As we enter a new decade, a lot can be expected from the Women’s Super League in 2020. The title race and relegation battle are too close to call – but will new recruits strengthen some WSL sides in their respective fight?
Manchester City: Right-back
Manchester City have struggled to find a solid right-back ever since the departure of Lucy Bronze.
Nick Cushing experimented with the likes of Gemma Bonner and Abbie McManus to fill the gap. But both are natural centre-backs so neither worked out in the long-term.
An ACL injury to new signing Aoife Mannion, who also typically plays at centre-back, has cruelly cut her debut season short.
Consequently, Cushing has had to get inventive with his selections, at times even having to play Janine Beckie in the right back role.
Relying on a winger to remain defensively sound throughout the season is far from ideal. Because of this, a specialist right-back should be high on Cushing’s priorities.
Manchester United: Left-back
Replacing a player of Alex Greenwood’s calibre was never going to be easy for Manchester United. Swedish signing Lotta Okvist is yet to show herself as an adequate replacement so far.
Time will tell whether she will be able to step up and become first choice left-back. Presently she has been usurped by Martha Harris, who is naturally more comfortable on the right-hand side.
Plus, if the recent fixture against Everton is anything to go by, Harris will struggle against quality opponents like Chloe Kelly.
Bristol City: Centre-back
Bristol City currently sit bottom of the WSL table and have already conceded 30 goals. This is already alarmingly close to the 34 they let in throughout the whole campaign last year.
The loss of Danique Kerkdijk to Brighton has proven a significant one. Replacement Jasmine Matthews has not replicated the form showed during her first spell for the Vixens.
Last season’s first choice left-back Poppy Pattinson is still working her way back to full fitness. She has made just two appearances for the club this season.
If Pattinson is able to get back in form, the absent left-back position will take care of itself.
Therefore the priority must be to recruit personnel to strengthen the centre of defence and at least slow down the flood of goals Bristol have been conceding.
Birmingham City: Striker
Five goals scored – two of which were against Bristol – is not a strong enough return for a side that finished fourth in the league last year.
Obviously the exodus of players over the summer can’t have done any good for the stability of the side. The Blues have failed to strengthen their side to match up to the calibre it was last season.
It has also meant turning to players like 16-year-old Lily Simkin due to lack of depth.
Birmingham currently sit fourth from bottom in the table, with games in-hand on their relegation rivals. But with upcoming fixtures against Arsenal, Manchester City and Reading, few people would expect them to take a single point in January.
This could consequently see the Midlands club gradually slip down the table and find themselves on the wrong side of the relegation dog fight.
They also possess the second lowest ‘Goals For’ tally in the league ahead only of Liverpool. With rumours circulating that they are trying to acquire the services of Swedish forward Madelen Janogy, the front-line is clearly an area recognised for improvement by Marta Tejedor.
It’s clear to see that the problem at Liverpool is not the defence. They have conceded 12 goals so far this season, making them the best side defensively outside the top five.
They have conceded just one goal in each of their respective games against the top three.
In contrast, the Merseyside club have only been able to find the back of the three times in the WSL this season.
Consequently, opponents can expect to almost certainly take home all three points against the Reds if they score just once. Liverpool must strengthen attacking options if they are to remain in the top flight next season.