The new Women's Super League season gets underway this weekend. Twelve teams will battle it out for glory, including Aston Villa.
Villa made their WSL debut last season, finishing 10th after getting the better of Bristol City in a fiercely-contested relegation fight. This year, they are back with a new manager and a bolstered defence.
Will these new additions be enough to see Villa secure WSL survival for another year? GiveMeSport Women runs through their chances.
Aston Villa's background
Aston Villa began life in 1973 as Solihull FC. In 1996, the club agreed to change its name and officially became Villa’s women’s team. The side played in the top tier of women’s football for the 1999-2000 and 2003-2004 seasons, but both campaigns ended in relegation.
Villa were one of ten teams admitted to the WSL2, now known as the Women’s Championship, in 2014. They earned promotion to the WSL after winning the 2019-20 Championship, but struggled on their return to the top flight, placing 10th to narrowly avoid relegation.
Aston Villa, who are managed by Carla Ward, play at Banks's Stadium in Walsall.
How did Aston Villa do last season?
Aston Villa made their debut in the WSL last season and got off to a difficult start. They lost their opening games against Manchester City, Reading and Everton, before finally recording their first victory of the campaign against Brighton & Hove Albion in November.
Villa only won twice more, defeating Bristol City in December and Tottenham Hotspur in February. As a result, the team found themselves in a relegation battle at the end of the season, surviving after a number of hard-earned draws against West Ham, Bristol, Birmingham City and Arsenal.
Despite managing to stay in the WSL, Villa underwent a change in management at the end of the season. Head coach Gemma Davies was sacked in July, with assistant manager Jenny Sugarman and interim manager Marcus Bignot also leaving their roles. Sporting director Eniola Aluko left to take up the same role with Angel City in Los Angeles.
Carla Ward was brought in to replace Davies after resigning from Birmingham City.
Who are Aston Villa's standout players?
As with any team in the midst of a relegation battle, Aston Villa had to rely on their defence to remain solid during crucial matches. Fortunately for Villa, the likes of Natalie Haigh, Anita Asante and Elisha N'Dow often proved difficult to get past, especially towards the business end of the season.
Shania Hayles was often an energetic force in attack, scoring four goals during last year’s campaign. She will hope to form formidable partnerships with new additions Alisha Lehmann and Remi Allen.
Who have Aston Villa signed this summer?
Aston Villa have made a number of signings as they look to avoid a relegation battle this season. Forward Alisha Lehmann has moved from West Ham, while former Everton player Chantelle Boye-Hlorkah is another addition to the Villa attack. Midfielder Remi Allen has been brought in from Leicester.
The Villa defence has also been bolstered significantly. Goalkeeper Hannah Hampton’s move from Birmingham looks an excellent signing, and she is joined by former teammate Sarah Mayling. Meaghan Sargeant has joined from Bristol City and Maz Pacheco from West Ham.
What do the Aston Villa fans think?
"My hopes for the season are just to improve from last season and not be in a relegation battle," said Chloe Greenaway, who is keeping her fingers crossed for an eighth place finish.
"Everyone will be a key player and will need to play their part, but there are two players who stand out most – Hannah Hampton and Remi Allen. Hannah is a very good goalkeeper and we conceded some poor goals last season, so having her in goal should stop that. Remi brings a lot of WSL experience and will help drive the midfield forward and will hopefully score some goals."
Final position in the table – Twelfth
It would not be surprising to see Aston Villa relegated this season. The team managed to stay up last time around, but may struggle to do so again, even with survival specialist Carla Ward at the helm. If Villa do remain in the WSL, it will likely be down to their robust defence and the efforts of Hampton in goal.
Top scorer – Alisha Lehmann
Aston Villa may find it difficult to score goals this season, but when they do, Lehmann will likely be involved. The 22-year-old has a proven goal-scoring ability in the WSL, hitting the back of the net nine times for West Ham during her first season at the club.
Player of the season – Hannah Hampton
Hannah Hampton is considered one of the best young goalkeepers in English football. The 20-year-old made her senior debut for Birmingham City three years ago, and earned her first senior England call-up in February 2020. She will be a key player in Villa’s fight for WSL survival.
Do you agree with our predictions?