The WSL Tartan Special: The season so far for Scottish talent

The Barclay’s FA Women’s Super League returns this Sunday with the number of Scots plying their trade in England boosted by the transfer of SWPL1 Player of the Year Jamie Lee Napier from Hibernian to Emma Hayes’ Chelsea where she joins fellow Scot Erin Cuthbert at Kingsmeadow. Meanwhile going in the other direction Kirsten Reilly returns north to join the Rangers revolution after a short spell at Bristol City where she played just one league minute.

There are currently 21 players with tartan connections set to be involved in the second half of the WSL season with only Brighton & Hove Albion the only side of the twelve not to have any Scottish interest. With a big year of Euro qualifiers ahead for Shelley Kerr’s national side Leading the Line editor, Chris Marshall, takes a look at how those who have been involved in the ten games played so far this league season have been getting on.

Who are you most likely to see in 2020

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One thing that is apparent as you look through the performance figures from the first half of the season is that Scottish players are not there solely make up the numbers. Manchester City midfielder Caroline Weir has played every available minute for Nick Cushing’s side whilst Arsenal’s Lisa Evans is the other Scot to have been involved in every available game so far this season.

Arsenal’s talismanic Kim Little, having participated in nine games, completes a trio of players who we will feature heavily during this summary, whilst recent Scotland cap Hannah Godfrey and experienced Bristol City defender Frankie Brown also have nine appearances to their name. Gunners centre back Jennifer Beattie just misses out on the top five having been taken off during her side’s 11-0 victory over Bristol City. Of the 21 available Scottish players, 15 have played in at least half of their sides games so far this season.

Who might be looking for a move?

Kirsty Hanson’s continued emergence for both Manchester United and Scotland has seen team mate Lizzie Arnot pushed to the fringes with the former Hibernian winger a regular unused substitute for Casey Stoney’s side. Jane Ross is also under pressure at United with the emergence of the exciting Lauren James although her experience will no doubt be leaned upon by Stoney as the sometimes rash James develops.

Christie Murray has yet to break back into a struggling Liverpool starting eleven as she makes her way back from injury but her quality, as demonstrated by her cameo for Scotland against Albania, should see more game time come her way, whilst a loan move for young Eartha Cummings at Bristol City may aid the former Spartans stopper’s development.

One player we won’t be seeing in the second half of the campaign is Bristol City forward Abi Harrison with the 22-year-old having suffered an ACL injury back in November. The injury came as a blow to fans of the former Hibernian striker, with Harrison having made the breakthrough into the Robins first team this season.

The difference makers

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Caroline Weir has emerged as a key player for both club and country over the last 18 months a feeling that is borne out by her figures with the midfielder providing the most attacking impetus of any Scot currently playing in the league. Her season started with that rocket against Manchester United on the opening day of the season and she has since gone on to add a further two goals and three assists to her name with City currently sitting second in the table.

Weir has been involved in 25% of all goals scored by the Cityzens in the FAWSL this season, the same level as Manchester United’s Kirsty Hanson, with only Abbi Grant of Birmingham City having a bigger impact on her side having been involved in 40% of her side’s five goals this season.

It’s been another season of progression for Hanson with the 21-year-old’s form seeing her pick up the October Player of the Month Award. She has made five appearances from the bench as manager Casey Stoney rotates Hanson with fellow wide players Jess Sigsworth and Leah Galton but her direct running and willingness to have a go at goal has seen her game time steadily increase.

Whist Hanson is an emerging star Arsenal captain Kim Little is having yet another highly productive season for the north London side having scored four times, including putting the finishing touch on a goal of season contending move against Reading. Her two assists are just a glimpse of the impact she has for her side in the attacking third, acting as the metronome that so much of the Arsenal play goes through.

Little isn’t the only Arsenal player to make it into the top five with former Bayern Munich winger Lisa Evans having been involved in five goals having scored two and assisted three from the right hand side with the Scot a key outlet on those occasions where Little, Van de Donk and co. are unable to pick the locks through the middle.

