Tonight: The NWSL Challenge Cup kicks off
The NWSL season begins with a rematch of last year's Challenge Cup title game.
The FAWSL transfer window opened up on January 1st, and the 12 clubs have until the 28th to complete any activity before season’s end, when the summer transfer window opens.
This current window is the perfect opportunity for all the clubs, but especially the league’s leaders, to strengthen their current squads and put themselves on track for an end season run.
The transfer window has been open for about a week now, and some FAWSL clubs have been keen on dealing with their business early. Below is a roundup of all the early deals.
Which #BarclaysFAWSL team are you most excited to watch in 2021? ????— Barclays FA Women's Super League (@BarclaysFAWSL) January 4, 2021
Villa started off the window strong by signing Mana Iwabuchi from Japanese football club INAC Kobe Leonessa. Iwabuchi has been a star for Japan since she made her international debut over a decade ago, back in 2010. She’s helped Japan win gold at the 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup in Germany, the 2018 AFC Women’s Asian Cup (where she won the tournament’s MVP award), and the 2018 Asian Games. She also won silver at the 2012 London Olympic Games, and was a part of the team that finished runner up to the US at the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup in Canada.
Iwabuchi’s success for Japan has translated well into her club career — she’s been incredibly successful, winning eight trophies with Nippon TV Tokyo Verdy Belezaher, the first club she played for in Japan, from 2007-2012. After those five years, she ended up in Germany, winning promotion with Hoffenheim in 2013, and winning two Frauen-Bundesliga with Bayern Munich in 2015 and 2016.
Iwabuchi’s stint with Villa will be her first in England, and Villa’s head coach, Gemma Davies stated that “not only will [Iwabuchi] bring a wealth of experience to the squad, but she will also add a different dimension to our attacking play. She is a very technical player that thrives in tight spaces, and we cannot wait to see her continue to develop at Aston Villa.”
Having won promotion last season from the Championship, Villa currently sit in 11th place this season. This signing shows that they want to do more than stay in the FAWSL, but also want to avoid having to continuously fight a relegation battle each season.
Chelsea started off the transfer window by bringing in another goalkeeper, signing Zećira Mušović from Swedish club FC Rosengård.
???? We are delighted to announce the signing of @ZeciraMusovic from FC Rosengard!— Chelsea FC Women (@ChelseaFCW) December 18, 2020
The Swedish goalkeeper will join the Blues for the second half of the 2020/21 season! ????
This is definitely an interesting signing to say the least, as Chelsea already have two fantastic goalkeepers — their number one, Ann-Katrin Berger, and their second keeper, Carly Telford.
With two fit and healthy goalkeepers, it does make Chelsea signing Mušović seem entirely unnecessary. The likelihood of the situation is that one of Berger or Telford will leave at the end of the season and Chelsea are attempting to prepare for it early, rather than attempt to sign a keeper in the summer. The most likely departure is Telford, whose contract is up at the end of May, and will likely be looking for a club that can guarantee her the starting goalkeeper position.
Mušović has quite a bit of experience for such a young player, having won bronze with Sweden at the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup, and six trophies with FC Rosengård.
Chelsea, who are currently in third place in the league, are considered one of the best teams in the FAWSL, and much of it is due to their depth. It is unlikely that Mušović will come in and replace Berger as Chelsea’s starting keeper, but she will be a vital piece when called upon, and she is definitely one to watch for the future for both club and country.
Back in August of 2020, the Orlando Pride loaned Scottish forward Claire Emslie to Everton until the end of the calendar year, and Everton’s business thus far in the transfer window has been to make that deal permanent, with Emslie signing an 18 month contract with the club.
Everton this season have been a revelation, coming out the gates punching well above their fighting weight. They were unbeaten their first five league matches, winning the first four, and drawing the fifth. Since then, their form has dipped a bit, and it remains to be seen how the break will impact their form in the new year.
Emslie has been a fantastic addition to the team, contributing four goals in just six starts. She’s also quite familiar with the league, having been a key factor in helping Bristol City get promoted to the FAWSL back in 2017, and winning the domestic double with Manchester City during the 2018/19 season.
Everton is one of the teams attempting to break into the ranks of the ‘Big Three’ (Arsenal, Chelsea, and Manchester City) by finishing in the top three and earning a spot in the Champions League. Everton has a strong starting XI, but the games in which they’ve struggled have demonstrated their lack of depth, a department that the ‘Big Three’ have little issues in. Signing Emslie on a permanent contract brings Everton that much closer to being on the same level as the top competition.
The FAWSL is back this weekend, with West Ham taking on Manchester City, and Aston Villa hosting Arsenal on the 9th. The transfer window will remain open, and we’ll likely see a lot of clubs continue to do their business until the final day. Stay tuned for next week’s transfer window roundup.
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