Football is back – technically – although it never actually went away.
While most of us still don’t fully know what day of the week it is, the football calendar now has a bit more structure to it after the pandemic threw all sense of order out of the window.
So, in the return of Weekend Wanderings, Alasdair Hooper looks ahead to the start of the new WSL campaign – as well as having a quick nosey at the return of the UEFA Nations League.
Aston Villa Women v Manchester City Women (Saturday, 2.30pm)
In Saturday’s opening WSL game newly-promoted Aston Villa host Manchester City who came off second best in last weekend’s Community Shield.
We only got a glimpse of what to expect from Gareth Taylor’s City team, as he takes the reins following the departure of the successful Nick Cushing, but as the season goes on everyone expects the team to be a force to be reckoned with.
Considering the acquisitions they have made – namely Rose Lavelle and Sam Mewis – the club have made a real statement and everyone will be eager to see what they can do on the pitch.Embed from Getty Images
Aston Villa have also made huge statements themselves as they prepare for life in the top tier.
Not only do they have Eniola Aluko as their Director of Football but signing the likes of Anita Asante was also a vital piece of business.
They also have one of the most promising young managers around in Gemma Davies who is only 27.
Iceland v England (Saturday, 5pm)
Away from the WSL, England are back in action in the UEFA Nations League – a competition we knew nothing about when it first started but soon began to love when the Three Lions won their group.
Had the world not imploded then we would have just come off the back of Euro 2020, but now Gareth Southgate has another year to mould his young side.Embed from Getty Images
In truth this squad also gives an opportunity to look at a number of new story lines too. Can Phil Foden step up in the senior squad? Is Eric Dier part of the solution at centre-back? Will Jack Grealish actually play?
There’s also the small matter of who gets the nod as the makeshift left-back in this team – considering the squad has none with Ben Chilwell’s absence.
Arsenal Women v Reading Women (Sunday, 12.30pm)
Back in the WSL and Sunday brings us a lot of fixtures that should be closely fought affairs.
Joe Montemurro’s Arsenal side will be aiming to reclaim the league title they won the season before last.
While their squad is smaller than Chelsea and Manchester City it’s still hard to look past their starting XI for quality, particularly with the additions of the three Aussies – Steph Catley, Caitlin Foord and Lydia Williams.Embed from Getty Images
Reading, however, have their own ambitions to crack the WSL top four and made some exciting transfer moves.
Not only have they brought in the one and only Jess Fishlock but Danielle Carter, Emma Mitchell and the ‘surprise package’ of the spring series Deanna Cooper have also joined.
Expect this match to be a close one.
Manchester United Women v Chelsea Women (Sunday, 2.30pm)
If any club has made significant transfer waves, it’s Chelsea. Their squad already had vast depth and talent and then they went and signed Pernille Harder this week.
Quite simply the current WSL champions don’t just have league domination on their mind, they want to take on Europe too.
That in itself should make them the favourites for their opening game on Sunday, but Manchester United showed last season just what they are capable of.Embed from Getty Images
Casey Stoney has proved herself as a top tactician and if reports are to be believed they might have their own US superstars coming through the door very soon in the form of Christen Press and Tobin Heath.
This will be a tough opening assignment for Emma Hayes’ side.
Tottenham Hotspur Women v West Ham Women (Sunday, 2pm)
Tottenham made their own statements last season in their first top flight campaign since promotion and this week management duo Karen Hills and Juan Amaros were rewarded with new contracts until 2022.
They kick off this season with a London derby against rivals West Ham, which should be another closely fought match in the WSL’s opening weekend.
The Hammers were the definition of inconsistent last term but manager Matt Beard, and the club, have made a number of moves in the transfer window this summer.
Among the new players include 2015, 2018 and 2019 Czech Player of the Year Katerina Svitkova as well as Emily van Egmond on loan and Australian international goalkeeper Mackenzie Arnold.
If West Ham can find the consistency that has eluded them then they could be a side to watch this year.
You can follow Alasdair on Twitter @adjhooper1992