Rounding out the top five is Everton captain Lucy Graham. The former Bristol City midfielder, who moved to Merseyside at the start of this season, has built on an impressive 2018 with the Robins under the guidance of new coach and compatriot Willie Kirk. Kirk’s faith in the midfielder has been rewarded, none more so than when she popped up to score the winner in the Merseyside derby at Anfield.

Graham has been involved in 23.1% of the Toffees goals this season with only striker Chloe Kelly having a bigger impact. The fact the two have yet to link up this season in front of goal should be seen as an indicator of more to come from the Blues.

The goalscorers

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Whilst Dutch striking sensation Vivianne Miedema has continued her blistering form from last season having scored 14 goals so far this campaign (eight goals more than nearest rival Chelsea’s Beth England), it is her team mate Kim Little who tops the Scottish scoring charts with four to her name.

As well as that goal against Reading she netted the opener in the North London Derby away to Tottenham, using her trademark shimmy before putting it in from the edge of the area, along with scoring goals against Brighton and Everton. Those four goals have been scored without participating in her side’s 11-1 mauling of Bristol City as coach Joe Montemurro rested the midfield maestro. With 73% shot accuracy there’s a reason why many Arsenal fans feel excitement any time she makes her way towards goal.

Three players are tied in second with three goals a piece, although it’s fair to say that Caroline Weir’s penchant for the spectacular has generated the most headlines of the three with Lucy Graham and Kirsty Hanson both having season trebles to their name but it is perhaps the potential of West Ham’s Martha Thomas that will have raised the most curiosity as we enter the second half of the season.

A surprise call-up by Shelley Kerr for recent Scotland fixtures the former Le Harve striker has two goals to her name this season but she has the highest xG of any Scottish player at 3.31 for the season with only Weir’s 22 out gunning Thomas’s 20 in the shots taken department although her accuracy of just 30% is the lowest of any Scottish player to have scored at least once this season. An exciting young talent, in what has been an erratic West Ham side this season, there is a lot to look forward to should the 23-year-old continue to develop.

Some other things to talk about

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Whilst Kim Little (86.5%), Caroline Weir (82.6%) and Lisa Evans (80.4%) all once again feature in the top five when reviewing pass completion it is Arsenal centre back Jennifer Beattie (90.9%) who tops the Scottish passing pops with the former Manchester City centre back also holding the largest number of clean sheets of any Scottish defender with six, although it’s former team mate Weir who leads the away overall with City having kept eight from ten so far.

Birmingham City midfielder Chloe Arthur (80.0%) rounds out the top five with the 24-year-old also the most fouled Scot in 2019 having been on the receiving end on 17 occasions, one more than Everton’s Lucy Graham (16) with Martha Thomas (15) and, of course, Kim Little (14) also proficient in drawing fouls.

Chelsea forward Erin Cuthbert (12), who had an injury hit start to the campaign and will face the fresh challenge of competing with Australian Sam Kerr in the Cheslsea attacking line up, rounds out the top five of the most fouled Scots in 2019 with the recently awarded BT Scotland Women’s Player of the Year having also committed the most fouls of any Scot with 15 to date.

Who has been the Scottish star of the season so far

It seems odd to say that a player who scored five times during an 8-0 victory over Cyprus in her country’s last home outing has perhaps gone a little under-appreciated for her national side recently but after a summer where the engine didn’t fully get revving in France Arsenal’s Kim Little has been in scintillating club form since the season return. In a season littered with sublime moments her tenacity came to the fore during a last gasp victory away to Manchester United earlier in the season.

The captain of the league leaders has a footballing brain that should be the envy of many and whilst the likes of Caroline Weir and Erin Cuthbert are contenders for her crown, for now Little remains the Scottish standout in the English game.

Remember you can follow Leading the Line on Twitter, @LeadingtheLine. Here there will be live insight from the games, comments on the breaking stories from the world of women’s football news as well as early sight of what will be coming via the podcast and on the website. It’s right good!

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