company from the teams below the top five, Everton have a really good chance to threaten and push themselves into the competition for a spot in the UEFA Champions League. That is if Kirk can be able to get all the new signings together and perform from day one. Having a lot of new players can be a challenge in that way.
With that being said, the most realistic take could be that in the end, Everton are going to compete for fourth place with Manchester United.