It’s been a brilliant 12 months of women’s football in England, particularly in the Women’s Super League.
Chelsea have been the dominant force throughout the year, successfully retaining the Women’s Super League title in May, just a couple of months after winning the Continental Cup.
The Blues have started well this season, and added an FA Cup to their trophy cabinet at the start of the month, but Arsenal are the side currently atop the WSL table.
After taking Chelsea all the way in the WSL title race last season, Manchester City are now floundering due to a severe injury crisis. This has left Tottenham and Manchester United to battle for third place and spot in the Champions League.
Such is the state of play as the WSL heads into the winter break, and as 2021 draws to a close, GiveMeSport Women takes a look at the top 10 players in the WSL over the past 12 months.
10) Ashleigh Neville
Ashleigh Neville has been a key reason for Tottenham Hotspur’s exceptional form this season. Her side currently sit third in the table, in prime position to qualify for next year’s Champions League.
She has been excellent in Tottenham’s defence all year, and is now renowned for her robust tackles.
Indeed, Neville has made the most amount of tackles in the league so far this season – 53. Of these, her tackles has helped her team regain possession an impressive 33 times.
The 28-year-old particularly stood out when Tottenham earned a point against Arsenal in November. Spurs had been just minutes away from clinching their first ever competitive victory over the Gunners, but conceded a last-gasp goal.
If Spurs are to stay in contention for a place in the Champions League, Neville’s performances will be crucial.
9) Lauren Hemp
Although Manchester City have struggled this season, Lauren Hemp has been one of the shining lights in an injury-ravaged team.
The 21-year-old was fantastic last season too, scoring six goals and recording eight assists.
She has continued from where she left off this campaign, hitting the back of the net four times. Hemp has also set up one goal.
The winger has established herself as one of the WSL’s brightest young talents, and she will be aiming to spearhead a Manchester City resurgence in the New Year.
8) Leah Williamson
Leah Williamson has blossomed for both club and country over the past year, and she is now the lynchpin of an exciting Arsenal side.
This has been proven by a downturn in form for the Gunners while Williamson is out with a hamstring injury.
Arsenal have sorely missed Williamson’s calm and composed presence in the back line, and the 24-year-old’s driving runs and long balls as the side go on the attack.
Last season, for example, Williamson was top in the league for progressive passes and passes into the final third.
Despite spending the end of 2021 on the sidelines, the star defender has undeniably been one of the best players in the WSL this year.
7) Ella Toone
Manchester United have spent 2021 knocking on the door of a place in the top three of the WSL.
The Red Devils finished fourth last season, and are currently in the same position this campaign, sitting just two points off Tottenham Hotspur.
Ella Toone has been one of Manchester United’s standout stars as the team establish themselves as WSL heavyweights.
The 22-year-old scored nine goals and racked up five assists last season. This time around, she has already scored five goals, and set up four more.
6) Ann Katrin-Berger
Ann Katrin-Berger has become one of the best goalkeepers in the world, let alone the WSL, keeping clean sheet after clean sheet for Chelsea.
In fact, she kept 12 clean sheets during the 2020-2021 season, the highest in the league. She is on four this season, two off Arsenal’s Manuela Zinsberger.
Often it is hard to gauge how crucial a goalkeeper is for a team, but Katrin-Berger demonstrated just how important she is during Chelsea’s title decider with Manchester City last season.
The 31-year-old pulled off an incredible save to stop Lauren Hemp scoring a winning goal towards the end of the game.
Instead, Chelsea took a point from the match, and eventually won the WSL by two points.
5) Beth Mead
Beth Mead enjoyed a decent 2020-2021 season for Arsenal, racking up nine assists for the Gunners.
After she was left out of the Team GB squad for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, the 26-year-old has experienced an upturn in form and has been the player of the 2021-2022 season so far.
The new-look Mead first came out to play during Arsenal’s season opener against Chelsea at the Emirates. The forward struck twice, helping the Gunners to a 3-2 victory.
She now has four goals in total this season, and has set up a further four goals. Mead, who always looks likely to create an attacking chance when on the ball, is the stuff of nightmares for defenders.
4) Katie McCabe
Katie McCabe has been selected ahead of Arsenal teammate Mead as she has been a star performer in both the 2020-2021 and 2021-2022 seasons.
The 26-year-old, who plays both in defence and attack for Arsenal, is one of the most versatile players in the WSL.
Alongside her obvious defensive proficiency, McCabe constantly creates goalscoring opportunities for the Gunners, and often finds the back of the net herself.
Last season, she scored four times and set up 11 goals, the most assists in the league alongside Chloe Kelly and Fran Kirby.
This season, McCabe is right in the mix again, scoring four goals and creating five.
3) Fran Kirby
Fran Kirby enjoyed a triumphant return to full fitness this season, having been diagnosed with pericarditis in 2019.
Once dubbed the “Mini Messi”, Kirby is now indeed showing flashes of being one of the best female footballers in the world.
Her telepathic partnership with teammate Sam Kerr has helped Chelsea become the most dominant team in the country, and at 28-years-old, she is just hitting her peak.
Kirby scored 16 goals and set up 11 more last season. This season, she has been on the scoresheet six times, and has a league-leading tally of five assists.
2) Vivianne Miedema
The GOAT. Vivianne Miedema is considered one of the greatest strikers in world football, and when looking at the multitude of records she holds, it is easy to see why.
This year, she has been battling with Chelsea’s Sam Kerr for the Golden Boot. Kerr came up trumps last season, but Miedema was just behind her with 18 goals. She also contributed five assists.
This season, Miedema became the first player in the WSL to score against every team she has faced. The 25-year-old has hit the back of the net seven times so far, and has set up three goals.
1) Sam Kerr
If Sam Kerr has managed to outscore Vivianne Miedema, she must be good. The Australian striker landed in England in 2019, and although she took a bit of time to really get going, she is now firing on all cylinders.
That has been fully demonstrated this year – Kerr finished last season with the Golden Boot, helping Chelsea to WSL glory with 21 goals and seven assists.
She’s on track to top the scoring leaderboard again this season, recording nine goals and three assists so far.
Chelsea fans were thrilled to hear last month that Kerr signed a new contract with the Blues until 2024 – she will be scoring goals in the WSL for years to come.