Sam Kerr, Bunny Shaw & the 21 best Women's Super League players of the 2022-23 season - ranked
- Women's Super League
- Women's football
- Manchester United
- Manchester City
- R. Daly
- M. Earps
- K. Shaw
- B. England
- K. Zelem
- L. James
- S. Kerr
- C. Kelly
- Aston Villa
- L. Galton
- Ona Batlle
- M. Le Tissier
- Tottenham Hotspur
- A. Greenwood
- Y. Hasegawa
- E. Cuthbert
- G. Reiten
- F. Maanum
- C. Foord
- K. McCabe
- K. Dali
- K. Hanson
- G. George
Beth Mead, Pernille Harder, Vivianne Miedema and Fran Kirby are just four of the star names who have missed large, large parts of the 2022-23 Women's Super League season, while others haven't hit the heights perhaps imagined. It means that we've seen some different, up-and-coming faces rise to the fore across the division and get their chance in the spotlight.
We've got an unexpected name at the top of the scoring charts, rising England stars throwing their hats in the ring for Sarina Wiegman's 2023 Women's World Cup squad and still, among it all, some of the reliable, consistent performers doing what they always do: shine.
As the final day of the WSL season approaches, GOAL counts down the 21 best players of the season...
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#21 Gabby George (Everton)
Everton have had a great first season under new head coach Brian Sorensen. The Dane has brought a lot of interesting ideas to the team, including a number of different formations. In those, George has always been a key component.
Her versatility has been important in helping Sorensen be able to play how he wants before he is able to fill the squad out over the next few transfer windows, with George operating on both sides of the pitch either as a full-back, wing-back or sometimes even like a winger.
One of the biggest compliments that can be paid to the England international for the form she has produced in those roles is that her level has rarely dipped, despite the frequent changes. As well as being a rock at the back, George has been one of Everton's most productive players in the final third and one of the most impressive performers across the WSL.
#20 Lauren James (Chelsea)
After overcoming the injuries that have plagued her in recent seasons, we got glimpses of James in full flow this season. The Chelsea forward is still young and still progressing, but has come up with some big moments already and shown just how good she can be.
Moreover, there are few players in the game that are as enjoyable to watch as James, who has completed the most dribbles in the WSL. Those runs and the way she can pierce through a defence have helped Chelsea carve teams open on several occasions, with her importance to the team sure to only grow as her experience does.
#19 Yui Hasegawa (Manchester City)
Hasegawa arrived at Manchester City with big boots to fill. When Keira Walsh departed for Barcelona, the Citizens splashed plenty of cash to bring in the Japanese midfielder from West Ham, and she had to settle straight away, too, as the season had already begun.
While in London, Hasegawa thrived in an attacking midfield position, but her role at City would be one more like Walsh's, as a deep-lying playmaker. It might limit her creativity slightly, but that hasn't stopped the 26-year-old from standing out.
Her calmness on the ball has been a real asset in the team's build-up play and her passing range has been showcased a little more with the space and time she has further back. When Hasegawa has got into those more advanced areas, she's been able to bring that magic to the table that she was more associated with at her previous club, too.
#18 Chloe Kelly (Manchester City)
No player in the WSL has created more chances this season than Chloe Kelly and my word, she leads that race by some distance. The Manchester City winger's tally of 79 is at least 26 higher than any other player, with only Guro Reiten having more assists. Only James has completed more dribbles, too.
It took a while for Kelly's first league goal of the season to come, in February 2023, but it was a big one, giving City a 2-1 win over Arsenal. From there, they've flowed a lot more, the England star now having five to her name to make her the second-most productive City player in the final third, behind Bunny Shaw.
#17 Katie Zelem (Manchester United)
Manchester United captain Katie Zelem has been playing the best football of her career this season, helping the Red Devils surpass the expectations of even the most optimistic fans with her displays in midfield.
Plenty is always made of the England international's efficiency from set-pieces and rightly so - no player has created more chances from dead-ball situations this season than Zelem, helping her to rack up eight assists and make her team the most productive in the league from set-plays.
But there's a lot more to her game than free-kicks and corners, on both sides of the ball. No United player has won more tackles than Zelem this season, who has won possession back more times than any player in the league, and only Ella Toone has completed more passes in the final third.
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#16 Mary Earps (Manchester United)
Voted The Best FIFA Women's Goalkeeper earlier this season, Earps has been the best shot-stopper in the WSL this campaign. The England star leads the league in clean sheets, with 13, and is on track to break the record for the most in a season, with Manuela Zinsberger recording that same number for Arsenal last year.
While part of that is down to the strong defence in front of her, Earps boasts an impressive save percentage of 79 percent, good enough to put her fourth among the rest of the division. Reliable and almost error-free throughout the campaign, the 30-year-old has played a big part in United's build-up play all year, too, with no goalkeeper in the league having completed more passes.
