Chelsea start their Barclays FA Women’s Super League title defence against a new-look Arsenal side in a heavyweight London derby live on Sky Sports on Sunday.
Emma Hayes’ formidable Blues claimed their third WSL title in four seasons in 2020/21, this time crowned outright after pipping Manchester City the previous term on a points-per-game tally when the pandemic struck.
“To win the league outright silences anyone from the points-per-game from last season,” Hayes said at the time, her side losing just once en route to WSL glory.
“This is the best squad and the best title in my time here, because of the threats and the opposition. I always felt we were leading the league, and that shows our dominance.”
Now they must go again; shake off the only blot on their campaign – a comprehensive defeat to Barcelona in the Champions League final – and withstand fresh challenges from rivals out to close the gap.
Arsenal will hope to push Chelsea much closer this time, having finished third in 2020/21, and are under the new stewardship of Jonas Eidevall after the departure of Joe Montemurro.
A summer of change also saw stalwart midfielder Danielle van de Donk leave for Lyon but England striker Nikita Parris moved in the other direction and Japan international Mana Iwabuchi further boosts an ominous forward line. On the eve of the new season, World Cup winner Tobin Heath has added more firepower.
In fact, a fascinating battle of two potent attacks awaits.
Arsenal’s Vivianne Miedema is the highest-scoring player in Women’s Super League history with 60 goals in 67 games. Since making her debut in the competition in September 2017, she has been directly involved in 28 more goals than any other player.
But Chelsea duo Sam Kerr (28) and Fran Kirby (27) ranked first and second for goal involvements last season. Kerr scored 21 times, while providing seven assists, and Kirby netted 16 times while providing 11 assists. Which defence will keep the opposition quietest?
Parris and Iwabuchi are in line to make their Arsenal debuts, with free transfer Heath also hoping to be involved.
Lauren James could turn out for Chelsea for the first time, having arrived from Manchester United.
Defender Aniek Nouwen could also make her Blues bow after sealing a switch from PSV.
To celebrate the big kick-off in the Women’s Super League, you can win £5,000 for free by predicting the outcome of Arsenal vs Chelsea on Sunday with Super 6 Extra.
Predict the first goalscorer, full-time score and more to walk away with the prize…
- After winning each of the first six Women’s Super League matches between these two sides, Arsenal have won only two of the following 15 (D4 L9), including none of the last five (D1 L4).
- Arsenal finished their 2020/21 WSL campaign with eight wins and one draw from their final nine matches, scoring 23 times while conceding only once – their last defeat was against Chelsea in February.
- Chelsea have lost just one of their last 43 Women’s Super League matches (W34 D8) and are unbeaten across their last 39 away games in the competition (W26 D13), an ongoing record in the WSL.
- This is Arsenal’s 30th WSL London derby match (W16 D4 L9) – all nine of their previous defeats in London derbies have come against Chelsea, winning all eight games against the other London teams they’ve faced in the WSL – Spurs and West Ham.
- The reigning champions haven’t lost on MD1 of the WSL season since March 2015, when former Wimbledon striker Carlton Fairweather led Sunderland to a 2-1 away win against Liverpool.
- Arsenal have won five of their 12 WSL matches against the reigning champions (D2 L5), with two of those coming against Chelsea. No side in WSL history has won more games against the reigning champion (Man City also won five).
- Chelsea are unbeaten in their last 14 WSL London derbies (W12 D2) and have won more London derbies than any other side in WSL history (17).
- Arsenal’s Caitlin Foord amassed 7.26 worth of xG (expected goals) from just 33 shots in the WSL last season, with her xG per shot (0.22) the highest in the division of all players with at least 20 efforts at goal, despite not taking a single penalty.
The Barclays FA Women’s Super League has a new home this season on Sky Sports with up to 35 games shown exclusively live. The deal covers the next three seasons and has seen the WSL added to Sky Sports’ flagship offerings.
The current Sky Sports Barclays FA WSL presenter line-up is led by presenter Caroline Barker and includes expert pundit Karen Carney and reporter Lynsey Hooper with commentators Jacqui Oatley and Seb Hutchinson. Jessica Creighton will also be the host of the brand new Inside the WSL show due to premiere on September 9.
From world-class stars like Lucy Bronze and Vivianne Miedema, to the endless rivalry of the ‘big three’ – Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester City – there are plenty of reasons to be excited for the 2021-22 season on Sky Sports. Here’s what’s in store:
Sky Sports – All 35 games will be available across Sky Sports’ flagship channels, including Sky Sports Premier League, Sky Sports Football and Sky Sports Main Event.
Sky Sports News – Running 24 hours a day, seven days a week Barclays FA WSL fans can enjoy Sky Sports News (channel 409) rolling editorial coverage of the league and its storylines throughout the season.
Inside the WSL – Hosted by award-winning broadcaster and journalist Jessica Creighton, Inside the WSL is a comprehensive round-up of all things Barclays FA Women’s Super League and women’s football. Airing weekly from Thursday, September 9 on Sky Sports Premier League, the half an hour show will review and preview matches, include in-depth analysis and exclusive player interviews. Viewers can expect gripping behind-the-scenes access as well as a summary of all the action both on and off the pitch.
Sky Sports Social – Alongside coverage and visibility for the league across all Sky Sports’ main social media channels, a new bespoke Twitter channel @SkySportsWSL will be the home of all Barclays FA WSL content on Sky Sports.
Sky Showcase – All Sky customers will benefit from being able to watch the opening weekend fixtures on Sky Showcase (channel 106) without a Sky Sports subscription. This newly branded channel is designed to curate some of the top shows, films and sports from across Sky’s channels and will highlight Sky Sports’ coverage of Manchester United vs Reading on Friday, September 3 at 7pm, followed by Arsenal vs Chelsea on Sunday, September 5 at 11.30am for the opening weekend.