With the WSL 1 Spring Series starting soon, I thought I would do my usual prediction for the upcoming 2 months league.
With nine games in eight weeks, the scheduling should be clean and you would expect teams to play a game per week every week-end, making in a very much balanced competition.
As we all know this is not the case at all, due to Cup games and postponement. So the Spring Series might actually have a kind of survival of the fittest feel, something we are used to have in the FA WSL anyway with a fixture list as bad as they have been in the last six seasons.
Anyway, as there are nine games to play for each team, some of them will play more away than home games with five teams having a 4H and 5A, four teams having a 5H and 4A and one team with 6H and 3A ( Yeovil). Yeovil were 5-4, but Arsenal switched the tie around due to their home ground situation ( they have a new landlord in London Bees for three out of their four games) .
So I have set up my predictions with an expected range of final position at the end of the season as well as an expected range of finishing points. Here are the teams in reverse order of the final table last year.
Bristol City 5H 4A expected position 6 to 8 expected points : 7-14
They have kept the core of their team that finished runner-up in the WSL 2 last season. They also added players to have more strength in-depth. With the quality they have at their disposal, they could finish close to mid-table.
Yeovil Town 6H 3A expected position 8 to 10 expected points 4-11
The FA WSL 2 winners have six home games and should get at least four points from those and could even get a lot more points overall. It will be a learning process for the Glovers and good preparation for the 2017/18 season.
Reading Women 5H 4A expected position 7 to 9 expected points 5-12
A squad short in numbers reinforced on the final day by a young French playmaker. I expect them to keep the same tactics as last year. They should be hard to beat home and away. If they can score goals they will be close to the maximum expected points, if not I would expect a lot of draws again.
Sunderland Ladies 5H 4A expected position 6 to 8 expected points 7-14
Another team with a small squad, the first 11 has a lot of quality but the bench in all the games played so far looked quite light in-depth with many youngsters. We will see if the return to semi-professional status will affect their performances.
Notts County Ladies 4H 5A expected position 7 to 9 expected points 5-12
A little bit of a turnover with four new signings and eight players leaving during the transfer window. Key players have been retained. The big question is can the players perform as their final table position never matched their potential throughout all the years. The HMRC case is also like a sword of Damocles above their head as well.
Liverpool Ladies 4H 5A expected position 3 to 5 expected points 15 -23
A good transfer window bringing in Clarke and Stoney and Coombs back as well. They will have a solid defense and a dynamic frontline. The only team to take points off City in the League last year, I expect them to be a third place contender.
Birmingham City 5H 4A expected position 3 to 5 expected points 15 -23
A change in the management team as well as a shrewd recruitment campaign. They should keep their defensive strength and add more creativity in attack. Another team that I expect to compete for the third place.
Arsenal Ladies 4H 5A expected position 3 to 5 expected points 15 -23
A huge player turnover during the winter with some quality signings in Little and O’Reilly. FA Cup games showed a clear imbalance between attack and defense due to multiple injuries in that position. If all the injured players are quickly back, they might challenge for a top 2 place otherwise, they should fight for the third place again.
Chelsea Ladies 4H 5A expected position 1-3 expected points 18-25
An excellent recruitment campaign with Cuthbert, Mjelde, Bachmann Dunn and Cooper to add more competition for places for a squad that did not achieve as much as they could last season. They are my favourites to win the Spring Series or will run very close to City.
Manchester City 4H 5A expected position 1-3 expected points 20-27
Can they finish the Spring Series unbeaten like they did in the League last year? Yes they might, although the FA has actually tried very hard to prevent them to do so with one of the worse schedule ever.
Teams that are succesful in the Champions League are always at a disadvantage as seen with Arsenal, Bristol, Birmingham, Chelsea and now City.
They have a very stable squad and added Melissa Lawley and Carli Lloyd, they are well stacked in most positions and will be the team to beat.