#15 Caitlin Foord (Arsenal)
As injuries began to hit the Arsenal attack, Foord's role in it only grew and her level has been unplayable at times this season. Only Frida Maanum has been directly involved in more goals for the Gunners. With her clever movement, ability to run with the ball and creative thinking, Foord is an asset to any team and makes any side better simply by being in it.
Sadly, just as she was hitting her best run of form, a hamstring injury would sideline her for a few weeks, forcing her to miss the Champions League semi-final against Wolfsburg. Still, she has been one of the most impressive performers across the WSL this year.
#14 Kirsty Hanson (Aston Villa)
No one excelled in the transfer windows this season quite like Aston Villa, with the loan signing of Manchester United's Hanson one of Carla Ward's many masterstrokes. Only Chelsea's Guro Reiten has registered more assists this season than the Scotland international, who also netted seven goals.
Hanson has formed a crucial part of Villa's excellent attack, but has also brought a lot to the whole team effort, with her efficiency in a defensive sense very impressive. In fact, only Tottenham defender Ashleigh Neville has won more tackles than her this campaign.
There's no doubt that the winger's performances will have made Villa keen to make her loan deal a permanent one, but they will have also caught the eye across the league - including back at United, as boss Marc Skinner begins to think about his options for next year.
#13 Alex Greenwood (Manchester City)
Greenwood's growth as a player since she moved from left-back to the heart of defence several years ago has been fantastic to watch. The England international has become one of the very best in her position in the WSL.
With Man City's emphasis on building out from the back, Greenwood could not be a better fit for them. No player in the league has completed more passes this term, with her wonderful left foot able to show off quite the range.
But she's also excellent on the other side of the ball. A great understanding of the game influences her strong positioning and has made her one of the stand-out centre-backs in the league this term.
#12 Katie McCabe (Arsenal)
With Arsenal hampered by injuries all season long, McCabe's presence has been paramount. One of the real leaders on this team, and the player currently wearing the captain's armband, the consistency in her performances and her ability to be versatile has been integral to the Gunners' ability to stay in touch with those at the top of the league amid all the setbacks.
It's impossible for the numbers to do McCabe's contributions justice, with her constantly hopping between defence and attack to ensure balance to Jonas Eidevall's side.
There is a moment of the season, though, that best encapsulates her importance. That came in April when, four days after leaving the Emirates on crutches and with her wicked left foot in a protective boot, McCabe scored an absolutely thumping winner against Man City. Those three points were huge in helping Arsenal recover ground in the race for Europe.
#11 Bethany England (Tottenham)
When England left Chelsea for Tottenham in January, she did so having made just two starts in her eight league games, scoring twice. But in north London, she would have quite a different role, immediately becoming the focal point of an attack which created very little.
Despite not receiving the service she might have done at Chelsea, England has scored 10 goals in 11 appearances for a team fighting against relegation. Some of them have been Goal of Season contenders, too.
It's a remarkable tally which she has racked up with equally remarkable efficiency. Of players who have had seven shots or more since January 1, England's shot conversion rate of 43% is the best in the league. It's not a stretch to say that Spurs may well have been relegated if it was not for her contributions.
#10 Sam Kerr (Chelsea)
By Kerr's exceptional standards, this has not been her best season, but that's no surprise given the way her role on the pitch has had to change due to key injuries in the Chelsea team, namely to Pernille Harder and Fran Kirby.
If the Blues do go ahead and lift the WSL title on the final day, it will be largely down to her ability to pop up with a crucial goal in the big moment. Be it her dramatic equaliser at Arsenal in January, her gorgeous and decisive finish against Manchester United in March or her late winner in a tough midweek clash with Liverpool in May, it took the Aussie a bit of time to warm-up this season, but since she got going, the match-winning performances have flowed.
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#9 Leah Galton (Manchester United)
What a season Galton has had. The United winger has been playing the best football of her career to help the Red Devils mount an unlikely title challenge, netting 10 goals and assisting another four from the left wing.
With a wonderful work-rate and admirable endeavour, her ability to bring top, top quality to the final third has been a key feature of United's attack and has, unsurprisingly, caught the eye of England coach Wiegman, too.
Galton has said that she is happy with the balance she has right now, though, without the added factor of international football. It's no wonder she doesn't want to disrupt things given the level she's playing at.
#8 Maya Le Tissier (Manchester United)
There is not a centre-back in the league that has had a better season than Maya Le Tissier. This is the 21-year-old's first campaign with a top club, with her having left Brighton to join United for a fee in the summer, but she's settled into her new environment, with its higher pressure and bigger demands, seamlessly.
With a duel success rate of 59%, her defensive interventions have been very impressive. Just this month, an incredible goal-saving tackle against Spurs and an equally crucial block against Man City come to mind to highlight the quality she brings to United's back line - the best one, statistically, in the league.
On the other side of the ball, only Greenwood has completed more passes than Le Tissier, underlining her influence in possession. She's even popped up with a couple of goals, representing her best tally in her fifth season in the WSL.
#7 Kenza Dali (Aston Villa)
Another superb summer signing from Aston Villa to make this list, Dali might have gone under the radar this season for her performances, but that shouldn't take away from how good she has been.
