Football News

5 WSL debutants we’re looking forward to seeing this season

By Harry Edwards

5 WSL debutants we're looking forward to seeing this season

Published: 15:29, 16 September 2022

In case you missed it, England are European champions and we’re all excited to see how the Women’s Super League benefits with the top flight returning this weekend.

Chelsea enter the season as defending champions once again having secured their third-successive title on a dramatic final day of the 2021/22 campaign, coming from behind to beat Manchester United 4-2 and pipping Arsenal by a single point.

At the other end of the table, Birmingham were relegated and have been replaced by two-time WSL champions Liverpool are who back in the top flight after two seasons in the Championship.

There have, of course, been changes in squads too not least with Ellen White and Jill Scott both retiring after helping England win Euro 2022. The likes of Ji So-yun, Keira Walsh and Jackie Groenen have all said goodbye to the WSL and will be big misses for their respective teams.

Some good incomings include the return to the WSL of Shanice van de Sanden while Nikita Parris has switched the red of Arsenal for the red of Man Utd. But what of the new arrivals who haven’t had a taste of the WSL? We’ve picked out five that we’re looking forward to seeing on these shores this season.

Lina Hurtig (Arsenal)

Signed from: Juventus

Arsenal had a fairly quiet transfer window in terms of new signings, with only three players coming in and one of those — Gio Queiroz — went straight back out on loan.

Kaylan Marckese was the first arrival at Meadow Park but the second brought the fanfare as Lina Hurtig joined from Italian champions Juventus. The Swedish international played 19 times in Serie A Femminile last season and featured across the attack, either as a forward or winger, which provides good coverage for Arsenal.

If Vivianne Miedema continues to drop deep into the No.10 role this season, Hurtig will likely form part of a fluid and frightening front four alongside the Dutchwomen, Euro 2022 Golden Boot winner Beth Mead and compatriot Stina Blackstenius.

“Lina is an excellent forward who will bring power and dynamism to our game,” Arsenal manager Jonas Eidevall said when Hurtig signed.

“She has shone in the Champions League and international tournaments and we are delighted that she will be lining up for Arsenal moving forward.”

Blackstenius and Hurtig were part of the Sweden attack at Euro 2022 and there Hurtig operated as a winger with Blackstenius through the middle, so Eidevall has a foundation on which he can build.

Aissatou Tounkara (Man Utd)

Signed from: Atletico Madrid

Mary Earps had an excellent summer at Euro 2022 and was rightly praised for her role in helping England win the tournament, keeping four clean sheets in six games and conceding two goals. And while Earps was good in the WSL last season, keeping 10 clean sheets in 22 matches (only Manuela Zinsberger kept more), there were still problems.

At Man Utd, Earps doesn’t have the defence she has as England goalkeeper, but Marc Skinner has looked to bolster his back line this season not least with the signing of Aissatou Tounkara.

The French centre-back didn’t play as much as she would have liked to at Atletico Madrid last season, losing her spot in the starting XI early in the campaign and never truly being able to recover. But that shouldn’t take away from her quality, as she showed at times at Euro 2022.

But the most important thing for Man Utd in Tounkara’s arrival is that she has Champions League experience for Atletico Madrid which could prove key in finally getting the Red Devils over the line and into the top three. Alongside Maya Le Tissier, Tounkara should make Man Utd’s defence a lot tougher to beat.

Mary Fowler (Man City)

Signed from: Montpellier

Man City brought in a large number of players but it feels as though a lot of focus on their summer will be on the outgoings. Gareth Taylor lost his first-choice midfield with Walsh signing for Barcelona for a world-record fee while Caroline Weir joined Real Madrid and Georgia Stanway left for Bayern Munich, both on free transfers.

There will surely be an inquest into why the three players were pushing for moves away/ didn’t sign new contracts, but there is no time for that now as the season begins.

One of Man City’s most exciting arrivals has to be Mary Fowler, one of the top young attacking talents in world football. Despite being just 19, Fowler is about to enter her fourth season of senior football, starting out in Australia’s A-League Women with Adelaide United before signing for Montpellier. She also made her senior international debut for Australia aged 15, making everyone feel old.

Last season the teenager was directly involved in seven goals in 17 games for Montpellier in Division 1 Feminine, but only six of those appearances were starts. For Montpellier, Fowler was often used as a winger/wide-forward but with Australia it’s more of a central supporting role behind or alongside Sam Kerr, so it will be interesting to see where she fits in long-term in Taylor’s plans.

Fowler has already made her Man City debut and started in central midfield against both Tomiris and Real Madrid in Champions League qualifying, but that didn’t bring the best out of the teenager. Nevertheless, it’s an exciting time to be in Man City’s attack which also features Lauren Hemp and Chloe Kelly.

Viviane Asseyi (West Ham)

Signed from: Bayern Munich

Another attacker to look forward to in the WSL this season is West Ham United’s new signing Viviane Asseyi.

Paul Konchesky’s side have massively added to their squad this season across the pitch as they look go push up the table rather than fight near the bottom. Asseyi is undeniably the star arrival and she’ll be looking for a bigger role at the Hammers than she did with Bayern Munich.

Up against a lot of attacking talent, Asseyi played 20 times in the Frauen Bundesliga last season but just seven of those appearances were starts and she amassed just 837 minutes – the second season at Bayern that she failed to crack the 1,000 mark. Nevertheless, Asseyi still managed to score five goals last season at an average of 0.53 per 90 minutes as one of Bayern’s wide forwards.

Asseyi was one of a few big names not taken to Euro 2022 by France manager Corinne Diacre, alongside Amandine Henry and Eugenie Le Sommer, but that has just given her a summer off to get fresh ahead of her WSL debut.

Kadeisha Buchanan (Chelsea)

Signed from: Lyon

Chelsea have one of the best attacks in European football and they fired the Blues to a WSL and FA Cup double last season, but Emma Hayes is never happy, always wanting to improve.

While the Blues have bolster their squad in forward positions the biggest arrival at Kingsmeadow this season, and perhaps the biggest in the WSL, is that of Kadeisha Buchanan. The Canadian centre-back is one of the best in the world in her position and last season picked up her fifth Champions League title to go with the five Division 1 Feminine trophies, three French Cups and Olympic gold medal.

With Buchanan, Chelsea will now have a defence consisting of the Canadian, Millie Bright and Magdalena Eriksson that many opposition attackers will be scared of facing. Not only is Buchanan a rock defensively, but she can start attacks from the back, something Chelsea missed at times last season.

For Chelsea, who had the second-best defence in the WSL last season conceding 11 goals in 22 games, adding Buchanan to their back line could be the final piece they need to finally win the Champions League and dominate England with a bit more certainty.

And Hayes wasn’t beating around the bush when Chelsea signed Buchanan, stating: “Kadeisha is a serial winner at the top of her game and I have no doubt we are signing a world-class player who has proven herself on the world stage.”