It’s here, the day we’ve all been waiting for! Tottenham Hotspur Women return to action in the FA WSL against Leicester City at 10:00 am Eastern/3:00 pm London. In honor of the big day, we’re here to preview the upcoming season. Unlike The Athletic, who managed to write an entire FA WSL season preview without mentioning Spurs once, we’ll be focusing entirely on Spurs Women and what to expect in the coming months.
Just to refresh your memory, Spurs Women started last season strong enough to get people talking, including a win over Manchester City and a draw with Arsenal. But injuries and a covid outbreak meant they kind of tailed off toward the end. We lacked the depth to change games with substitutions, and the crammed schedule meant we were watching exhausted players, some of whom were likely playing through injury.
The season’s end saw the departure of key players Rachel Williams and Maeva Clemaron, and we also bid farewell to Josie Green, Angela Addison, and loanees Tang Jiali and Viki Schnaderbeck. In replacement, Spurs signed striker Nikola Karczewska, versatile attackers Ellie Brazil, Ramona Petzelberger, and Celin Bizet, midfielders Drew Spence and Angharad James, and center back Amy Turner. The new squad then headed off to Louisville, Kentucky for Spurs Women’s first ever international preseason tournament. Despite a load of good vibes and moments of promise on the pitch, Spurs preseason ended up a string of somewhat clumsy losses.
The jury is very much still out on what we’re going to see from Spurs this year. Dustin and I have noted down all our takes in this article, and we’d love to hear your predictions in the comments. Without further ado, let’s get into it!
Let’s start where we left off last season. Of the players who have left, who’s going to be the biggest miss?
DGM: Maeva Clemaron will be hugely missed. Tottenham rarely dominated the midfield last season, but whenever good things happened centrally, it was usually because Maeva made it so. She will be utterly missed, but who are we to stand in the way of her wanting to have a career in architecture?
I’m also not sure we will know how much we’ll miss Rachel Williams until we’re a few matches into the season. She was at times the only source of goals for Spurs last season, and while I think Nikola Karczewska will mitigate Rachel’s absence, I sometimes think of a Nikola-Rachel strike partnership and get a little wistful about what might have been.
AZ: Maeva’s the obvious miss, both in terms of defensive work and distribution. She was seventh in the league in progressive passes last year, and we’re already very clearly missing that.
I’m also already starting to notice Rachel Williams’ absence. It’s not even her attacking numbers—it’s her proficiency with pressing trigger duties and her ability to hold onto the ball in absurd circumstances. Our press will suffer until Nikola learns her role in it as well as Rachel did. I think she’s well on her way, so I’m keeping my fingers crossed. Rachel was also one of the best retainers of the ball I’ve ever seen. The less we have someone retaining the ball even up top, the more we expose our defense. Her absence will affect us all over the pitch.
So, continuing onto the summer. How did this transfer window stack up to your expectations?
DGM: I was promised Beth England. Where’s my Beth England?!
Maybe I’m reacting to what I perceive as overtly doomer takes on the window from corners of Spurs social media, but I think the window has been… okay? Not exceptional. Not poor. Pretty good? I think everyone was hoping for a bright, young American NWSL star-in-waiting to come, or maybe an aging England international, and instead we got some decent NWSL talent, some relatively unknown commodities from the continent, and some annual WSL churn. That’s not a bad thing at all, but it does have a bit of moneyball feel to it, like Spurs are trying to make smart signings rather than big ones. I think there are questions about all of Spurs’ signings simply because we just don’t know much about them yet. Hopefully most of them work out. I sympathize with those who think that we could’ve spent more on recruiting top talent (we absolutely could’ve!) with some rudimentary cash from the club. That said, I think Spurs will be a better team than they were last year.
AZ: Spurs fans seem really down on our transfer window, while non-Spurs folks seem pretty high. There’s a lot of jealousy from other teams and excitement from European soccer analysts for both Nikola Karczewska and Celin Bizet. I think I’m somewhere in between these camps. I can’t say whether the transfers have net improved us, but I certainly think we’re going to be an even more fun team to watch this season. I’m really excited to watch talents grow and develop in real time under a renouned coach who had a number of current full England internationals at youth levels. We may get to reap the benefits for years to come.
Spurs' performance under Rehanne Skinner were impressive. Their defensive organization was great and now they are adding some solid players like Nikola and Celin to help them in producing the goods in the final third.— Yash (@Odriozolite) August 10, 2022
I expect good things once again from them! https://t.co/nyfqUvVXYh
That said, I don’t entirely understand why we’re seemingly moneyballing it. There’s certainly an argument to be made about creating sustainable growth and fandom in the women’s game, which is something that goes way beyond just signing a few big money players. Even so, how much could Rachel Daly and Ebony Salmon have realistically cost? Like a half a week of Harry Winks’ wages?
How about preseason? What did you make of the team? Did it make you feel better or worse about the upcoming season?
DGM: My hands are up as I admit that I wasn’t able to watch every one. The ones I did see were Club America and Tokyo Verdy and in both of them Spurs looked… extremely preseasony. Which makes sense, but it’s really tough to take a whole lot from two matches against clubs I’ve never watched before and were completely unknown quantities. Losing to Chelsea also isn’t a surprise.
