After a hectic summer of restructuring and transfers, the new season is almost upon us and a team that will be raring to get on the pitch is Chelsea.
The Blues were far and away the best team in the league last season and possibly one of the best in the WSL era. However, it may be tougher this time around to replicate the unbeaten season but they do look to be one of the favourites to lift the trophy.
As previously mentioned, Chelsea managed to go the whole season unbeaten but it wasn’t as easy as it may have looked for the Blues. The season saw them go head to head with Manchester City who they exchanged places with at times.
It was an interesting campaign and the games in the league between the two couldn’t separate them. Ultimately it came down to Chelsea’s consistency with results and City slipping up.
In the Continental Cup, Chelsea made some good progress but were knocked out in the semi-final by the Citizens.
In the FA Cup, they kicked off with a 10-0 thumping of London Bees. Since the loss on penalties in the Continental Cup a while ago, Chelsea have strengthened whereas London Bees just aren’t the side they were before, unfortunately.
They then dispatched Doncaster 6-0, a game which seems to be a regular occurrence. Liverpool were the next opponents and the Blues progressed with a 3-0 win. Then came another familiar match in the FA Cup as Chelsea faced City.
The last time they have met at this stage of the trophy was in the 2016 FA Cup. City took the lead but the Blues fought back. Firstly, a well placed free kick from Ji So Yun took the match to extra time and then a 120th-minute winner from Fran Kirby sent the Chelsea faithful into wild celebrations and City out. History seemed to almost repeat itself. Kirby haunted City again with two goals on the day to send Chelsea to another final.
Their opponents in the final were the same as the previous time, Arsenal, meaning the Blues were out to exact revenge.
They did so after a goalless first half. However, the Ramona Bachmann and Kirby overdrive came into effect. Bachmann scored a double in 12 minutes. Arsenal then got back into it after some great skill by Beth Mead and Vivianne Miedema finished off the move by pulling one back. However, the cup was secured not long after with Kirby making her mark with a great goal.
Chelsea made history in the UWCL by making it further than they ever had before and joined Manchester City as semi-finalists. They saw off Bayern Munich on away goals, Rosengard 4-0 on aggregate and Montpellier 5-1 on aggregate. Unfortunately their foes Wolfsburg were yet again too strong for them and their journey ended there.
End of an era
The transfer dealings this summer have had an end of an era feel with some experienced players that have helped to secure previous silverware departing.
The longest serving player was Claire Rafferty and she moved to West Ham along with Becky Spencer and Gilly Flaherty. Eni Aluko signed for Juventus, Gemma Davison was a steal for Reading and young upcoming goalkeeper Fran Kitching went to Liverpool via Sheffield United.
Katie Chapman, the well respected captain who had been part of the team for quite a few years and helped lead them to two FA Cups and two WSL1 titles, decided to hang up her boots for good after an illustrious career.
There was smart business, however, with who they brought in. Lizzie Durack came into to put Chelsea’s goalkeeping options up to three. Liverpool’s rebuild saw Sophie Ingle leave and make her way south to the Blues whilst Jess Carter from Birmingham City was another shrewd move. Also joining was Ali Riley and Adelina Engman.
The best piece of business was signing eight key players to new contracts. Those players included the likes of Kirby, Ji, Maren Mjelde and Bachmann. Whilst it is great to sign new players, it’s even better to be able to keep a core set of current individuals who have helped with success in the previous season to keep the momentum going.
There are several key players and Chelsea seem to have great options on the bench even with putting out a strong starting XI.
After her horrendous injury, Deanna Cooper will want to do as well as she did before that and she could be key. Karen Carney and Millie Bright will be important after receiving the captaincy and vice-captaincy respectively. Bachmann is another one and her strike partnership with Kirby can put the fear into any team.
Talking of which, the standout key player for the Blues will be Kirby. The previous season was her best in a Chelsea shirt with 25 goals and 14 assists in all competitions.
She scored in some key matches such as notching the away goal to send Chelsea into the last 16 of the Champions League, despite losing the second leg against Bayern Munich. She was also on target in important FA Cup matches.
Kirby doesn't only score for fun but she can also assist teammates and see opportunities opening up that wouldn’t normally be seen. She's also exceptional at creating space. After her serious injury previously, this kind of season was not expected and by replicating that form, she can lead Chelsea to more success and take the momentum into the World Cup in France next summer.
What to expect?
Chelsea quite rightly are the ones to beat and their main title rivals have strengthened a bit whilst also losing a key player in Izzy Christiansen.
Arsenal, Liverpool and Reading have worked on their squads and will be snapping at their heels as well. Expect a close season but Chelsea look to be title favourites for good reason.
The team isn’t complacent and clearly they seem hungry for more success. Whilst they could do the double yet again, they will also be trying to make moves in the Continental Cup and UWCL.
The former is a trophy that seems to evade them so to be able to add this to the collection would be great for the team.
The UWCL also looks a bit easier to start off with as well. Chelsea have been unseeded since they made their debut in the European competition but they will be starting off as a seeded team this time around.
They face Sarajevo to start off with and will look to progress from that. It’s been a while since an English team lifted the Champions League trophy but both Chelsea and City will look to repeat the previous campaign but go one step further.