Tottenham need more than just Bethany England to rescue their season
Tottenham are tipped to smash the record for a transfer between WSL clubs in January with a proposed deal to sign Bethany England from Chelsea worth a reported £250,000.
The existing record is an estimated £200,000, the value of the agreement that took Lauren James to Chelsea from Manchester United in 2021. Only the summer 2022 deal to take Keira Walsh to Barcelona, also a world record amount at around £400,000, and Chelsea’s 2020 capture of Pernille Harder have ever exceeded England’s imminent fee when WSL clubs have been involved.
Spurs are not the first club you would look to in the realms of breaking such records, especially when transfer fees are still not the norm in women’s football and they haven’t long been a top flight team.
It suggests a number of things. Ambition for a side that improved rapidly and somewhat unexpectedly last season to finish fifth with a club-record points tally and highest number of wins in a top flight campaign. Opportunism to snap up a good player there for the taking. But also an element of urgency and concern to do something drastic to kick a nose-diving campaign into action.
The Daily Mail has reported that England has agreed to the move and said goodbye to her Chelsea teammates as early as last Friday, suggesting she could be a Spurs player by the time the WSL returns from its winter break in the middle of January. That boost cannot come quick enough.
England remains a top player. It is as recent as 2019/20 that she scored 21 times in all competitions for Chelsea and was named both WSL and PFA Player of the Year. Since then, she has was a victim of her club’s success and ambition, relegated down the pecking order by the subsequent arrival of Sam Kerr, legitimately one of the very best players anywhere in the world.
With Kerr taking things to a new level, England has wound up a back-up who seldom starts. The first half of this season has been no different, with England afforded only two WSL starts – even then in more favourable games against Brighton and Reading – and not getting on the pitch at all in some.
Once expected to succeed Ellen White as England’s first choice ‘number nine’, she has seen Alessia Russo jump to the front of that queue. She was a non-playing member of the Lionesses’ Euro 2022 triumph and wasn’t even called up for the October and November international breaks.
From her point of view, at the age of 28, a move to somewhere she will play is crucial.
England will no doubt improve a goal-shy Spurs side that is flattered by a return of 11 of nine WSL games so far this season. Eight of those 11 remarkably came in one game against Brighton, which means they have averaged a dismal 0.38 goals per game across their eight other league outings. Spurs haven’t scored at all in the WSL since putting eight past the Seagulls and, worryingly, haven’t found the net once in any of the six league games they have lost – including their last four in a row.
Yet it is questionable whether England alone will fix that because Spurs aren’t creating enough.
Per FBREF, they are ninth in the WSL for shot-creating actions per 90 (16.67) and 10th for goal-creating actions (GCA) per 90 minutes (1.44). It is also worth noting that those numbers will also be anomalously inflated by the Brighton game.
Overall, Spurs have notched up 13 GCA for their 11 goals, which implies that finishing chances is not necessarily the issue. Liverpool have scored the same number of goals in the WSL this season, more evenly spread across their games of course, but have managed 19 GCA in total. Brighton have also scored 11 times from 16 GCA and Reading 12 times from 16 GCA. Aston Villa, who have relied heavily on Rachel Daly for goals, have scored 13 from 20 GCA. All those with similar goal numbers are creating more quality chances, while the top four clubs all create substantially more.
England’s arrival might drive up creativity to a degree, but the deeper issue seems more than a big money striker away from being solved.