The 2021-22 Women’s Super League season ended a few weeks ago, and friends, it’s about time we did a season wrap-up. In our defense, there’s been a LOT going on in Spurs-land, but we’d be remiss in not taking a long retrospective look at Tottenham Hotspur Women and what was a record-breaking season. Spurs smashed their previous record points total in the top flight, earned their first win over a member of the “big four” with their huge win at Manchester City in September, and had their highest ever finish in the league. Along the way, they even went top of the table for a couple of weeks and were looking like good money to finish in a Champions League position.
That didn’t end up happening, of course. Injuries, COVID, and an unfavorable schedule took its toll, and Spurs ended up limping to the end of the season, finishing in fifth, ten points behind Manchester United. But it was still a hugely successful campaign for Spurs Women, and while there are both successes and frustrations to look back on, I think it’s safe to call this season an unqualified success.
In discussing how to structure this season in review, Abbie and Dustin decided to simply ask each other questions about the season, how it went, and what Spurs fans might look forward to next season. Here are our answers. And of course, we welcome your thoughts, reflections, reactions, and questions in the comments below.
Ok, we’ve had some time to digest the season now. How are you feeling? How did it compare to your expectations?
Dustin: This season far exceeded my expectations, but I’m not sure my expectations were that high to begin with. Maybe they should’ve been higher, because the signs were there starting with the appointment of Rehanne Skinner that Spurs were starting to take things more seriously than they had in past seasons. But after the way things ended last year, I fully expected Tottenham to plod along as a mid-table WSL side, more pushing for the “best of the rest” status and not very interested in actually competing with the larger clubs. In that sense, I’ve been both pleasantly surprised and gratified, even as I acknowledge that there’s a long way to go before Spurs become anything close to a WSL power.
But there are positive signs here. Spurs’ defense was one of the best in the league, and that’s a pretty good foundation on which to build. The club appears to be taking women’s football at least somewhat seriously (they could still pony up more money) by attracting some good talent and letting Spurs Women train at Hotspur Way. This summer feels like a pretty big one in that it could signal a real statement of intent in how much they are willing to invest in the women’s game.
Abbie: To be honest, my expectations were quite low at the beginning of the season. I didn’t really know what to make of Rehanne Skinner or our summer signings, and our ten game losing streak to finish out the 20/21 season didn’t give me much hope. I was thinking things like, “well, I’m pretty sure we won’t be in danger of relegation,” and that was about it.
This season exceeded my wildest dreams, so much so that I feel like I need to go back and watch the second half of last season to figure out what I missed. Even though we closed out the season with another lengthy winless streak, I still feel really good. I came away from nearly every one of those losses and draws thinking nice thoughts about our fantastic coach, our solid and organized defense, and our hard-working and creative midfield. We were just missing clinical attackers, and the depth to close out the season after injuries and a covid outbreak.
Last year at this time, I couldn’t even see a way up the table. This year, it’s pretty obvious what the club needs to do.
For you, what was the high point of the season?
Dustin: Is it cliché to say the win at Manchester City? Too bad, I’m doing it anyway. That result seemingly came out of nowhere, and was hugely significant as it was Tottenham’s first ever win over a member of the so-called “big four.” Yes, City were dealing with injuries and yes the winning goal was controversial (and was almost certainly a handball) but I feel like that match set the stage for everything that was to come afterwards, and gave Spurs Women a belief that they could hang with anyone in the league.
There were others, too – the 1-1 draw to Arsenal was a particular highlight, even if it felt gutting not to win that match, but I have to put a win over a not-win in the high point category.
Abbie: The Manchester City game gets a shout for me, too, but it was so early on it kind of didn’t register in my mind as anything other than a big surprise. I almost went with the 1-1 draw with Arsenal–the game that convinced me our early season success wasn’t entirely a fluke–but then I remembered that we absolutely obliterated Watford 11-0 in the FA cup. Yeah, I know Watford were just awful. I know that result probably said more about lack of investment in Women’s football than anything else. But that was really the cherry on top of a good run of form, and it made me feel like we were really building something. Then Kit Graham got injured in the very next game and things started to go downhill.
What about the low point of the season?
Dustin: I feel like injuries and a string of bad performances sapped the life out of the second half of the season. Losing Kit Graham was a huge blow, and that run starting in late March where Spurs went seven matches without a win, had a COVID outbreak, and lost Ria Percival was pretty massive. Spurs had banked enough points that they never really felt in danger of dropping behind West Ham or Brighton in the table, but it sucked away any chance Spurs had of finishing in a Champions League place. That blew.
