Rachel Daly, Emma Hayes and the Women's Super League winners & losers of the 2022-23 season

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Chelsea were crowned champions again while Reading succumbed to relegation, but there were plenty of other stories in the WSL this year, too...

What a season it has been in the Women's Super League. Both the title race and the relegation scrap went to the final day to ensure a big finale to an already thrilling campaign. In the end, it was Chelsea who reigned supreme for a fourth year running while Reading's eight-year stay in the division came to an end.

There were plenty of stories worth paying attention to in between the very top and the very bottom, too, as Manchester United secured Women's Champions League football for the first time - at the expense of rivals Manchester City - while several clubs in the middle of the pack attracted attention for both good and bad reasons.

So, who were the winners and losers of the 2022-23 WSL season? GOAL takes a look...

  1. WINNER: Emma Hayes

    WINNER: Emma Hayes

    Another year, another title for Chelsea and Emma Hayes. The Blues won the league for the fourth time in succession, breaking their own WSL-era record for three in a row.

    It was a tough season for Hayes and her team, though. Injuries to Fran Kirby and Pernille Harder massively restricted their attack, forcing more inexperienced players to step up and the relentless Sam Kerr to adopt a different role.

    If that wasn't enough, Chelsea also lost both Millie Bright and Kadeisha Buchanan, their two first-choice centre-backs, for a hectic run-in that not only included must-win league games, but also a Champions League semi-final against Barcelona and the FA Cup final.

    Throw in the ever-increasing competitiveness of the WSL, particularly among the teams at the top, and this was a very difficult title to win. Hayes deserves huge props for guiding her team over the line through it all, as do her players for stepping up along the way.

  2. LOSER: Reading

    LOSER: Reading

    After an eight-year stay in the top-flight, Reading were relegated on the final day. The Royals have long been one of the stories of the WSL, finishing just two places and six points off of Champions League football in 2017-18 despite not being linked with a club that has huge financial might.

    The job that manager Kelly Chambers has done at the club has been well and truly tremendous. Indeed, her name is one of the first that those clubs in the WSL who are looking for new coaches this summer should be considering as the off-season begins.

    But, sadly, little could be done on her part to prevent this demotion. Injuries to key players - most notably the Achilles rupture that Olympic gold medallist Deanne Rose suffered on the opening weekend - individual errors and decisions not going their way have all culminated in Reading finishing at the bottom of the pile this year.

    Will they be back? Time will tell.

  3. WINNER: Aston Villa's recruitment team
    Getty Images

    WINNER: Aston Villa's recruitment team

    It's hard to overstate how good a job Aston Villa have done in the transfer market this season. Last summer, the club recruited very impressively. Rachel Daly was the signing of the season, winning the WSL's Golden Boot after scoring an insane 22 goals in 22 games, equalling Vivianne Miedema's record from the 2018-19 campaign.

    Kenza Dali, behind her in midfield, and Kirsty Hanson, on the wing, contributed a hefty amount of goals on top of that, while providing great service for the England international. Dan Turner, meanwhile, came in from Everton as a left-back and, after a clever but necessary positional switch, was one of the best centre-backs in the league this year.

    But if that wasn't good enough - and that's not even all of their good summer business - Villa backed it up with a bumper January, bringing in a pair of Lionesses in Jordan Nobbs and Lucy Staniforth. The midfield duo, with Staniforth filling in at full-back at times, have made an immediate impact to help the club ensure a fifth-placed finish and set them up with great momentum for what's sure to be another cracking season next term.

    Before that though, they'll likely wow us all again in the summer window.

  4. LOSER: Manchester City

    LOSER: Manchester City

    The massive improvements of Manchester United this season meant that the competition for the three European spots was bigger than ever, with one of Chelsea, Arsenal or Manchester City suddenly much more likely to miss out. Sadly for the latter, it was they who came up short.

    To make matters worse, City also ended the season without a trophy. They fell at the first hurdle in the Champions League, not even making it to the second qualifying round, were knocked out by Aston Villa in the quarter-finals of the FA Cup and lost to Arsenal in the semi-finals of the Continental Cup.

    It's a failure of a season by the standards of this incredibly ambitious club. With City having fallen in the Champions League qualifying rounds in the last two seasons, too, some of the players who have interest from elsewhere may be considering their futures.

    Head coach Gareth Taylor is reportedly to be offered a one-year extension on his contract that is otherwise set to expire this summer, and the pressure on him to deliver a much better campaign will be huge.

  5. WINNER: Rachel Daly

    WINNER: Rachel Daly

    Rachel Daly's decision to join Aston Villa last summer could not have been a better one for her career. The 31-year-old has thrived in the Midlands, scoring 22 goals in 22 games to win the WSL's Golden Boot and fire her team to an impressive fifth-placed finish. She looks incredibly happy at the club, something clearly demonstrated in her performances.

    Daly has got the chance to show what a wonderful No.9 she can be and it could have a huge impact on her international career, too. She's England's most in-form striker ahead of the 2023 Women's World Cup by far, with Alessia Russo, the current first-choice option, having only bagged 10 league goals for Manchester United this season.

