Football is a team game, but every team is made up of individuals. And if there’s one thing about fans, it’s that we love individual players to rally behind. And there are plenty to choose from up and down the Women’s Super League. From Arsenal, running away with the league; to recent champions Manchester City and Chelsea, as well as Birmingham City and Reading, in the chasing pack; down to struggling teams at the bottom like Brighton, Yeovil, and Everton. Here are some of the best picks from StatsBomb’s WSL data. (Ed. note- as always please allow for some data lag in our analysis. Specifically the Manchester City v West Ham match is currently not in our data set, therefore crediting Georgia Stanway with two fewer goals than her actual seven)
Youngsters tearing up the league
WSL is blessed by some great young wingers. Two are on Merseyside, Liverpool’s Rinsola Babajide and Everton’s Chloe Kelly are first and third in the league for successful dribbles per 90 minutes. Babajide is averaging over four, literally off the charts on our radars, so woe betide any full-back coming up against her. Between Babajide and Kelly is Manchester City’s Caroline Weir. Weir consistently terrorises the right-side of opponent defences, averaging 3.15 dribbles per 90 minutes. She has three goals to her name already, including a superb strike against West Ham United (a reward for some otherwise slightly errant shot selection that sees her shots average just a six per cent chance of going in). At the moment, she’s off the charts for the quality of chances that she sets up. They’re worth over 0.34 expected goals per 90 minutes that she plays – or one assist for every three full games. Only two other players in the league – Beth Mead at Arsenal and Gemma Davison at Reading – do better.
Working hard on the wing
It’ll usually be players at the top teams who dominate statistical categories – and we’re going to see some real heavyweight examples of that later on – but there’s a lot of incredibly hard work going on across the WSL. Ellie Brazil at Brighton leads the league for pressure events per 90 minutes, locking down the right flank (defending the goal to the left of the graphic). Just behind her, and on the opposite flank, is Ella Rutherford at Bristol City. At 19 and 18 respectively, Brazil and Rutherford are putting in hard yards for their team and getting experience that will serve them well in the future.
Dominating the middle
Chasing down opponents isn’t just for teenagers though. Behind the two whippersnappers, and leading the way for pressures that lead to her team getting the ball, is Manchester City’s Jill Scott. Scott’s been at the top of the game for over a decade, winning her first England cap back in 2006, and is still a hell of a midfielder. She’s arguably the best defensive midfielder in the WSL. Running her close, though, is Arsenal’s summer Swiss signing Lia Wälti. Wälti makes an impressive amount of tackles and interceptions considering how much of the ball the Gunners have, and, once she gets it, she moves it forward towards goal as well. The combination of defensive actions and successful dribbles make her a very important part of the team.
While we’re speaking about crucially important parts of the team, it makes sense to mention Ann-Katrin Berger, Birmingham City’s goalkeeper. As things currently stand, the Blues are third in the league, just two points behind Manchester City and three points ahead of WSL holders Chelsea. Berger’s part in that can’t be understated – out of WSL’s starting goalkeepers she leads the way for saves above expectation. Taking into account the quality of shots she’s faced, she’d be expected to save 69.9 per cent of them; in actual fact, she’s saved 82.8 per cent. Is there anything opponents can do to improve their chances? StatsBomb’s data suggests there might be a couple of holes low to her right or high to her left…
Racking up goals like no tomorrow
Not that Vivianne Miedema or Nikita Parris would need help scoring goals. The pair are extraordinarily good, both in terms of volume and quality of chances that they get on the end of (although being on teams as good as Arsenal and City certainly helps). The amount of pressure that Parris applies on opponents embodies defending from the front. Parris’ team-mate Georgia Stanway has also been amongst the goals recently, although who knows whether it’ll last. She’s scored more than double what her expected goals would think, with a shot map that’s almost the exact opposite of Parris’. Across the entire league there are some cracking players to be excited about, and there’s just over half of the WSL left to go. Get yourself down to a game.