A quick look at the stats and you'll see her name popping up near the top for so many categories, despite her playing for a team outside of that 'big four'. The France international is second for successful passes ending in the final third, third for chances created and joint-third for assists, registering eight to go alongside her five goals. It's her best scoring season in the WSL.
Dali has bounced around the league for four seasons, with Villa her third club in that time. But this is the best and the most consistent she has been since arriving in England, with her deserving a lot more credit for her performances this year.
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#6 Guro Reiten (Chelsea)
An absolute assist machine, Reiten leads the league with 10 this season. The quality of service she has provided from the left-hand side of Chelsea's team this term has been superb, with her own attacking threat evident from the eight goals she's scored on top of that. It matches her best return in the WSL yet.
"What I think is happening with Guro is that consistency with every game," manager Emma Hayes said earlier this campaign. "She is finding higher levels in everything she’s doing. She’s been outstanding this season."
It hits the nail on the head. The Norwegian has been a constant menace throughout the year, even when Chelsea have been hit by injuries and missing key players. Her contributions have ensured they've remained a huge threat and played a massive role in putting them in pole position to lift the WSL title again.
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#5 Erin Cuthbert (Chelsea)
Reiten might lead the league in assists and Kerr might have scored huge goals, but Cuthbert has arguably been Chelsea's best performer this season. The Scot has seen her role revised in recent times, turning her into a combative presence in the deeper areas of midfield instead of the attacking threat from the wing or No.10 position she previously was. It's been a real success story.
Cuthbert is an all-rounder. Going forward, she is excellent in her passing, able to create chances, brilliant in striking from range and a fantastic dribbler. In defence, she's a terrier, getting stuck into tackles, reading well play to intercept and throwing her body on the line to block.
"She is prepared to do all the sh*tty jobs and she does them at the top level," Hayes once said of Cuthbert. She's done them at an incredible level this year.
#4 Frida Maanum (Arsenal)
While Arsenal have seen player after player fall victim to injury, Maanum has been a constant for the Gunners and has regularly stolen the show in midfield. The Norwegian wasn't actually in Eidevall's first choice XI at the start of the season, but soon worked her way into it and has been integral ever since, with no player having more WSL goals for the Gunners.
Only three players in the league have completed more dribbles than Maanum, who drives forward with real purpose in the middle of the park, while she's comfortably in the top 10 for chances created, which is no surprise given her excellent vision and equally impressive execution.
Perhaps the crowning moment of her season was earlier this month. With Arsenal needing a win to keep up with the race for the European spots, but up against a stubborn Leicester defence, Maanum picked the ball up on the corner of the box and curled it beautifully over the goalkeeper and into the top corner for a 1-0 win. It was decisive, something she has been all season long.
#3 Ona Batlle (Manchester United)
Is Batlle the best full-back in the women's game? It's hard to argue otherwise. She's still only 23, but the Manchester United star has put up world-class numbers this season, with McCabe, often deployed as a forward, the only defender who has created more chances. In fact, only Reiten betters the full-back for assists.
But what makes Batlle so impressive, particularly as a modern day full-back, is how good she is on the back foot. One-v-one, there are not many in the world better. That she leads her team for dribbles completed and is only behind Hannah Blundell, United's left-back, for interceptions acts as a good illustration of how good she can be at both ends of the pitch.
Batlle's contract expires at the end of this season, with Barcelona - the club she came through as a youngster - having shown an interest in bringing her back for a while. It should be top of United's priorities to keep her in Manchester.
#2 Bunny Shaw (Manchester City)
With Ellen White retiring in the summer to pave the way for Shaw to be an undisputed starter for Man City, and Chloe Kelly and Lauren Hemp on either side of the talented No.9, the Jamaica international was predicted by many to have a barn-storming season.
That said, it hasn't made her exploits this campaign any less impressive. How she has dominated opponents in such a variety of ways, her off-the-ball movement and the way she has contributed to City's all-round play has been seriously impressive. She's even proved to be an asset in defence at times, too.
Eighteen goals from 21 league games is some return. Take them away and the Manchester club would not have been in the hunt for the European spots, never mind in the title race for as long as they were.
#1 Rachel Daly (Aston Villa)
Last summer, Daly became a European champion with England as a left-back. Fast-forward fewer than 12 months, and she is on track to pick up the WSL Golden Boot as a centre-forward.
The Leeds-born Lioness has always been a solid No.9, carving out a strong reputation for herself in the United States with the Houston Dash. But this season she has gone up another level, showcased by her incredible return of 21 goals from 21 league games. She is on track to break Vivianne Miedema's record for the most in a single WSL season, which is 22.
Playing for an Aston Villa team that don't create as much as those in the top four, she's had to be incredibly clinical to rack up those numbers, posting a remarkable big chance conversion rate of 75% to do so. Now, will she be England's starting No.9 at the 2023 Women's World Cup? She certainly couldn't have done more to try and earn that gig.