WSL gameweek 1 preview: Euro 2022 boost, Liverpool return & can Man City gel?

The WSL is set for a big opening weekend
The WSL is set for a big opening weekend / James Gill - Danehouse/GettyImages | Lewis Storey/GettyImages | Angel Martinez/GettyImages

The 2022/23 WSL season gets underway on Friday evening, with the league hoping to capitalise on the momentum generated by Euro 2022.

With high profile arrivals, one world record exit, two new managers and a flurry of attendance records set to be broken, the 2022/23 campaign is set to be the biggest in the league's history.

All 12 teams are in action over the course of the weekend - here's everything to look out for in gameweek one of the WSL.

Can Arsenal's Euro 2022 heroes boost WSL title hopes?

Leah Williamson
Arsenal's Leah Williamson captained England to Euro 2022 success / Naomi Baker/GettyImages

Arsenal are vying to end Chelsea's run of domestic dominance and land their first WSL title since 2019, as Jonas Eidevall looks to build on a promising first season in charge.

The Gunners boast two particularly key players from England's historic Euro 2022 triumph in Player of the Tournament Beth Mead and Lionesses captain Leah Williamson, with the latter admitting this summer's experience had made hungrier to add to her domestic trophy collection.

“To be successful has given me a bit of fire back in my belly before the season and now I’m looking forward to starting a new journey," Williamson said. “I’ve definitely got my motivation back and once you get a taste of winning you obviously want more.”

Arsenal vs Brighton

When is kick off? Friday 16 September, 19:30 (BST)
Where is the match being played? Borehamwood
TV channel/livestream? FA Player (UK & international)
Referee? Lisa Benn

Man Utd begin fresh top three challenge

Marc Skinner
Marc Skinner has his second season in charge of Manchester United this term / Visionhaus/GettyImages

Manchester United have narrowly missed out on the Champions League in each of the last two seasons and fans are starting to get itchy feet about the failure to break up the WSL’s established top three when ambitions to be playing at the highest level have been laid bare since the start.

Manager Marc Skinner had something of a free hit last season after being appointed just five weeks before the campaign began, not having the opportunity to put enough of his own stamp on the squad in the transfer market and needing time to do it on the training pitch.

This season, he has had the preparation. His methods and tactics are starting to take hold and the club brought in seven new faces, with Jackie Groenen the only departure that was seen as a genuine loss. Now, the talking stops and United have to get off to a flying start. Skinner himself has said that even with a better squad, they still need to be ‘exceptional’ to pull off a top three finish this season.

“The whole reason we’ve recruited is to [finish in the top three]. Regardless of our recruitment, we have to have an exceptional season," Skinner explained. "In the last five seasons no one has broken into that top three. We have to prepare ourselves to have an exceptional season."

When is kick off? Saturday 17 September, 12:00 (BST)
Where is the match being played? Leigh Sports Village
TV channel/livestream? FA Player (UK & international)
Referee? Abigail Byrne

How quickly will Man City's new-look squad gel?

Lauren Hemp
City have a new-look squad this term / Angel Martinez/GettyImages

Manchester City have had a high turnover of core players this summer, with eight permanent exits and seven high profile new faces through the door. After early season injuries derailed their title challenge last term, will Gareth Taylor's new-look side gel quickly enough this time around?

"I think we're in a good place," said Taylor. "We've lost WSL experience but we've brought in players we think are very good for the future. A lot of changes but we're pretty happy and content where we are as a squad of players."

Sunday's opponents Villa have also had a busy summer, with eight in and 10 out. Their statement signing was England international Rachel Daly - predominantly a fullback for the Lionesses, but a forward at club level.

"Listen, Rachel Daly's not a defender, not anywhere near Aston Villa," said Carla Ward. "She's an out and out forward for us."

Aston Villa vs Man City

When is kick off? Sunday 18 September, 12:30 (BST)
Where is the match being played? Villa Park
TV channel/livestream? BBC Two/iPlayer (UK), FA Player (international)
What time does coverage start? 12:15 (BST)
Referee? Louise Sanders

WSL newbies go head to head

Paul Konchesky
Paul Konchesky is one of two brand new managers in the WSL this season / Marc Atkins/GettyImages

There are two new bosses making their WSL managerial debuts this season, and they meet in east London on Sunday as West Ham host Everton.

It's all about continuity for West Ham, as Paul Konchesky steps up from his assistant manager role into the top job, looking to build on the strong foundations put in place by Olli Harder.

For new Everton boss Brian Sorensen, it's about attempting to instil a sense of stability after a turbulent 2021/22 campaign that saw two managers and one interim boss. Sorensen moved from Fortuna Hjorring and will be managing outside of his native Denmark for the very first time.

"It was [a big decision to move abroad] but it was also something I hoped to achieve one day," said Sorensen. "I've been in Denmark for so many years so it's same stadiums, same teams and so on.

"I always loved the Champions League games we were playing because new opponents, special days - I think you get that here (the WSL) week in, week out. Ask me in 10 years if I'm still here if it's the same, but I'm really looking forward to it."

West Ham vs Everton

When is kickoff? Sunday 18 September, 15:00 (BST)
Where is the match being played? Chigwell Construction Stadium
TV channel/livestream? FA Player (UK & international)
Referee? Lauren Impey

Clash of the former England youth coaches

Rehanne Skinner
2022/23 is Rehanne Skinner's second full season in charge of Tottenham / Charlotte Tattersall/GettyImages

Leicester boss Lydia Bedford is in a similar position that Tottenham's Rehanne Skinner was 12 months earlier, as she prepared for her first full season in charge of the club - Skinner steered Spurs clear of the drop zone during her debut year in charge.

Like Skinner, Bedford moved to the WSL from the FA, having previously worked as a coach in the England youth system. The pair go head to head on Sunday as Leicester face Tottenham.

"I'm a few years older than Lydia so that's the first thing I should probably mention..." Skinner said.

"The game [at England] was to ensure we were working as a collective in terms of how the principles of play were for England so [Bedford is] very familiar with that. Obviously I know similar things to what she knows with that. Overall I think she's worked really hard to get Leicester in a really good place going into this season."

Leicester vs Tottenham

When is kickoff? Sunday 18 September, 15:00 (BST)
Where is the match being played? King Power Stadium
TV channel/livestream? FA Player (UK & international)
Referee? Kirsty Dowle

The return of Liverpool

Missy Bo Kearns, Carla Humphrey, Rachael Laws, Taylor Hinds
Liverpool won promotion back to the WSL last season / Jan Kruger/GettyImages

Liverpool are back in the WSL after a two-season absence, having convincingly topped the traditionally tight Championship last term. They are thrust back into the thick of top flight action with the visit of manager Matt Beard's former side, WSL champions Chelsea.

Liverpool have quite the history in the WSL, finishing bottom of the league on three separate occasions and also winning the title twice. Newly promoted sides have traditionally struggled during their first season in the top flight, but Liverpool boast a squad with some real talent and a manager bursting with WSL experience.

"I think they'll be more than fine," Emma Hayes said of Liverpool. "They've got an experienced manager who knows the league, you can see with the players he's brought in he knows what it takes at this level. I think Liverpool will not struggle, I think they will be very, very competitive this year."

Liverpool vs Chelsea

When is kick off? Sunday 18 September, 17:00 (BST)
Where is the match being played? Prenton Park
TV channel/livestream? Sky Sports Main Event/Football (UK), FA Player (international)
What time does coverage start? 16:45 (BST)
Referee? Emily Heaslip