For LCFC Women, 2021/22 will provide their first leap into the top division, as fans and players eagerly await the start of the campaign on 3-5 September.
Concluding a closer look at the Foxes’ WSL opponents, here’s an analysis of how Manchester United, Reading, Tottenham Hotspur and West Ham United are shaping up ahead of the new campaign…
USWNT international Tobin Heath waved goodbye to the WSL after one season in England.
Last Season: 4th
Home Venue: Leigh Sports Village
WSL Titles: 0
Manchester United’s second season in the top-flight ended as it did in 2019/20, with another fourth-place finish, missing out on a UEFA Women’s Champions League spot by a single point, despite winning their final three league fixtures.
Given that the club were promoted as FA Women’s Championship champions in 2018/19 and only formed ahead of that campaign, it was an impressive achievement to be consistently competing at the top end of the table.
The Red Devils remained unbeaten in their opening 10 games, winning eight, with the two draws coming against Chelsea and Manchester City. They remained at the league’s summit until the turn of the year and a run of five defeats in nine games.
Ella Toone was United's main source of goals last season, hitting double figures in all competitions.
There were still notable triumphs over Arsenal, when top scorer Ella Toone - the only United player to hit 10 goals across all formats – scored the winner, and Bristol City, which finished 6-1.
In the domestic cups, meanwhile, United finished bottom of their FA Women’s Continental Tyres League Cup group and were then knocked out of the Vitality Women’s FA Cup by Leicester City at the fifth-round stage.
They are currently searching for a new manager following the resignation of Casey Stoney and will also be without a host of players who left the club this summer, including USWNT stars Tobin Heath and Christen Press, who both netted four times in the WSL campaign.
Fellow forwards Jess Sigsworth and Jane Ross have both departed, as has defender Amy Turner, signing for Orlando Pride.
Experienced Wales international Jess Fishlock was an influential figure in Reading's midfield during her season-long loan from OL Reign.
Last Season: 7th
Home Venue: Madejski Stadium
WSL Titles: 0
Manager: Kelly Chambers
Reading completed 2020/21 in seventh position, their lowest placing since gaining promotion to the Barclays FA Women’s Super League in 2015, demonstrating the continual improvement in quality and competitiveness across the league.
The Royals were consistently in mid-table throughout the campaign, however, positioned either sixth or seventh from matchday two right through to the end of the season.
Kelly Chambers’ side played all of their home games at Madejski Stadium for the first time, moving away from a ground share at Wycombe Wanderers’ Adams Park.
Fara Williams scored four goals in her final season before hanging up her boots.
Their most memorable league success came away to Manchester United as the visitors pulled off a shock 2-0 victory in February thanks to strikes from forwards Natasha Harding and Danielle Carter. Carter has since left the club, joining Brighton & Hove Albion this summer.
It was also the final season for former England midfielder Fara Williams, who announced her retirement at the age of 37, after a distinguished career at the top level of women’s football.
There have been several incomings too, with experienced England international forward Natasha Dowie recruited from AC Milan and Wales defender Gemma Evans moving from Bristol City.
Full-back Faye Bryson has also joined from the Robins, while midfielder Chloe Peplow swapped Tottenham Hotspur for the Royals and academy graduate Bethan Roberts signed her first professional contract.
Tottenham Hotspur Women
Spurs look set to field a new-look side under Rehanne Skinner in 2021/22 after a host of summer departures.
Last Season: 8th
Home Venue: The Hive Stadium
WSL Titles: 0
Manager: Rehanne Skinner
Following a seventh-place finish in 2019/20, their first ever top-flight season, Tottenham Hotspur ended the last campaign in eighth position. Long-term joint managers Karen Hills and Juan Carlos Amorós left the club in November 2020, replaced by former England assistant Rehanne Skinner.
Skinner subsequently guided Spurs to their first league win of the season in early December, against Brighton & Hove Albion, starting a run of four successive victories over Aston Villa, Birmingham City (home walkover) and West Ham United.
One of the biggest names in world football, Alex Morgan, had arrived in north London to huge fanfare in September 2020, making her comeback to the sport after giving birth in May. The USA international made four WSL appearances, scoring twice, before departing at the end of her short-term contract in December.
Global superstar Alex Morgan helped Spurs secure back-to-back 3-1 wins in December 2020 with a brace of penalties.
The team’s form then dipped, and the north London side did not win again until the final game of the season, beating Birmingham 1-0 away from home. Goals proved difficult to source, with Alanna Kennedy and Angela Addison top scoring with three goals in all competitions.
Unable to progress through their League Cup group, the Lilywhites do have an FA Cup Quarter-Final to look forward to in September, when they will face arch-rivals Arsenal after defeating Reading and Sheffield United, both after extra-time, in previous rounds.
This summer, Everton duo Maéva Clemaron and Tinja-Riikka Korpela arrived at the club, while ex-West Ham midfielder Cho So-hyun has made her loan move permanent. Eleven squad members departed, including forward Rianna Dean, who joined Liverpool.
West Ham United
West Ham United Women
The Hammers are about to enter their fourth season in the Barclays FA Women's Super League.
Last Season: 9th
Home Venue: Chigwell Construction Stadium
WSL Titles: 0
Manager: Olli Harder
West Ham United’s third WSL campaign, and first in their new home at Dagenham & Redbridge, included a managerial change for the first time since they turned professional in 2018.
Matt Beard departed after one win from the opening seven games, replaced by Olli Harder in December 2020, who also managed one victory during his first half season in charge.
It was also the Hammers’ biggest margin of victory in the league, as they triumphed 5-0 away at Reading in April, with a first-half hat-trick from their joint WSL top scorer Martha Thomas. Incredibly, the visitors were three goals ahead after 11 minutes and scored all five within 37 minutes.
Versatile England international Rachel Daly spent the first half of the 2020/21 season on loan at West Ham from Houston Dash.
It was the beginning of a run of three consecutive clean sheets and three goalless draws from the final five games that ensured West Ham would be playing top-flight football again next season, finishing ninth – their lowest ever WSL position – ahead of Aston Villa on goal difference.
A huge 11-0 victory over Chichester & Selsey in the FA Cup was followed by defeat to Manchester City in round five, while in the League Cup, the east Londoners topped Group D and then reached the semi-finals before exiting at the hands of Chelsea.
Emily van Egmond, who scored 11 goals in all competitions in 2020/21, departed in the summer, along with fellow forward Thomas and Courtney Brosnan, Kenza Dali, Leanne Kiernan, Cecille Redisch, Laura Vetterlein, Alisha Lehmann and Cho So-Hyun.
Midfielders Tameka Yallop, Zaneta Wyne and Mel Filis have all joined the club, as has former Birmingham City forward Claudia Walker.
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