    Daly has long been a utility player for the Lionesses, starting every game at Euro 2022 as a left-back, but she could well force her way into Sarina Wiegman's XI as a centre-forward now.

  6. LOSER: Paul Konchesky

    LOSER: Paul Konchesky

    West Ham impressed in the first half of this season, sitting fifth as the WSL paused for its winter break, only behind the big guns: Manchester United, Arsenal, Chelsea and Man City.

    But when the campaign resumed in mid-January, Paul Konchesky's side just seemed to completely unravel. It was only on the penultimate weekend of the season, with a 2-1 win over second-from-bottom Leicester, that the Hammers registered their first league win of 2023 after 10 games without one.

    In early May, after a disappointing 1-0 defeat to Brighton, West Ham stalwart Kate Longhurst took to social media to share her thoughts on that run. "I’ve played and dedicated nearly 30 years of my life to football. And not once in my whole career have I felt so low on confidence and destroyed as I am in this moment," she wrote. "We need something to change, to bring that belief back and we hope we can do that soon."

    That change came once the season had ended. The day after the big finale, West Ham announced Konchesky had left the club. The Hammers are now on the lookout for a third different manager in three seasons.

  7. WINNER: Manchester United

    WINNER: Manchester United

    They didn't win the title in the end, pipped by Chelsea on the final day, but that wasn't Manchester United's aim when they started this season. The aim was to get Champions League football and they did that convincingly, showing remarkable progress along the way.

    There's a lot to applaud from their campaign, but the mentality shift has been perhaps the most impressive factor in their success. It's contributed to consistent form against those below them in the standings as well as victories against those around them. United did the double over Arsenal this year and beat Man City for the first time in the WSL. Getting those results against fellow title contenders is a huge step forward.

    Ahead of a first season in Europe, Marc Skinner and his side have laid fantastic foundations to build on. Now, it's about exactly that, with greater squad depth required if they want to be a force on several fronts going forward as their schedule looks set to become more demanding.

  8. LOSER: Arsenal's medical team

    LOSER: Arsenal's medical team

    Has anyone in the WSL had to work harder this year than Arsenal's medical team? The injuries that the Gunners have suffered throughout this campaign have been never-ending, with the most concerning thing being that they have lost four players to ACL ruptures: Beth Mead, Vivianne Miedema, Leah Williamson and Laura Wienroither.

    Arsenal are not new to injury crises. During Joe Montemurro's reign, there were constant questions asked about player absences and the need for an internal review, such was the scale of the problem. Sadly, that appears to be the case again.

    In a recent interview with Dutch outlet AD, Miedema raised alarms with some strong comments about the situation. "We at Arsenal have to stay fit with two physiotherapists for a complete squad of more than 20 players," she said. "How can that go well?"

    It's thrown things under the microscope even more for the club - but it's not just about them. There is an ACL crisis in the whole of women's football and more needs to be done to address it.

  9. WINNER: Everton

    WINNER: Everton

    Last season, Everton had about as chaotic and rocky a campaign as a team can possibly have. Starting with ambitions of Champions League football, the club sacked two managers and eventually finished third-from-bottom. But one good thing would come before the end of that season - the announcement that Brian Sorensen would take over for 2022-23.

    The Dane arrived with a great reputation and quickly set about implementing his interesting and entertaining ideas about football, which would bring Everton three wins from their first five games. There have been dips in form at times and heavy defeats to big teams, but Sorensen has proven to be a great appointment, leading the club to a solid sixth-place finish.

    Under his charge, Everton have not flirted with relegation once, they've showed serious signs of promise and they've had some well-needed stability that can now be built on with a good transfer window.

  10. LOSER: Tottenham

    LOSER: Tottenham

    At several points this season, it looked like Spurs were going to be relegated. It would've been an ironic fate for a club whose owner, Daniel Levy, has reportedly expressed his desire for the WSL to become a closed league.

    Fortunately for the north London club, they pulled off an excellent January signing in the form of Bethany England, who has fired in 12 goals in 12 league games to help lead them to safety.

    That shouldn't be what a club like Spurs is celebrating, though. There is a lot of talent in this squad and, while there are areas that can be strengthened, they should be a lot more consistent and higher up the standings than they have been this season, rather than in the relegation picture.

    Having sacked Rehanne Skinner in March, the club will be searching for a new head coach this summer. The right appointment, and further investment in the squad, will be imperative if they are to kick on.

  11. WINNER: Willie Kirk

    WINNER: Willie Kirk

    When Willie Kirk took over at Leicester in November, the team had lost every single one of their first nine games of the WSL season. It was a huge job and, to be honest, a situation he couldn't really come out of looking bad. Few gave the Foxes any chance at staying up, even at that early stage of the season.

    Yet, the former Everton boss has worked wonders in an incredibly desperate situation. All five of the signings made in January have been a success, with Kirk working the loan market especially well, helping Leicester to win their first league game midway through the month.

    Suddenly they had hope, and that's only increased since they broke their duck. Back-to-back wins in late April took the Foxes out of the relegation zone for the first time before they secured their safety on the final day.

    What Kirk has done is without a doubt the most remarkable job in the WSL this season.