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Euro 2022 boost, Liverpool return & can Man City gel?

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The 2022/23 WSL season gets underway on Friday evening, with the league hoping to capitalise on the momentum generated by Euro 2022.

With high profile arrivals, one world record exit, two new managers and a flurry of attendance records set to be broken, the 2022/23 campaign is set to be the biggest in the league’s history.

All 12 teams are in action over the course of the weekend – here’s everything to look out for in gameweek one of the WSL.

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Leah Williamson

Arsenal’s Leah Williamson captained England to Euro 2022 success / Naomi Baker/GettyImages

Arsenal are vying to end Chelsea’s run of domestic dominance and land their first WSL title since 2019, as Jonas Eidevall looks to build on a promising first season in charge.

The Gunners boast two particularly key players from England’s historic Euro 2022 triumph in Player of the Tournament Beth Mead and Lionesses captain Leah Williamson, with the latter admitting this summer’s experience had made hungrier to add to her domestic trophy collection.

“To be successful has given me a bit of fire back in my belly before the season and now I’m looking forward to starting a new journey,” Williamson said. “I’ve definitely got my motivation back and once you get a taste of winning you obviously want more.”

Arsenal vs Brighton

When is kick off? Friday 16 September, 19:30 (BST)
Where is the match being played? Borehamwood
TV channel/livestream? FA Player (UK & international)
Referee? Lisa Benn

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Marc Skinner

Marc Skinner has his second season in charge of Manchester United this term / Visionhaus/GettyImages

Manchester United have narrowly missed out on the Champions League in each of the last two seasons and fans are starting to get itchy feet about the failure to break up the WSL’s established top three when ambitions to be playing at the highest level have been laid bare since the start.

Manager Marc Skinner had something of a free hit last season after being appointed just five weeks before the campaign began, not having the opportunity to put enough of his own stamp on the squad in the transfer market and needing time to do it on the training pitch.

This season, he has had the preparation. His methods and tactics are starting to take hold and the club brought in seven new faces, with Jackie Groenen the only departure that was seen as a genuine loss. Now, the talking stops and United have to get off to a flying start. Skinner himself has said that even with a better squad, they still need to be ‘exceptional’ to pull off a top three finish this season.

“The whole reason we’ve recruited is to [finish in the top three]. Regardless of our recruitment, we have to have an exceptional season,” Skinner explained. “In the last five seasons no one has broken into that top three. We have to prepare ourselves to have an exceptional season.”

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When is kick off? Saturday 17 September, 12:00 (BST)
Where is the match being played? Leigh Sports Village
TV channel/livestream? FA Player (UK & international)
Referee? Abigail Byrne

Lauren Hemp

City have a new-look squad this term / Angel Martinez/GettyImages

Manchester City have had a high turnover of core players this summer, with eight permanent exits and seven high profile new faces through the door. After early season injuries derailed their title challenge last term, will Gareth Taylor’s new-look side gel quickly enough this time around?

“I think we’re in a good place,” said Taylor. “We’ve lost WSL experience but we’ve brought in players we think are very good for the future. A lot of changes but we’re pretty happy and content where we are as a squad of players.”

Sunday’s opponents Villa have also had a busy summer, with eight in and 10 out. Their statement signing was England international Rachel Daly – predominantly a fullback for the Lionesses, but a forward at club level.

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“Listen, Rachel Daly’s not a defender, not anywhere near Aston Villa,” said Carla Ward. “She’s an out and out forward for us.”

Aston Villa vs Man City

When is kick off? Sunday 18 September, 12:30 (BST)
Where is the match being played? Villa Park
TV channel/livestream? BBC Two/iPlayer (UK), FA Player (international)
What time does coverage start? 12:15 (BST)
Referee? Louise Sanders

Paul Konchesky

Paul Konchesky is one of two brand new managers in the WSL this season / Marc Atkins/GettyImages

There are two new bosses making their WSL managerial debuts this season, and they meet in east London on Sunday as West Ham host Everton.

It’s all about continuity for West Ham, as Paul Konchesky steps up from his assistant manager role into the top job, looking to build on the strong foundations put in place by Olli Harder.