Abbie: Definitely the 2-2 draw at the end of the season against Everton. It was in the middle of a run of terrible fixtures, and I thought that was our best chance to break our winless streak. I’m such a sucker for an against-all-odds heroic late winner, and I really thought Josie had done it for us. I was yelling, I was opening up google docs to edit my “who should stay and who should go” document to type “Josie Green should be awarded a lifetime contract.” Before I even finished the sentence, Everton got their second equalizer. I was so upset I barely even had it in me to write the match report.
What was your favorite goal of the season?
Dustin: Alas, there weren’t that many to choose from, but I think for me it’s Kyah Simon’s little dink off the long pass from Molly Bartrip against Brighton. That pass from Molls was exquisite and the way Simon took it off the bounce and just one-touched it right over the keeper and into the net was sublime. Shades of Alderweireld to Kane, that.
But a close second was Rachel Williams’ goal against Arsenal under the lights, mostly because of Ash Neville’s incredible assist, which was one part Dele in Amsterdam and one part Tom Carroll.
Abbie: It’s funny, I was just watching all the goals back, and like, while we set up so many beautiful chances this season, most of the actual goals we scored were so, so scrappy. I obviously thought about that Kyah goal, and Ash Neville’s goal in that same game. There’s also of course Rachel’s goal against Arsenal, which fans voted goal of the season. But no, it was Josie Green against Everton for me (I know this must come as a great shock after my last answer).
We absolutely buried Everton in shots that game, but we were so visibly exhausted from playing Chelsea twice in one week, you could just feel the Everton equalizer coming. It did, and naturally we’d also just subbed off Eveliina Summanen who I felt had been holding everything together. I was like, “that’s it, we’re done, Everton are winning.” But then Josie held the ball and played Jess Naz down the wing. Jess skillfully beat her defender and played a dangerous cross that Josie poked in. Great goal, even better timing. A fitting departure gift from a club legend.
Who was our best player this season?
Dustin: I think I have to give it to Ashleigh Neville. She’s impressed me so much this season, and it’s all the more notable considering she was playing with Spurs in the second division three seasons ago. Not many players can make the leap, but she proved to be one of the best attacking wingbacks in the WSL this season. She was solid on both sides of the ball, and really came into her own under Skinner’s tactics.
A close second would be Shelina Zadorsky, who was imperious at the back all season long. She anchored Tottenham’s defense and made all of the players around her better.
Abbie: I feel like Rachel Williams, Ria Percival, and Kit Graham all had convincing spells this season, but how could it not be Ash? I really don’t have much to add on this one. She does everything, she leaves everything out there on the field, and she does it with pizazz. She’s pretty much become one of our best known players, and I couldn’t be happier about that.
Who was our most disappointing player?
Dustin: Tough one because I don’t like to call out players. There’s a number of contenders – I expected Tang Jiali to have more of an impact on loan and she turned out to be a role player at best. Kyah Simon has my goal of the season but looks like a shadow of the player I remember from the Matildas and the NWSL. Angela Addison and Josie Green both never really put it together at this level, and that bears out as sadly both have left the club.
But in the end I think I have to give it to Rosella Ayane. Ros is a skillful and fast player who has been able to get forward with good effect this season, but hasn’t been able to convert that industry into chances, shots, or goals. Ayane was fourth on the team with shots, but she had only one goal and no assists this season, and her npxG+xA/90 was a paltry 0.21, well down the list of Tottenham’s attacking players, even behind Ria Percival. That’s just not going to cut it for a team that HAS to improve its scoring next season if it wants to make an impact in the WSL. Spurs cannot continue to carry attackers who cannot put the ball in the back of the net, no matter how promising they are or how much we like them personally.
Abbie: For me, it’s Kyah Simon. Kyah has a lot of talent and she’s had some bright moments this year. It feels weird to give her this one because she wasn’t even close to our worst attacker, and I’d have started her most of the time too. It was because we relied on her so often that I’m disappointed. Kyah seems to have lost a little pace, and it feels like she’s still adapting to that. I lost track of how many passes I watched roll out of bounds just beyond her reach. I knew she probably wouldn’t score loads of goals for us, but I did think she’d add to our attack. I’m not sure I really saw that.
Who’s your unsung hero in this year’s Tottenham Women squad? Or to put it another way, your favorite non-obvious player?
Dustin: Look I love Ash Neville and her helmet hair with every part of my soul, but I’m going to go hipster and say Maeva Clemaron. She did so much of the dirty work in midfield and I feel like she rarely got the credit that she deserved. A real yeo…woman’s effort. I hope she stays and kicks on because there’s a talent there.
Abbie: If Ash weren’t already pretty much unanimously our player of the season, I’d give it to her. Instead, I’m going to out-hipster Dustin and give it to Kerys Harrop.
“Really, Abbie?” you say. “A defensive fullback?”
