Tottenham Hotspur Women begin their 2023-2024 Women’s Super League campaign on Sunday, October 1st against Chelsea. Spurs will debut a new manager and a revised squad after last season’s monumentally disappointing campaign.
Folks, I have to be honest. The vibes at Spurs Women? Not great! The club failed to capitalize on a strong 2021-2022 season and instead stagnated while the league continued on an upward trajectory. A nine-game losing streak saw manager Rehanne Skinner sacked, and assistant coach Vicky Jepson appointed as interim. Even in the closing few games of the season, Spurs Women often looked like a side that had never played together before. It was frustrating, but maybe not surprising given Spurs had to juggle an array of season ending injuries, and a crop of new signings who never quite got off the ground.
Spurs didn’t flirt with relegation so much as they left relegation at the altar after a season-long engagement. It’s likely that without the December signing of superstar Beth England, Spurs wouldn’t have made the cut. But instead of learning their lesson, Spurs put yet another underwhelming transfer window in the bank. This summer saw the arrivals of Luana Bühler (defender), Olga Ahtinen (midfielder), Barbora Votikova (goalkeeper), Zhang Linyan (forward), Grace Clinton (forward) and Martha Thomas (forward). While these players are mostly improvements on outgoing players (Kerys Harrop, Kyah Simon, Chioma Ubogagu, Cho So-Hyun, Esther Morgan, and Tinja-Riika Korpela), the rest of the league is still doing more.
The new squad is under the direction of Swedish manager Robert Vilahamn, who joined from Champions League side BK Hacken. I’d love to tell you all about his play style, but unfortunately, Spurs Women haven’t been televising their pre-season friendlies, or even putting them up on SpursPlay after the fact.
Even though we know basically nothing, Dustin and I have put together a set of questions for you. Please do share your own answers in the comments—your guesses are as good as ours!
How did last season match up to your expectations (lol)?
No, but seriously: LOL. I had had such high hopes for last season, it really appeared that Spurs were starting to take the women’s team seriously and there were strong indications that the club could make a push for top four. Aaaaaaaaaaand then we nearly got relegated. I’m still kind of at a loss to explain what happened. I know there were major injuries, but it still boggles my mind that a Rehanne Skinner-managed side could be quite that bad.
Abbie: Yeahhhhh, last season was kind of heart breaking. My expectations started high and then slowly got worse as new information came in—losing Rachel Williams and Maeva Clemaron to other teams, and Kit Graham and Ria Percival to long term injuries, we didn’t really replace them or make any other massive signings, we couldn’t compete with any of the teams at the preseason tournament in Louisville, KY… the list goes on. Don’t even get me started on the games. I used to think we were fun to watch under Rehanne Skinner, but she sure showed me. There was just nothing going on.
Yeah there were personnel issues, there were injuries, but I think the most logical explanation is that I really am cursed. Spurs Women have only won something like three games since I started writing about them in *checks notes* Spring of 2022.
How did this transfer window stack up to your expectations?
Dustin: I generally think of myself as an optimistic person, but it’s a little hard to be optimistic after this window. When Spurs signed Beth England, that was exciting. This feels like a return to moneyball – the players Spurs brought in might be good? Luana Bühler sure seems like a solid addition to the back line. But most of Spurs’ signings are either decent players at teams in smaller leagues (Olga Ahtinen, Zhang Linyan), or players who couldn’t crack the squads at bigger teams (Grace Clinton, Martha Thomas, Barbora Votikova). That’s Tottenham’s lane right now and I understand it, but I’ve also watched Manchester United basically buy a competitive team right out of the gate and can’t help but wonder “why not us?”
Abbie: Agreed, my brain is pretty broken after last season. I don’t understand why Tottenham won’t make bigger moves, despite a clear blueprint laid out by sides like United, and now Aston Villa. It feels like Spurs are trying to moneyball it, but without the talent identification, and in a scenario that totally doesn’t call for a moneyball approach—it really doesn’t cost very much to make a solid women’s side right now. They should just do it. But I have to admit, I don’t have high expectations for our transfer business at this point. In that way, Spurs met my expectations.
Who will be our top scorer?
Dustin: Beth England. Next question?
