The 2020/21 Women's Super League Christmas Awards

Dec 24, 2020, 10:25 AM GMT
Sam Mewis, Danielle Van de Donk
The WSL season is at the halfway mark | Robbie Jay Barratt - AMA/Getty Images
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The 2020/21 WSL season has reached the Christmas break, just about marking the halfway point in the campaign - although admittedly due to the fixture schedule, waterlogged pitches and COVID-19 cases, no club has actually played every other team in the division just yet.

Still, it's been a welcome return for the top flight, with the league seeing no action between February and September as women's sport on the whole was largely decimated by the coronavirus pandemic.

The WSL has marked its return in style, with an assortment of the world's finest talent making their debuts in the English top flight, goals galore and a surprise table-topper. Let's take a look at the highs and lows of the season thus far.

1. Team of the Season

Jess Sigsworth
Manchester United have enjoyed a fantastic season thus far | Visionhaus/Getty Images

It's a nice easy one to kick off with, and Casey Stoney's table-topping Manchester United take the crown.

The Red Devils were considered as being in with a shout of breaking into the WSL's top three going into their second season in the top flight, and kicked off the campaign by taking points off a 'big three' side in the league for the very first time via a 1-1 draw with Chelsea.

They went one better by beating Arsenal 1-0 on matchday six, and Stoney's side currently sit top of the WSL. Their top-three ambitions may have shifted towards a title challenge.

2. Manager of the Season

Carla Ward
Ward has inspired a rapid transformation at Birmingham | Catherine Ivill/Getty Images

Carla Ward was appointed Birmingham manager 24 days before the 2020/21 season kicked off. The Blues had picked up just two wins during the entirety of the previous campaign, narrowly avoiding relegation by the virtue of better points per game record than Liverpool. They had just eight seniors players on their books ahead of the new season.

Ward galvanised her side and has inspired a remarkable turnaround. A surprise penalty shootout FA Cup quarter-final win over Brighton was the catalyst for a momentum swing, and after narrowly losing to the might of Chelsea, Birmingham went on to win three in four and surge up the table.

A season that had previously been branded 'project survival' by Ward herself now has hopes of a top-half finish.

3. Signing of the Season

Sam Mewis
Mewis has been an excellent addition | Visionhaus/Getty Images

The WSL welcomed a host of international talent during the 2020 transfer window - and some familiar faces returned.

From Manchester United's signing of Tobin Heath, Manchester City's capture of Chloe Kelly and Brighton's acquisition of Denise O’Sullivan, there have been plenty of standout contenders for signing of the season.

However, Manchester City's Sam Mewis has been in a class of her own. She has taken to life in the WSL seamlessly and is already singlehandedly running games from midfield with her athleticism, passing range and intelligence. Should her form continue in the new year, she will be a big contender for player of the season.

4. Most Outrageous Week of the Season

Jill Roord
Roord hit two hat-tricks in two games | Marc Atkins/Getty Images

Jill Roord scored two goals during the entirety of the 2019/20 WSL campaign.

She found the net six times in the space of six days in September.

The Arsenal midfielder hit a hat-trick during the Gunners' 6-1 win over Reading on the opening day of the season, before netting another treble six days later as her side thumped 10-man West Ham 9-1. What a week.

5. Best Fresh Start

Francesca Kirby
Kirby has been back to her best this season | Gualter Fatia/Getty Images

The 2020/21 season has offered a fresh start to a number of players. The likes of Everton's Izzy Christiansen and Arsenal's Caitlin Foord, who joined their respective clubs in January but were given little time to make their mark before COVID-19 struck, have both hit the ground running and been sensational this term.

But Chelsea's Fran Kirby - the WSL's forgotten woman after illness kept her out for the majority of last season - made her comeback in August's Community Shield, and looks even better than before.

The deft touches and flicks, her link up play and her ability to provide for others has been off the charts. Kirby's performance against rivals Manchester City was particularly impressive, giving the City backline a torrid time, while her five goals in nine appearances in all competitions this season has seen her overtake Eni Aluko as the Blues' all-time record goal scorer.

6. Breakout Star

Ella Toone
Toone has flourished this season | Visionhaus/Getty Images

One factor in Manchester United's impressive start to the season has been their cohesiveness and lack of one, individual star.

However, one player who has particularly caught the eye is Ella Toone. The midfielder started just five league games last term but has already surpassed that figure this season, keeping captain Katie Zelem out of the side.

Toone has hit four goals in 10 appearances - including the winner against Arsenal - and has earned her maiden senior England call up.

7. Team Performance of the Season

Claudia Walker
Birmingham recorded a momentous win at Villa Park | Catherine Ivill/Getty Images

Birmingham had the odds stacked against them going into the WSL's maiden second city derby.

Their already small squad was depleted by injuries, and with the COVID restrictions on girls' academies in place during November, they could only name a matchday squad of 13 for the clash against rivals Aston Villa.

However, Birmingham turned in a resolute performance and recorded a 1-0 win thanks to Claudia Walker's fifth goal of the season.

8. Individual Performance of the Season

Grace Moloney
Moloney was incredible when Manchester City faced Reading | Marc Atkins/Getty Images

When the might of Manchester City travelled to the Madejski Stadium in October and named 11 full internationals in their starting XI - including two World Cup winners - it looked like it could be a long old day for Reading.

And it was. City dominated possession and registered 26 shots to Reading's three.

But in the shape of Royals goalkeeper Grace Moloney, the Citizens came up against a woman in inspired form. The Reading stopper made no fewer than nine saves in an extraordinary individual display to almost single handedly earn Reading a 1-1 draw against one of the strongest sides in the WSL.

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