Yeah, really. Kerys is versatile. She can play center back or fullback, which gives us a lot of flexibility in formation. What she lacks in speed, she makes up in timing and vision. She’s a good passer, which gives us options in ball progression. Even though she’s a defender at heart, she still offers something in attack, often appearing high up the pitch to keep attacks going when the ball pops out. And who could forget her brilliant movement and subsequent goal against Chelsea? She’s equally impressive off the pitch—she seems like a fun character in the dressing room on social media, and she has a masters degree in sports research which she uses to give back to football and the community through lecturing and consulting for academies. In summary, she’s good at soccer and she’s also really cool.
Who are you most excited to watch next season?
Dustin: I’m reserving my answer until we get a better sense of who’s coming into the team – there are some pretty spicy rumors floating out there about potential new Spurs players. But out of this side, I’m really looking forward to seeing Kit Graham back out there. With an upgrade in the players around her I think Kit could shine next season with a little more space and some time to get her shot off.
I also think Asmita Ale could be poised for a breakout campaign next season – she’s super young and has had some growing pains but there’s a real player in there.
Abbie: I almost chose Eveliina Summanen for my Unsung Hero, but I wanted to save her for this one. I think she’s going to be a star. I think teams are going to gaze upon her busting a lung in our midfield and grow green with envy. She can run forever, she can pass, and she’s great at positioning to win the ball back. She’s also really aggressive and feisty—one of those players who gives up fouls but draws just as many in return. If she could just add a wee bit of shooting to her game, she’d be perfect. I’m excited to see how she does with (hopefully) better attackers ahead of her, but I also don’t think it’s out of the question that she adds more to her own game. She only just turned 24 a few days ago, and with another season under a great coach surrounded by more experienced players, I think she’ll really thrive.
That being said, if we sign Beth England or something, my answer is obviously Beth England.
What’s our best XI?
Dustin: Spencer / Neville - Zadorsky - Bartrip - Harrop / Clemaron - Summanen - Percival / Graham - Simon - Williams
Abbie: Spencer / Neville - Bartrip - Zadorsky - Harrop / Clemaron - Summanen / Simon - Percival - Graham / Williams
Talk about hipster, I went with the same XI as Dustin but I put them in a 4-2-3-1 instead. Now that I think about it, I totally lack the ability to predict what the two different formations would be like, so I’m not even sure it matters. I also think there’s something to be said for a back 3. We actually created a ton of chances in some of the games we used one. If I’d seen her play more, I might have put Viki Schnaderbeck in for Kyah Simon and gone for that.
If money and logistics were no object, who would you sign?
Dustin: Sam Kerr? Vivianne Miedema? Seriously, Tottenham desperately need a killer striker that can put away chances. Spurs have been linked with Beth England, who I think could help them immensely. I also think an attacking midfielder like Guro Reiten or Hayley Raso that can unlock defenses would be a boon for a club like Spurs that already has a solid defensive spine.
Abbie: It feels silly not to say Sam Kerr, but I’m going to go for someone younger with an unbelievable amount of potential. Folks, let’s sign Catarina Macario. I’ll make it simple—we need a goalscorer, and she was Champions’ League winners Lyon’s top scorer with 22 goals across all competitions this season. It’d also be super fun to sign a USWNT player (not to mention good for international exposure), but the main point is that she’s like really, really good.
I’ve really talked myself into this now. Get Daniel Levy on the phone, and tell him I said to pay her whatever she wants.
Where do you think we’ll finish next season?
Dustin: A lot of it depends on how much investment we make and whether we can stay healthy, but I think that a fourth place finish shouldn’t be out of the question. Barring significant investment I still think we’re a few years away from challenging the Chelseas or Arsenals of the WSL, but I feel like with a few key players and a little luck we can finish fourth and maybe put the fear of God into whatever team finishes third. Without that investment, we’re looking at fifth again, and “best of the rest” status, which is fine, but not representative of the ambition shown by Skinner and this club.
Abbie: I’m with Dustin on this one. We should be aiming for 5th at the very least, but I don’t think 4th is an unreasonable expectation if we invest well. Depending on exactly what happens this summer, I think we could seriously challenge for 3rd.
It’s worth keeping an eye out behind us, particularly for Aston Villa, Everton, West Ham and Brighton. These teams and possibly others will certainly be looking to challenge us for “best of the rest” and even the top spots. That being said, the names we’ve heard linked with us so far have given me a lot of hope we’re planning to push on to a new level, so you can expect more of the same unfailing optimism from me next season.
We’d love to hear from you in the comments below. As a reminder, here were our question categories, summarized:
- How you feeling?
- High point?
- Low point?
- Best player?
- Most disappointing player?
- Unsung hero?
- Player you’re excited to see next season?
- Best XI?
- 2022-23 WSL finish?