It’s not very fun seeing your team lose all its preseason matches, but friendlies are friendlies and I assume we learned from them and used them as platforms for improvement. Due to injuries and preseason play I don’t really have a good feel for how this team wants to play nor how good it could be, so I’m more or less heading into the season with a clean slate and blind optimism. We’ll see how well that works for me.
AZ: I’ve written at length about preseason, but to recap, I have mixed feelings. I actually thought we looked decent except for a few extremely preseason moments, but all those losing scorelines sure don’t feel good. Preseason made me feel a little bit better about some things, and a little bit worse about others. On the bright side, Nikola Karczewska arrived at a way higher level than I thought she would, Asmita Ale seemed like she might have put some work in over the summer, and Angharad James and Drew Spence really look like they’re going to add to our midfield in fun and exciting ways. Unfortunately, our defense looked quite leaky and disorganized, and our attack looked equally disjointed and like several players still hadn’t found their shooting boots.
I’m mindful of the fact we’re trying to incorporate a bunch of young new players who come from several different leagues, and that’s going to take time. It’s particularly going to take a while in an extremely organized and quick-paced setup like Rehanne’s. Preseason didn’t answer all of my questions, but give it time. I think it’ll get there.
It’s time to look forward. Let’s start with tactics. Do you think we’ll play with a back four or back five?
DGM: I think Rehanne Skinner probably wants to play with a back four, but that involves having more than just one fullback at each position, something that due to injuries they currently don’t have. My guess is that we’ll start out the season with a back five, which in theory could allow a wide midfielder to deputize on the flanks if needed. Maybe Rehanne and Antonio Conte can compare notes.
AZ: I think we’ll continue to see the back four against weaker teams and the back five against stronger teams. Without Kerys fit, a back four is pretty open—Ash and Asmita are both quite attacking fullbacks, and I’m not convinced any two of Drew Spence, Eveliina Summanen, and Angharad James would provide enough defensive cover for it, especially so early in the season when Drew and Angharad are still learning Rehanne’s roles. Between injuries, personnel fit, and league trends, it’ll be interesting to see how the formation and tactics progress as the season goes on!
Who will be our top scorer?
DGM: Nikola Karczewska, with Celin Bizet close behind. But I also hope Kit Graham will return and plonk in a few before season’s end.
AZ: It has to be Nikola. Who else could it be?
Nikola Karczewska makes it 2-1!— Attacking Third (@AttackingThird) August 15, 2022
Game on! pic.twitter.com/PSNTwlpnIM
Who will be our top assister?
DGM: I want to pick a midfielder but I have questions about consistency so I’m going to go out on a limb and say Ash Neville.
AZ: I think a bunch of our players will get two or three assists and there’ll be no standout. I think I probably have to go with Ash Neville too, in the end. I could also see Angharad James or Drew Spence putting in a ton of through balls that end in Nikola shots and goals.
Who are you most excited to watch?
DGM: Karczewska, clearly. She’s just a LOAD and really impressed me in the preseason games and highlights I watched. I’m also really intrigued by Bizet (and not just because I can make niche musicology jokes when she scores) and I think Angharad James could end up being one of the best signings we made all summer.
Celin Bizet (norway/psg) scorpion goal!!!— caro (@caro_RBK) October 25, 2021
istg if she still doesn't get called up to the senior side pic.twitter.com/D65IhzJWNf
AZ: I’m already unbelievably on board the Nikola Karczewska train, and I’m so excited to watch her. I think Angharad James is going to be full of both defensive and attacking pizazz, and I’m fully expecting to fall madly in love with her and list her as my favorite player at the end of the season. I’ll also throw in Asmita Ale though because I think she’s been steadily improving for a while, she looked good in preseason, and I have a feeling she’s about to have her breakout year.
What will be our biggest problem area?
DGM: I mean, it’s still “scoring goals” until it isn’t, you know? I have big questions about central midfield in Clemaron’s absence and small questions about the back line, but you aren’t going to win many football games if you don’t score goals. That’s been Spurs’ issue for two seasons now and it would be lovely if this time it actually got solved.
AZ: I think we’ll struggle to score goals but this season it’ll be much more issues with progressing the ball than our actual finishing. I think we’ll create fewer chances, and I’m just hoping Nikola’s shooting boots can make up for that.
Where do you think we’ll place in the FAWSL?
DGM: The good news is that Tottenham have improved their squad. The bad news is that so did everyone else, especially the top four. If I had to guess, I think Spurs will likely battle for fifth in the WSL, but will close the gap to fourth place and will even get a result or two against the best teams in the league. That’s progress.
AZ: I really can’t see us coming in higher than fifth, unless one of the Manchester teams totally falls apart this season. I’m (so far) confident we won’t come in any lower than that, though West Ham made a few key signings close to the deadline that could challenge me on that.
Alright, let’s finish off with a score prediction for our opener against Leicester City.
DGM: Let’s go with a 2-0 win. Leicester aren’t good.
AZ: All I’ve heard about Leicester lately is how bad they were and how much worse they’ve gotten. We should win handily, and I can’t overstate how happy I am that we’re playing them instead of United. That said, they’re still a hurdle we have to clear, and I’m not gonna lie I have a little bit of preseason nerves. A nice 2-0 like Dustin predicted sounds about right, though I could easily see it going higher if everything clicks.
How to watch- It sounds like we’ll have to wait for our grand debut on Paramount+. You can catch the game for free on the FA Player at 10:00 Eastern Time/3:00 London time.