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Lauren James, Lauren Hemp & GOAL’s Women’s Super League team of the season so far

WSL Team of the Season so far GFXGOAL

It’s been quite a season so far in the Women’s Super League, with eye-catching performances, excellent games and some intriguing narratives all unfolding in the first half of the 2023-24 campaign. Champions Chelsea, pursuing a fifth successive league title, sit top of the table as the winter break begins, and they’ve got some breathing space before they look over their shoulder to see Arsenal and Manchester City, too. Manchester United will be hoping that the door hasn’t closed on them, but it’s been a difficult first 10 games for the Red Devils.

It’s the top four many would’ve expected, then, but everything that has unfolded behind that has been incredibly interesting, too. Whether it’s Liverpool’s impressive start, Tottenham’s improvements under a new head coach or Aston Villa’s surprising struggles, there has been plenty to keep an eye on across the division.

But who have been the top individual performers in the first half of the WSL campaign? With the league’s action on pause now until January 20, GOAL picks its team of the season so far…

  • Courtney Brosnan Everton Women 2023-24Getty

    GK: Courtney Brosnan (Everton)

    There have been some impressive performers in between the sticks in the WSL this season, with Khiara Keating certainly the story so far after taking control of the starting duties at Man City at the age of 19. But it’s Everton’s Courtney Brosnan who gets the nod in this XI, having helped the Toffees to come back from a worrying start to the campaign.

    The Ireland international has had her work cut out for her on Merseyside, with England prospect Emily Ramsey also battling hard to be Everton’s first-choice. But after being on the bench for the club’s first two games, she has kept the 23-year-old at bay to feature in all of the last eight.

    Of goalkeepers to start five or more games, Brosnan has the third-highest save percentage in the league and the highest overall when it comes to stopping shots from outside the box. Her performance at Anfield was massive in securing Everton the bragging rights in the Merseyside Derby, and she came up big against Aston Villa and West Ham, too, to help the Toffees put another couple of wins on the board after they had emerged victorious in just one of their first seven league outings.

  • Jayde Riviere Man Utd Women 2023-24Getty

    RB: Jayde Riviere (Man Utd)

    Jayde Riviere didn’t have an easy start to life as a Manchester United player. Injuries limited her to just one appearance last season, following a January arrival, meaning her first start for the club came in one of the biggest games in its women’s team’s history: when the Red Devils faced Paris Saint-Germain in their Women’s Champions League group-stage qualifier, their first-ever game in the competition.

    The young Canadian played a few different roles at the start of the season, but in recent months, she’s settled into an orthodox right-back position and has been performing brilliantly.

    Riviere has a fantastic work ethic which allows her to get forward at will and her quality in the final third gives United’s attack a massive boost. She’s brilliant at getting back, too, though, and ranks among the top 10 defenders in the WSL for tackles won, despite playing for one of the league’s top clubs.

    • Lotte Wubben-Moy Arsenal Women 2023-24Getty

      CB: Lotte Wubben-Moy (Arsenal)

      Arsenal hardly looked sturdy at the back in the opening few weeks of this season. Having recruited a couple of new centre-backs in the summer window, head coach Jonas Eidevall seemed to be trying to find the perfect combination in defence, trialling different partnerships in back threes and back fours. Since settling on a centre-back duo of Lotte Wubben-Moy and Amanda Ilestedt, though, the Gunners have looked much more solid.

      Either player could’ve made this XI, really, but Wubben-Moy gets the nod because of how impressive her work on the ball has been on top of her defensive qualities. As well as helping Arsenal to keep all of Rachel Daly, Bunny Shaw and Sam Kerr very quiet when they have faced the north London side in the first half of this WSL season, ranking fifth in the league for aerial duels won, the England international is also among those to have played the most successful passes into the final third, despite being a centre-back.

      Wubben-Moy has never quite been given the chance to shine at international level, almost always in the Lionesses’ squads but rarely the starting line-up. She’s doing herself no harm with her current form, though, and has certainly been among the WSL’s best defenders in these first few months.

    • Gemma Bonner Liverpool Women 2023-24Getty

      CB: Gemma Bonner (Liverpool)

      Only Man City and Arsenal have better defensive records in the WSL this season than Liverpool, and Gemma Bonner is a big reason why. Brought back to the club midway through last season, having captained the Reds to WSL titles in both 2013 and 2014, she has made a huge impact with her quality on the pitch as well as her leadership skills.

      There was arguably no more impressive performer when Liverpool shocked Arsenal at the Emirates on the opening weekend, and that game seemed to set the tone for Bonner and the Reds, who have both continued to shine since. Her display against Brighton in November was a particular highlight, a superb header to break the deadlock at one end complemented by a clean sheet in a fantastic 4-0 victory.

      Only three players in the WSL have won more aerial duels than Bonner this season, who also ranks joint-second for clearances made. She’s led the defence remarkably well to help Liverpool, who are only in their second campaign back at this level, go into the winter break in an impressive fifth place.

      • Niamh Charles Chelsea Women 2023-24Getty

        LB: Niamh Charles (Chelsea)

        Niamh Charles is not a left-back. Not only is the 24-year-old naturally right-footed, but she came through at Liverpool as a forward, primarily playing as a winger or as a No.10. But she has been so good playing at left-back for Chelsea in the first half of this season that she has claimed that place in the England line-up, too.

