How the Women’s Super League Hit the Ground Running and Never Stopped
Today marks 10 years since the first-ever matches in the FA English Women’s Super League were played. Every single kick, tackle and goal has been analysed, so here are the best insights from the division’s history.
The Women’s Super League began on Apr.13, 2011, with two 1-0 away wins for Arsenal at Chelsea and Doncaster Belles against Notts County. Those games kicked off the division that replaced its predecessor, the FA Women’s Premier League National Division, as the highest level of women’s football in England. A decade later, the league has 12 full professional teams and has become one of the strongest women’s leagues across the world, boasting star names and with Chelsea looking to become the first English club to win the UEFA Women’s Champions League in the WSL era.
There have been 784 matches in WSL competition to date, with the home and away wins a near direct split – 325 at home and 314 away. With 2,375 goals since its inception in 2011, games in the competition have averaged 3.03 goals.
726 different players have played in the competition, with 324 of those scoring a goal (45%). They have been managed by 45 different coaches and played across 48 different stadiums in those matches.
There have been four different winners of the Women’s Super League since its inception – Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester City – and including the 2017 Spring Series, Chelsea have won it more than any other team (four).
Arsenal have played more matches (165) and won more games (112) than any other team in Women’s Super League competition. The Gunners have also scored the most goals in the competition (404) with their landmark 400th goal coming via Irish international Katie McCabe in their derby against Spurs in March.
Manchester City have the third most wins in WSL history behind Arsenal (112) and Chelsea (101), but with fewer games played than their two rivals, City have the best win ratio in the competition (70.4%). They have won 88 times, including their current run of 12 matches in succession.
This winning run is the joint-longest in WSL history, level with Arsenal’s effort between May and November 2018. City’s next game is about as tough as it gets. With the visit of Chelsea on March 21, City will have to beat the top team to record 13 wins in a row, and if they manage that they’ll leapfrog the Blues into first place.
City’s current boss is Gareth Taylor, and he has the best points per game average of any coach in the history of the Women’s Super League. With a 2.53 average in 19 matches, he will be hoping to get one over Chelsea manager Emma Hayes in their next game.
Emma Hayes holds the record for most games managed in WSL history, taking charge of 143 so far and winning 94 – another competition record. She has lost 26 games, with half of those defeats (13) coming in her first 19 games in charge of Chelsea in 2012-13, only losing 13 of 124 games since (10.5%).
Hayes’ Chelsea side are currently on a WSL-record run of 48 consecutive matches with a goal – 18 games longer than the previous record held by Arsenal. The last match that they didn’t score in within the competition was against Birmingham City in a 0-0 draw back in October 2018.
During this phenomenal scoring run, their forward Beth England scored in nine successive appearances between November 2019 and February 2020 – a record in the Women’s Super League.
As well as being the biggest victory in WSL history, Arsenal’s 11-1 win over Bristol City is also the highest scoring match, with 12 goals – two more than have been scored in any other match. This fixture also saw the Gunners’ Dutch star Vivianne Miedema score an astonishing six goals and assist a further four more. It’ll come as no surprise to reveal that this is also a WSL record for the most goals and most goal involvements by a player in a single match.
Overall, Miedema has scored 59 goals in 63 appearances in the Women’s Super League – the record goalscorer in the competition. Her tally is three more than nearest rival Ellen White (56). She’s converted over a quarter of her shots in the competition (27.4%) and with a further 25 assists, she also holds the WSL record for the most goal involvements (84).
Miedema and teammate Beth Mead have combined for a WSL-record 13 goals, but the seasonal record for goals created for one another was broken this season by Chelsea pair Sam Kerr and Fran Kirby. The Chelsea duo have already created nine goals for one another in the WSL this season, overtaking the previous record held by Miedema and Mead in 2018-19 (8).
Kerr and Kirby’s Chelsea teammate Maren Mjelde holds the WSL record for consecutive unbeaten appearances, with 52 in a row between May 2017 and January 2021. In the game to end her run she was a substitute, playing 22 minutes against Brighton. This means that the only game she has started and lost in WSL competition was back in May 2017, when she played the full 90 minutes of a 1-0 Chelsea defeat to Manchester City.
The accolade for the best win ratio by a player in Women’s Super League history so far goes to Arsenal’s Austrian international Viktoria Schnaderbeck. The former Bayern Munich star has played 21 times in the competition and won 18 of those games, giving her a competition-high 85.7% win ratio.
Only two players have made over 150 appearances in the Women’s Super League. While Steph Houghton has won more games (111) than Jill Scott, it’s Scott who has made the most appearances in WSL competition (157).
The most creative player in WSL history is Karen Carney. Across spells at Birmingham City and Chelsea, she assisted 35 goals and created 298 goalscoring chances for teammates – more than any other player in both categories.
Of all goalkeepers to have played in the competition, Karen Bardsley has the most clean sheets in WSL history (34). With a ratio of a goal conceded every 121 minutes, she also has the second-best minutes per goal conceded record of any goalkeeper to have played 1,000+ minutes in the competition, behind only Ellie Roebuck (121).