Abbie: We haven’t mentioned it in this preview yet, but Beth England will be out for a little while with a hip injury. She was our top scorer with only a half season last year, and personally I don’t think anyone else will come close to Beth England this year, either.
Who will be our top assister?
Dustin: There are a couple of possibilities here, but I think I’m going to go with Kit Graham. Kit was the focus of Tottenham’s attack before her injury, but with Beth being Beth I think that frees Kit up to take up more of a creative position within the squad. Or at least that’s the theory – we’re all pretty much guessing about all of this because Tottenham decided not to stream any of their preseason matches. Robert Vilahamn (or as I jokingly call him, “Bob Goddamn”) is supposedly instituting a style not too dissimilar to Ange Postecoglou, which makes predicting this stuff really tough.
Abbie: Man, I don’t know. We have a bunch of attacking midfielders with different skill sets, and I don’t really know which one is going to work best in Vilahamn’s system, or whether that’s the position on the field where assists will be coming from. Certainly none of us predicted it would be Rosella Ayane last year. I want it to be Kit but just to be different I’m going to go with Grace Clinton, because I think (and honestly who knows) Vilahamn likes her.
Who are you most excited to watch?
Dustin: Beth England, Next question?
Ha, seriously, it’s Beth but I’m also excited to see whether any of Spurs’ existing talent can thrive in what will likely be a very different tactical system to what they’ve played over the past couple of seasons. Can Ros Ayane learn to hit a cross? Will Eveliina Summanen channel her inner Mousa Dembele? Can anyone step up at striker until Beth gets healthy? What will the new players add? We don’t know! Spurs Women are a box with a giant ? on the side and that’s both exciting and kinda terrifying.
Also “excited” isn’t the right word here, but I’m really intrigued by Ramona Petzelberger because I’m not sure we got to see her play more than once last season. (Did we ever get an explanation for that?)
Abbie: Like Dustin, I’m curious to see what happens to last season’s underperformers. Mostly, I’m curious to see what will happen if we get Ash Neville in a consistent position, and whether she can rediscover her Fall 2022 form, which was stellar.
What will be our biggest problem area?
Dustin: I’m going to keep saying the same thing I’ve said the past three seasons until it stops being an issue – who’s going to score our goals? Beth pretty much put the team on her shoulders and almost single handedly kept the club from being relegated last season, but she’s out until God knows when and this club needs to learn how to put the ball in the net. I want to see goals from Celin Bizet. I want Kit to step up. I want Drew Spence to crash the box. I want Asmita Ale and Ash Neville terrorizing defenses on the wings. I want a lot of things, but I want this club to score more goals than last season or it’s going to go very badly.
Abbie: I think we need more defense in our midfield. To be honest though, I have no idea what Vilahamn requires of different players on the field, because we haven’t been able to watch any of pre-season (do you sense a recurring theme here?). I’m not sure we’re going to know for a good five games.
Where do you think we’ll place in the WSL?
Dustin: Again, “box with a big ? mark” but unless ol’ Bob Goddamn is magic I can’t see Spurs finishing higher than sixth this season. As always, I hope I’m wrong.
Abbie: I’m going with 8th. Aston Villa look set to retain their “best of the rest” position from last year, Brighton have improved massively, and Liverpool don’t seem to have fallen off. I expect Everton and West Ham to finish below us, along with Bristol City and Leicester. The side I’m most worried about amongst those four is Leicester. They’ve improved massively over the summer, and I think 8th and 9th place will come down to us or them.
A score prediction for our opener against Chelsea?
Dustin: Starting the season away to Chelsea is just cruel, but someone’s got to do it I suppose. Eventually I think Tottenham are going to get a (fair) result against one of the traditional WSL powers, but I don’t think it’ll be this one. 3-1 Chelsea, consolation goal from Kit Graham.
Abbie: One thing you should know is that Chelsea have a first-game-of-the-season curse. They’ve lost all their first games for the last 5 years. Do I think they’re going to lose this game? No, not really. I think Tottenham are under a much stronger curse (and that curse is—a chairman who does not believe in investing in their women’s team). But who would I be if I didn’t bring absurd optimism to these articles? I think we’re going to draw 2-2.
What do you think? Let us know in the comments below!