Richard Laverty previews each team before the FA Women’s Super League (FA WSL 1) Spring Series begins on April 22.
Knocked off their perch last season by rivals Manchester City, manager Emma Hayes wasted no time over the winter making big additions to her Chelsea squad. Five new players have come in but injuries have taken their toll as Hayes prepares her squad for their opening Spring Series match. With Manchester City inching ahead last season, it will be interesting what approach Chelsea takes to the next few months as they look for the right formula to put them back on top.
Where to Find Chelsea
Wheatsheaf Park, Staines
Hayes has already established herself as one of the longest-serving managers in an ever-changing FA WSL. After a heartbreaking end to 2014, Hayes reassembled her troops to take the title in 2015 but fell short of Manchester City last season. With vast experience in the women’s game both in England and the United States, Hayes is well-equipped to take the challenge to Nick Cushing and his side again over the next 12 months.
Star quality, that’s all that needs to be said here. For Chelsea to attract a U.S. international in her peak years speaks volumes of the club’s pull and the reputation of the FA WSL now and Dunn should be able to take most teams by storm as she settles into life in England. Here for the full season come September, all Chelsea fans will be hoping Dunn can keep hit the ground running, but the club also have other excellent options up top in Ramona Bachmann, Eni Aluko, Fran Kirby and Co.
With all the talk focused on the signings of Bachmann and Dunn over the winter, the signing of Norway’s captain went a little under the radar. But a player remarkably composed on the ball, physically strong, and able to play in both defense and midfield can only be a boost for Chelsea. Whisper in quietly, but Mjelde could be one of the best signings Hayes has ever made.
You can argue all day long about whether 2016 was Blundell’s best season in a Chelsea shirt but she’s starting to show her value in Chelsea’s 3-4-3 system. Bombing forward suits Blundell to a T and she’s even started adding regular goals to her game, scoring two in the FA Cup match against Doncaster and stepping up to take a penalty against Birmingham.
One to Watch
Another signing that went very much under the radar as Hayes brought in the big guns over the summer, but Cuthbert has already shown what she can do this year in a Scotland shirt and she’ll be hoping she gets a fair chance to show her quality in the FA WSL. There’s no rush, Cuthbert has plenty of time to develop and will become a star if what we’ve seen so far is anything to go by.
Hayes wasted no time this season bringing in reinforcements. First came the arrival of Mjelde, shortly followed by the additions of star attackers Crystal Dunn and Ramona Bachmann. Hayes has also looked to the future, securing the signings of young Scottish star Cuthbert and center back Deanna Cooper, the latter impressing on a trial with the club.
The club also hasn’t lost any key players either and Fran Kirby will be like a new signing when she returns from a lengthy injury absence. Millie Farrow (now injured) and Jodie Brett returned to Bristol City on loan but Chelsea now have arguably the strongest squad in the league.