        Her natural desire to get forward means that only Arsenal’s Victoria Pelova, who plays as an attacking midfielder, has more assists than Charles so far this season, her ability to deliver a pinpoint cross proving to be a real asset to the Blues’ attack. It’s not just about those deliveries into the box, either. Indeed, only Ella Toone has played more successful passes into the final third so far this campaign.

        Charles’ defensive qualities are improving week in, week out, as well. Though she would seem an obvious target when Chelsea face tougher opponents, and that was the case against Man City in October when she struggled up against Chloe Kelly, she has become a lot more difficult to beat with more time in the position, with only four players in the WSL winning possession back more often than Charles this season.

      • Lauren James Chelsea 2023-24Getty Images

        RW: Lauren James

        We’ve known about Lauren James’ potential for a very long time, but never have we seen her electric, attention-grabbing talent complemented by a ruthless final product quite like this season. She’s already surpassed her best-ever goal tally in the WSL for a single campaign – and there is still half of it to come.

        A hat-trick against Liverpool was the pick of her performances so far, but a two-goal display against Leicester the following week was very special, too, with James’ conviction in front of goal and clarity in her decision-making having come on leaps and bounds. She’s still only 22 years old as well, so she still has so much room to grow and improve.

        So many of James’ team-mates have noted that she can become the very best player in the world and the evidence so far this season fully supports that. She is just a joy to watch.

        • Jill Roord Man City Women 2023-24Getty

          CM: Jill Roord

          It was tough to pick between Yui Hasegawa and Jill Roord for this spot, with both having shone in Man City’s midfield so far this season. But the Netherlands’ midfielder just about gets the nod having had an excellent impact since arriving for a reportedly large sum in the summer transfer window.

          A few eyebrows were raised when City paid a near-record transfer fee for Roord earlier this year, but any doubts about whether the former Wolfsburg star was worth that have been made to look foolish, with her racking up six goals and two assists from the middle of the park already. That one of those strikes came in City’s Manchester Derby triumph at Old Trafford will give her bonus points among the fans, too.

          “That’s what big players do, they step up on the big occasion,” head coach Gareth Taylor said after that game. “To have her in this team is a confidence booster for so many players around her.”

        • Marie Hobinger Liverpool Women 2023-24Getty

          CM: Marie Hobinger (Liverpool)

          Another superb summer signing to make this XI is Marie Hobinger, who joined Liverpool earlier this year from Swiss side Zurich. The step-up between the two leagues isn’t small, but Hobinger has hardly made it look difficult since arriving on Merseyside, with only one player in the WSL – Manchester United captain Katie Zelem – creating more chances in the first half of this season than the Austria international.

          She’s shown she is capable of finishing the opportunities she gets on the end of them herself, too, netting three goals already for her new club. The most crucial of those came in November, when her 84th-minute finish gave Liverpool all three points in a tight contest with Leicester.

          “I’m really excited about her talent,” manager Matt Beard said when Hobinger arrived in the summer. She’s certainly living up to the hype.

          • Lauren Hemp Manchester City 2023-24Getty Images

            LW: Lauren Hemp (Man City)

            One of the most in-form players of the first half of this season has been Lauren Hemp, who goes into the winter break having scored five goals and provided two assists despite starting just seven games. Several of those contributions have been particularly significant in keeping Man City’s title challenge alive, too, such as the match-winning brace she netted in a tricky home clash with Aston Villa in December.

            Hemp’s clinical touch in the first few months of this campaign has been fantastic, with her shot conversion rate jumping from 10.8 percent to 20% this season compared to last, allowing her to outperform her xG (2.35) significantly. But the England star still poses a huge threat as a creative winger as well, with no one carving out more opportunities for their team-mates from open play in the WSL so far this year.

            “We all know what a talent she is, but I think in the last half a dozen games, I’ve even seen her go to new levels – new, new levels – in everything that she does,” Man City head coach Gareth Taylor told Sky Sports earlier this month. “She is just a constant thorn in the side of the opposition. Whether she’s successful or not, it never deters her in her confidence.”

          • Elisabeth Terland Brighton Women 2023-24Getty

            ST: Elisabeth Terland (Brighton)

            Leading the goalscoring charts in the WSL after nine games was perhaps a surprise name, that of Brighton forward Elisabeth Terland. Since joining the club last summer, the Norway international has shown glimpses of her talent and potential, scoring an impressive seven goals for a struggling side last season, that her first outside of her home country, too. However, to have matched that tally already this time around is quite a remarkable feat.

            Across the seven goals, we’ve seen plenty of the wide range of qualities Terland brings to the table as a forward. Whether it be her goalscoring instincts to pounce on opportunities that suddenly arise in the box, clinical one-v-one finishing or her aerial ability, the 22-year-old has constantly come up big in such a variety of ways for Brighton.

            Those efforts have been absolutely crucial to the Seagulls’ season, too, accounting for 70% of the team’s total goals. Already this season, Brighton have given Chelsea a scare, taken a point from Manchester United and secured a huge win away at Man City. They’ll need more players to help Terland with the goals if they are to build on this, but the way she has stepped up this season has been absolutely fantastic.

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