It is testament to the impact of Tottenham’s manager, Rehanne Skinner, that last season’s fifth place looks disappointing. They finished with 12 points more than the preceding season but the promise shown early on ramped up expectations. The team won their first four games, then followed a defeat by Brighton with draws against Manchester United and Arsenal, in the process ending their north London rivals’ winning start.
The difficulty for any team with an eye on breaking into the top three, and thus securing a Champions League place, is balancing bringing in recruits who lift the quality of the squad with maintaining consistency and not making too many changes to disrupt that. The advantage for the title challengers is that they have high-quality settled squads that need minimal tweaking. Reaching that position takes patience and time.
Fortunately, it seems Skinner is being given that time. Under the former management duo, Juan Amoros and Karen Hills, who steered the club up the pyramid and into the WSL, the team had begun to lack cohesion and the players looked to be struggling with what was asked of them. Arguably, that pair had earned the right to be given more time but there can be few complaints about the arrival of Skinner, who was appointed in November 2020.
Team and manager seem to be on the same page. Skinner has added players with much-needed WSL experience in Chelsea’s Drew Spence and Orlando Pride’s Amy Turner and Angharad James. Ellie Brazil has joined from Brighton to strengthen the attack and a lesser-known attacking player, Nikola Karczewska, has arrived from the French side FC Fleury after scoring 10 times in 24 games.
It will probably be the battle of the unrelated Skinners – Rehanne of Tottenham and Marc of Manchester United – leading the race to break the stranglehold of the traditional top three. United’s squad is eye-catching but Tottenham could surprise. Excitingly, they kick off by facing each other at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.
Some credit has to go to the FA for the impact of Skinner and Leicester’s Lydia Bedford on the WSL. Both worked with England age-group teams but have slotted into the WSL with ease. Skinner has brought clarity and organisation to Tottenham and an impressive transfer window shows a desire to step up a gear.
There are more and more big names in the Tottenham squad, yet the right-back Ashleigh Neville continues to outshine them. If Lucy Bronze were not Lucy Bronze then the calls might be louder for Neville to get a look in with England. However, her rise has been so rapid that she has missed out on experiencing youth football with England, an important stepping stone to the senior side.
Big summer signing
Turner is perhaps the highest-profile signing. The battling centre-back shone for Manchester United before departing for the NWSL. She marks a step up in Tottenham’s recruitment – if you ignore Alex Morgan’s brief stay. Karczewska, a Poland international, is perhaps the more interesting recruit, though. With Rachel Williams gone, Tottenham need goals.
Euro 2022 delight/heartache
No wins, no points and a single goal: Finland did not have the best campaign but they were in a group with the eventual finalists Germany, the pre-tournament favourites Spain and the 2017 runners-up, Denmark. What impact the tournament will have had on Tottenham’s goalkeeper Tinja-Riikka Korpela and the midfielder Eveliina Summanen will be hard to pinpoint until the season gets under way, but they have battled through tests against some of the best. Perhaps Tottenham’s biggest Euros boost is that they did not have many players competing and so return to action with a far more rested squad than the teams they want to topple.
Bring on the crowds
Like many WSL sides, Tottenham have experienced record ticket sales. Sales for the opening game at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium against Manchester United have yet to be revealed, but the stadium hosted a WSL record crowd when 38,200 watched the visit of Arsenal in 2019. Arsenal hope to top that number, having sold more than 40,000 tickets for their clash with Tottenham at the Emirates on 24 September.