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For new Everton boss Brian Sorensen, it’s about attempting to instil a sense of stability after a turbulent 2021/22 campaign that saw two managers and one interim boss. Sorensen moved from Fortuna Hjorring and will be managing outside of his native Denmark for the very first time.

“It was [a big decision to move abroad] but it was also something I hoped to achieve one day,” said Sorensen. “I’ve been in Denmark for so many years so it’s same stadiums, same teams and so on.

“I always loved the Champions League games we were playing because new opponents, special days – I think you get that here (the WSL) week in, week out. Ask me in 10 years if I’m still here if it’s the same, but I’m really looking forward to it.”

West Ham vs Everton

When is kickoff? Sunday 18 September, 15:00 (BST)
Where is the match being played? Chigwell Construction Stadium
TV channel/livestream? FA Player (UK & international)
Referee? Lauren Impey

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Rehanne Skinner

2022/23 is Rehanne Skinner’s second full season in charge of Tottenham / Charlotte Tattersall/GettyImages

Leicester boss Lydia Bedford is in a similar position that Tottenham’s Rehanne Skinner was 12 months earlier, as she prepared for her first full season in charge of the club – Skinner steered Spurs clear of the drop zone during her debut year in charge.

Like Skinner, Bedford moved to the WSL from the FA, having previously worked as a coach in the England youth system. The pair go head to head on Sunday as Leicester face Tottenham.

“I’m a few years older than Lydia so that’s the first thing I should probably mention…” Skinner said.

“The game [at England] was to ensure we were working as a collective in terms of how the principles of play were for England so [Bedford is] very familiar with that. Obviously I know similar things to what she knows with that. Overall I think she’s worked really hard to get Leicester in a really good place going into this season.”

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Leicester vs Tottenham

When is kickoff? Sunday 18 September, 15:00 (BST)
Where is the match being played? King Power Stadium
TV channel/livestream? FA Player (UK & international)
Referee? Kirsty Dowle

Missy Bo Kearns, Carla Humphrey, Rachael Laws, Taylor Hinds

Liverpool won promotion back to the WSL last season / Jan Kruger/GettyImages

Liverpool are back in the WSL after a two-season absence, having convincingly topped the traditionally tight Championship last term. They are thrust back into the thick of top flight action with the visit of manager Matt Beard’s former side, WSL champions Chelsea.

Liverpool have quite the history in the WSL, finishing bottom of the league on three separate occasions and also winning the title twice. Newly promoted sides have traditionally struggled during their first season in the top flight, but Liverpool boast a squad with some real talent and a manager bursting with WSL experience.

“I think they’ll be more than fine,” Emma Hayes said of Liverpool. “They’ve got an experienced manager who knows the league, you can see with the players he’s brought in he knows what it takes at this level. I think Liverpool will not struggle, I think they will be very, very competitive this year.”

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Liverpool vs Chelsea

When is kick off? Sunday 18 September, 17:00 (BST)
Where is the match being played? Prenton Park
TV channel/livestream? Sky Sports Main Event/Football (UK), FA Player (international)
What time does coverage start? 16:45 (BST)
Referee? Emily Heaslip



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EPL

Jorghino insists Italy’s rebuild has ‘already begun’ following win over England

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Jorginho has spoken positively about the Italian national team’s future following their victory over England, using a new formation.

Italy saw off England in a 1-0 victory in matchday five of the 2022/23 Nations League group stages and did so using a 3-5-2 system, earning a deserved win after a difficult period following their Euro 2020 triumph.

Victory over the Three Lions gives Italy an outside chance of still making the Nations League finals in 2023 as they face group leaders Hungary in the final matchday, with a win enough to see them move into top spot.

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Speaking to media ahead of the vital clash, Jorginho was very confident about his national team’s new approach: “After everything that happened, it was a struggle, but the game against England really fired us up and gave us more motivation. I try to learn from past mistakes and disappointment, which is also what the coach is passing on to the players he calls up.

“I felt something different in that game and I think the reconstruction process has already begun. Now we’ve got to continue along this path,” and added, discussing the tactical tweaks: “It’s good to have an alternative that we can change to during the game or during a tournament.

