The WSL has only just returned for a couple of games yet here we are at an international break. The Lionesses will face North Macedonia and Luxembourg in World Cup qualifiers and Sarina Wiegman has named her first squad as manager!
With it being Wiegman’s first squad in charge of the Lionesses, it is interesting to see her make a few little tweaks. Starting with the expected omissions and Jordan Nobbs (Arsenal), Keira Walsh (Man City) and Lucy Bronze (Man City) all miss out due to injury.
Starting first with the WSL champions and there are well-represented in this Lionesses squad. The big sides are in general in truth, some fans even saying that there is a misguiding and unfair bias towards them. She may not be a starter for her club but Carly Telford’s experience continues to earn her a spot in the squads, she is one of three goalkeepers. There are then a trio of defenders; Millie Bright, Jess Carter and Niamh Charles. Bright is obviously a regular for the Lionesses and it seems very likely she’ll start alongside Steph Houghton (Man City), especially with Leah Williamson (Arsenal) listed as a midfielder. On the topic of Leah and her rise to a key asset for both club and country is very impressive, on top of that the lifelong Arsenal fan’s versatility has her in a great position to feature prominently for her country for many years to come.
There are two other Chelsea representatives, one of who is the FAWSL player of the year Fran Kirby. Along with her is Beth England who may not be a starter given the presence of Kirby, Kerr and Harder but her impact off the bench is second to none. From the blue half of London to red and the side that beat Chelsea a couple of weeks ago, Arsenal. Williamson is joined by three of her clubmates, one of which is a new arrival this summer. Nikita Parris returned to the WSL after a trophy-laden stint with Lyon whilst Lotte Wubben-Moy has, like Leah, quickly got to the level she is at. The last of the three is Beth Mead who has got off to a flying start this season following her Olympics snub, scoring twice against Chelsea and then once again against Reading.
Onto the final of the so-called big three WSL sides and Man City are also well-represented in Wiegman’s Lionesses squad. Defender Esme Morgan was starting to get a run in the team this season but she picked up an injury in that surprise loss to Tottenham after colliding with Ashleigh Neville, what has since been revealed as a leg break. Wiegman says she won’t be calling up anyone to replace the Man City defender. Joining Morgan from Gareth Taylor’s defensive ranks are Alex Greenwood, Steph Houghton and Demi Stokes. Houghton’s captaincy was under question but she has retained that whilst Greenwood could feature as either a left-back or a left centre-back.
Going up the pitch and that is not the end of the Man City Lionesses. In midfield there is Jill Scott who spent last season on loan at Everton but is now back in Manchester, plus Georgia Stanway. The youngster has gone from strength-to-strength and continues to grow in ability and confidence. Talking of City’s youth and Lauren Hemp is of course in the squad, having been the standout player for a disappointing Team GB at the Olympics. Alongside her is the recently named England player of the year Ellen White, whose goals and work-rate in front of goal have propelled her to where she is now, as one of the best strikers in the world.
Next to their city rivals who may have had a tough off-season, but that hasn’t translated into the opening games. The loss of manager Casey Stoney as well as a number of key players including Chelsea-bound Lauren James and USWNT duo Tobin Heath and Christian Press seemed catastrophic. Mary Earps is still in the sticks though and her ability has, in the past, been overlooked by the Lionesses. Earps has got the call-up for these qualifiers though, as has familiar face Ella Toone, a dangerous forward who has scored in both of the two WSL games so far this season. Then there are two midfielders, one of which is Katie Zelem, who is yet to be capped for the Lionesses. Zelem has worked her way up the ranks of the national team set-up as well as with Man United from the Championship to the top and it is great to see her get this chance. Lucy Staniforth is the other who has featured for her country throughout her time with Birmingham and into her United years too.
That is the big four covered but the Lionesses does go beyond that, so here is the rest of the squad. Everton goalkeeper Sandy MacIver completes that section with Hannah Hampton (Aston Villa) unlucky to miss out and Ellie Roebuck (Man City) absent through injury. The final two names both ply their trade stateside. Rachel Daly went on loan to West Ham last season but she is back now with the Houston Dash who she joined back in 2016. Daly is listed as a defender but we’ve seen her play all over the field for the Lionesses so she again brings the blessing of versatility. From a more experienced NWSL star to young Ebony Salmon who is a constant goal-threat. She was prolific with Bristol City despite the relegation battle and has continued that into her time with Racing Louisville. Salmon and Nadia Nadim formed a solid partnership up top although the Dane has torn her ACL, abruptly ending her season. Salmon is another for the future and it is great seeing her get this opportunity in the here and now.
That is that then. With the WSL on Sky and ITV recently announcing that they will show these friendlies for the Lionesses and more going forward, everything is going in the right direction! This is all building up to the Euros next year which will be a home tournament for the Lionesses.