Chelsea Women are about to embark a huge campaign. New signing have been sorted, pre-season complete and Community Shield is already secured. The quest will now be to retain the WSL Crown, and then strive for European Glory and a maiden Women’s Champions League. With the WSL season having just started, it’s time to take stock from the opening game and also look ahead to the rest of it to see what could lie ahead for Chelsea.
Whilst last season ended in somewhat strange fashion due to the pandemic, it was ultimately a hugely successful ones for the Blues. The season started off with a 1-0 win over London rivals Tottenham at Stamford Bridge. The goal was scored by now PFA Player of The Year Beth England. She went onto become the top scorer in all competitions for the club and a key part of the unbeaten campaign. The Blues also managed to finally win the Continental Cup, a cup that had alluded them for years. To make it even sweeter, it was won against rivals Arsenal who had won the same cup many times.
With a title winning side, you may wish to stick with the same side or change things up. Emma Hayes has gone with the latter and added strength and depth to an already strong team. After a hiatus from the UWCL, Chelsea will be back in the competition so need the depth to compete in all 4 competitions (WSL, FA Cup, Conti Cup and UWCL). After coming close to beating European giants Lyon last time around, the goal now is to win the whole competition.
UWCL football was also a pull for the signings that were brought in. Melanie Leupolz and Pernille Harder have experience in this competition. This will be vital if a maiden European triumph is to be on the cards. Silvana Flores was in Arsenal’s academy and left after getting no senior minutes last season. She had been playing in the Mexico U20 team and earning call ups to the senior squad. It’s unsure just how much she might feature in the senior team this season but with Chelsea’s track record, she could feature sooner than we think. Previous young prospects have gone on to do well in their careers whether with us or elsewhere. Last season saw the likes of Charlotte Fleming, Emily Orman, Charlotte Wardlaw and Emily Murphy all be brought through from the academy by Emma. Fleming recently signed her first professional contract and will be a great addition to the midfield. Talking of a young Fleming, Jessie has joined us here from UCLA Bruins. Despite being 22, she’s already had 70+ caps for Canada after making her debut seven years ago. There’s not many, if any, professional football opportunities in Canada hence the American college career. Usually, those who do that go through the NWSL Draft but she opted out of this year’s one in order to finish her degree. This looks to have been an incredibly smart move and quite a coup for Chelsea. She looks to be a future superstar and of course, has been compared to the Canadian legend Christine Sinclair.
Finally, Niamh Charles was signed from Liverpool. They were relegated last season which looked likely despite the way the season ended. Liverpool have helped before either with signing players that just didn’t seem to have a future here or signing them on loan with them developing hugely. The latter was true with Beth England whose loan there helped her to become the incredible player she is now. Niamh Charles is another young player that could develop well under Hayes’ tutelage.
With just one more title, Chelsea could become the most successful team in WSL history usurping Arsenal and could even become the second English team to win the UWCL after the Gunners’ win in the 2006-07 season. The mix of experience and young prospects looks to be an incredibly smart move for now and also the future dominance of the club.
Unfortunately with such signings, this means that some players will need to move on and there’s been a few moves out. Adelina Engman had only spent a couple of seasons with the team and was well loved. She’s now moved onto Montpellier. Deanna Cooper was an astute signing by Emma Hayes after seeing her play for then WSL2 team London Bees who knocked us out of the Conti Cup years ago. She stepped up incredibly well and will be a great signing for Reading. Anita Asante had an unlucky time at Chelsea with her ACL injury in 2018 hampering her time here. At 35, she’s still looking for regular game time after that horrendous injury and is an incredible coup for newly promoted Anita Asante. Going back onto young players, whilst some have made it through, some do go onto other teams rather than through us. London City Lionesses, a team to keep an eye on, signed Lilly Pursey from our academy.
Finally, the biggest loss to the team was the departure of fan favourite Ramona Bachmann. Rammy joined us from Wolfsburg, sometimes our bogey team and was someone you could rely on to fight for every ball and really encapsulate the team. She provided us with many memorable moments but sadly, it seemed something wasn’t right last season. She’d made 19 appearances in all competitions with just 10 starts. She’s moved onto PSG to go and rival Lyon in Division 1. Whilst it’s tough to see players leave, they always go with our blessing…apart from when they score against us (for example, Gilly Flaherty but she didn’t celebrate and we joked about it afterwards).
Players to watch
Of course, all the young signings from elsewhere or our academy will be ones to watch to see how they progress but a couple of players already in the team will be ones to watch out for.
Sam Kerr had a tough time to adjust last season. Difference in climate, difference in playing style and learning how her teammates work. It’s a lot to adjust to despite the geographical move. After switching between NWSL and W League for many seasons, Sam finally got a rest and a pre season to go through. Whilst she did have a nightmare in the Community Shield, she’s already clocked up her first goal of the season in the first league game. She will be a lot more settled now and her previous goal scoring form would mean an incredible season here if she can replicate it.
Her strike partner in the league game against Manchester United is another to watch. Fran Kirby provided the assist then and after barely featuring last season, feels like a new signing. She’s already a Chelsea legend since joining in 2015. She is truly loved by all at the club including Kerr who recently described her as a superstar. Sadly, she suffered through pericarditis last season which explained her huge absence. She was close to retiring due to illness and went through an incredibly tough time, feeling like a zombie at times. However, she’s made a full recovery and looks to be back to the Fran Kirby we know and love. In fact, she could be on for one of her best seasons here. Whilst we know she can score goals, and maybe needs to be more selfish at times, she really can create incredible chances for others and could be the key to unlock stubborn teams.
Prediction for the season ahead
The first game in the league saw us draw 1-1 with Manchester United. A United team that has invested in their team amongst many others. Whilst it was our inability to take our chances that foiled us this time, it’ll be a good idea to be wary. Almost all teams look to have heavily invested into their teams and this season will be the most competitive season ever. However, we have done so too despite our double winning season and have already won more silverware. That was a failure in previous seasons after we’d won the league. That’s a promising look ahead and Emma will push the team to try and win every trophy this season.
With the season cut short last time, this team will want to win the league again and be able to do so in front of fans. The other cups will be less certain but the objective will be to win all and I feel like that is quite likely. In terms of the UWCL, the Lyon stronghold on it looks to be close to over with recent departures. I can see us winning the league again but it’s likely to come down to a final day game much like the first WSL trophy that we won in 2015. Strap in for the ride as it’s a long and bumpy one ahead. That’s the Chelsea way.