“Some of our players have 4-3-3 at club level, others with three defenders, so I think this system is certainly doable. It’s interesting for the present and the future, I got along well with it.”

The Chelsea midfielder explained that victory over England has been crucial for the squad heading into the final matchday: “We have this opportunity to win the group and it’s up to us to take it.

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“Hungary have proved themselves to be tough opponents and they’ll have passionate support from the crowd tomorrow.”



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Pierre-Emerick discusses Thomas Tuchel sacking & opens up on early career struggles

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Forward Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has admitted it was ‘sad’ to see Thomas Tuchel sacked by Chelsea.

Aubameyang left Barcelona after only signing in January of this year to return to the Premier League with Chelsea, having left Arsenal at the beginning of the year following disciplinary issues.

The move saw him reunite with Tuchel, who he thrived under while the pair worked together at Borussia Dortmund.

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However, Tuchel was sacked in September, just weeks after the transfer window had shut and the 33-year-old had sealed his transfer to Stamford Bridge.

Speaking to Chelsea’s official YouTube channel, Aubameyang opened up: “It’s obviously sad when someone leaves the club and obviously, I only saw him for a few days. But this is football and when you play football you have to adapt quickly and in some moments in the season, this can happen.

“I think he [Tuchel] was a bit frustrated and sad. Obviously, I will try to talk to him as soon as possible,” he added, before giving his verdict on Tuchel’s replacement Graham Potter:

“I think he [Potter] is a really positive person and a great character. We will try to learn with him and to win as soon as possible. I think his ideas are very clear so I think it’s going to be easy. It takes time to adapt to each other but I think it’s going to be ok.”

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Aubameyang also touched on the earlier years of his career during the interview and confessed how he had been through a lot of ‘bad moments’ unrelated to injuries: “I was okay but at the beginning of my career everyone was talking about me as a sprinter only.

“This hurts sometimes because you know where you’ve come from, you know you went through a lot of stuff and you always try your best and some people, even from your club say you’re not good at playing football.”

He praised current Paris Saint-Germain manager Christophe Galtier for lighting a fire beneath him during their time together at St-Etienne, stating: “When I arrived in Saint-Etienne, I was happy because Christophe Galtier gave me confidence and it changed everything in my career. This is where I started scoring goals.”



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Gareth Taylor insists Man City’s tough WSL start has still offered ‘something to build on’

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Gareth Taylor has insisted Manchester City’s performances have provided ‘something to build on’ despite suffering a pair of defeats in their opening two fixtures of the 2022/23 WSL campaign.

City have gone through a summer of high squad turnover, with seven new arrivals and eight permanent exits, and have begun the new season with a surprise 4-3 loss to Aston Villa and a 2-0 defeat to Chelsea.

“It’s not great but it is what it is,” said Taylor. “We’ve had two away games, two tough away games. We’ve gone to Villa who are a new team and have done tremendously well on the day, and coming here was always going to be difficult.

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“They don’t really give much away, Chelsea – they lost last week, something was going to give today but I think the reaction and the levels that we showed today was really impressive and gives us something to build on.”

City endured a similarly tough start to last season after contending with an injury crisis, but made up ground with a stunning second half of the campaign to secure a Champions League spot at the expense of rivals Manchester United.

Taylor admitted the lack of margin for error due to the size of the WSL – with just 12 teams and 22 games – makes early slip ups even more costly.

“That’s the nature of the league,” the City boss added. “I’ve always been negative about that. 22 games is nothing. It is what it is. Unless teams keep beating each other, you can probably get away with maybe four defeats in a season and still win the league.

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“We can’t do much about that; the rules are the rules, the teams are the teams. It wasn’t hard last season when we won 13 on the bounce – it was actually a lot easier when we had all of our players fit.

“Our situation now is slightly different to what we had last season – it’s not injuries, it’s just a new team and new players to bed in. These will be really good players and this will be a really good team. Unfortunately at the moment we’ve had a couple of defeats which are tough to take but I think there were really positive signs there today.”



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