Because the curtain comes down on 2022, it is time to look again and mirror on what an entertaining, thrilling and fairly frankly chaotic 12 months it has been within the WSL.
Chelsea received a document third straight title, Birmingham dropped out of the highest flight for the primary time because the WSL’s inception, and a few all-time greats retired.
From moments of particular person brilliance, unlikely upsets and iconic moments, listed below are 90min’s selection of WSL awards for 2022.
Caroline Weir’s chip is a purpose you can not assist however watch repeatedly, and is made much more particular by the very fact she had scored a close to equivalent, equally outrageous effort 12 months earlier on this precise fixture.
The 2022 purpose was much more very important; the deciding second in a 1-0 victory for Metropolis over a United aspect they had been battling with for the WSL’s ultimate Champions League spot.
You catch your breath as you watch the ball float in the direction of the highest nook, considering: ‘certainly she’s not accomplished it once more??’ The audacity to even try it, not to mention the expertise to execute it. Twice.
As Weir herself poetically put it: “Oh that is fairly naughty.”
Arsenal vs Manchester United was an all-time WSL traditional that had completely all the things you can ever need from a recreation of soccer, not least as a result of there have been 5 objectives and it wasn’t till stoppage time that it was lastly determined.
United took the lead within the first half, earlier than Frida Maanum and Laura Weinroither objectives put Arsenal forward with underneath 20 minutes left. However the Pink Devils, beforehand responsible of missing the hardened mentality of their major rivals, got here roaring again late on by means of Millie Turner and Alessia Russo.
Including to the dramatic pendulum-like and fringe of your seat nature of the sport was the truth that it was performed in an electrical environment in entrance of 40,000 folks on the Emirates Stadium. United had been even granted a devoted away part that their supporters packed out, and so they had been in raucous kind following the final gasp winner.
Studying towards Leicester in October was the very definition of a relegation six-pointer. The 2 sides occupied the underside two spots within the WSL, and neither had collected a win or a lot as some extent between them. With only one relegation spot within the high flight and solely 22 matches throughout the season, this head-to-head was going to be large in figuring out who in the end survives the drop.
Leicester discovered themselves 1-0 up as time ticked away and the Foxes headed in the direction of an enormous three factors. However because the clock struck 90, Rachel Rowe scored straight from a nook to stage the scores for Studying, earlier than using three Leicester challenges in stoppage time and arrowing a rasping effort from vary into the underside nook.
A sensational option to full a dramatic turnaround when the stakes had been that prime.
When high of the desk Arsenal visited basement aspect Birmingham within the pair’s first WSL outing of 2022, the result appeared a formality. The Gunners had not misplaced to anybody aside from Manchester Metropolis, Chelsea or Manchester United since April 2018. Birmingham had been the group accountable again then, however that was a Blues aspect who would end the season in fourth place and England striker Ellen White netted a hat-trick within the 3-0 victory.
There was no White in sight when Birmingham welcomed unbeaten Arsenal in January, and though the Gunners had been damage hit, depleted and makeshift, nobody would have predicted what unfolded.
Libby Smith gave Birmingham the lead inside three minutes, and an exquisite Veatriki Sarri strike doubled their benefit on the stroke of half time. The two-0 victory was Birmingham’s first league win since November 2020, and though they had been relegated on the finish of the season, their three factors over Arsenal would find yourself costing the Gunners the title.
Sam Kerr was the queen of essential objectives for Chelsea in 2022, along with her leading edge in essential moments within the dwelling stretch of the 2021/22 season very important to the Blues securing a 3rd successive WSL title.
Be it the final gasp winner towards Aston Villa in March, the three objectives within the area of 4 days in April that noticed the Blues to a pair of arduous fought wins over Tottenham, or the chic brace towards Manchester United on the ultimate day of the season to make sure the title remained in west London, the Australian was pivotal.
“She is aware of she will address these conditions and ship when it actually, actually issues,” Emma Hayes mentioned of Kerr. “And, most significantly, have pleasure in what she’s doing.”
Maya Le Tissier was nonetheless an adolescent at the beginning of 2022. But the Guernsey-born starlet was already an important participant for Brighton, having performed each WSL recreation for the Seagulls in 2020/21 and in addition occurring to repeat that feat in 2021/22.
Manchester United noticed sufficient in Le Tissier to set off a launch clause in her Brighton contract after which put her straight into the beginning lineup of a group decided to complete within the high three and qualify for the Champions League for the primary time.
Not solely that, the now 20-year-old has been an important a part of her new membership’s early success within the first half of 2022/23. She has additionally accomplished it as a centre-back, preserving extra established internationals on the bench, fairly than the full-back position through which she initially made her identify.
Rehanne Skinner and Kelly Chambers have each labored wonders at both finish of 2022 – Skinner at the beginning, to have Tottenham in rivalry for Champions League soccer for a lot of the 2021/22 marketing campaign, and Chambers significantly in the direction of the top of 2022, with a sequence of big outcomes to carry Studying away from the drop zone.
However for sheer, unrelenting consistency throughout the 12 months, Emma Hayes takes it. Chelsea have misplaced simply as soon as in 23 WSL outings in 2022, successful 20, together with a nine-game successful streak to say the 2021/22 league title – an unprecedented third in a row.
Even when the Chelsea boss stepped away for six weeks in October to get well from an emergency hysterectomy, the techniques she had already ensured had been in place throughout her tenure meant that the Blues did not miss a beat in her absence, successful six from six.
Aston Villa’s summer season enterprise in 2022 was distinctive, with additions Dan Turner, Kenza Dali and Kirsty Hanson all hitting the bottom operating and having fun with massively spectacular first halves of the season.
However one signing actually turned heads: the arrival of England worldwide Rachel Daly. Having been crying out for a striker final season after netting simply 13 WSL objectives in consequence, Villa bagged one of many NWSL’s most prolific. Daly featured at left-back throughout England’s Euro 2022, however when requested the place she would function for Villa, Carla Ward was fairly clear.
“Pay attention, Rachel Daly’s not a defender, not anyplace close to Aston Villa. She’s an out and out ahead for us,” Ward mentioned.
The striker has netted eight objectives in 9 appearances – together with a gap day brace to stun Manchester Metropolis, and a hat-trick towards Studying. Villa have already matched their goalscoring tally for final season after simply 9 video games.
Whereas having fun with the season of her life, Chloe Kelly suffered an ACL damage in Could 2021, robbing her of a spot in Group GB’s Tokyo Olympic squad.
The damage can take gamers over a 12 months to get well from, and a few battle to hit the identical heights as earlier than. Kelly returned to motion in April 2022, and was again within the beginning XI by the top of the month.
“I bear in mind throughout her first recreation again towards West Ham, she went right into a crunching deal with inside 10 minutes of being on the pitch and I shouted on the TV: ‘YES Chlo!’ – that’s the fearless mentality you have to have,” Kelly’s Metropolis teammate Esme Morgan wrote in her 90min column in July.
The winger completed the season with a purpose and three assists in 5 WSL appearances, forcing herself into England’s Euro 2022 squad and having a fairly essential influence through the Wembley ultimate. She continues to play with the identical fearless perception that she was famend for pre-ACL damage.
Arsenal set a pair of big WSL information in 2022, breaking the league’s longest successful streak document by notching up 14 between March and November.
The Gunners additionally set a brand new all-time excessive WSL attendance, eclipsing the three-year lengthy document that had been held by Tottenham. A crowd of 47,367 had been within the stands on the Emirates to witness Arsenal run out 4-0 winners over Spurs, comfortably beating the earlier document of 38,262 set by the north London pair on the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in November 2019.
Arsenal boss Jonas Eidevall was eager to stress the significance of Arsenal promoting the variety of tickets they did for the fixture, versus freebies being handed out, as has typically been the case with ladies’s soccer attendance information.
“I do not assume we must always examine attendance figures with giveaway tickets and offered tickets,” mentioned Eidevall. “I do not assume it is honest while you’re doing that comparability. If you happen to giveaway tickets, it is one thing else. Once you promote tickets, that is the way you run a soccer membership.”
Chelsea had been trailing 2-1 at half time to Manchester United on the ultimate day of the 2021/22 season. Sam Kerr – famend for her runs in behind and intuition within the penalty space – then scored not one, however two long-range purpose of the season contenders to flip the sport on its head and in the end seal the WSL title for the Blues.
The primary was a surprising, sweetly struck volley that soared into the highest nook, and the second was a chunk of particular person brilliance, chesting, swivelling after which having the nerve to lob Mary Earps. Two unimaginable items of ability on the massive stage when her group actually wanted her.
“The second was world-class, it was outrageous, audacious,” mentioned Hayes. “She’s the very best for a motive and she or he stepped up as soon as once more for this soccer membership.”