WSL: Who are the new signings to watch out for this season?

Kadeisha Buchanan, Lina Hurtig and Mary Fowler
Kadeisha Buchanan, Lina Hurtig and Mary Fowler

The clock is counting down to this weekend’s start of the Women’s Super League season and there are just three more days to go until the transfer window closes on Thursday.

There have been plenty of comings and goings already this summer, but who are the players to watch out for?

BBC Sport has picked out some of the new stars who could make a big impression in their debut season in the WSL.

Kadeisha Buchanan

Joined Chelsea from Lyon

Kadeisha Buchanan graphic

A five-time Champions League and Division 1 Feminine winner during six seasons at Lyon, Chelsea have signed a serial winner and classy centre-back. Buchanan described European glory as her “sole purpose” when completing the move in June.

The former Ballon d’Or nominee made 129 appearances for Lyon, the club that has dominated the Champions League for the past 11 years. She featured for 76 minutes of the 3-1 victory against Barcelona that secured a record eighth title for the French outfit.

Buchanan will become the first player since former men’s club captain John Terry to wear the number 26 shirt at Stamford Bridge.

“Everybody knows she’s a world-class player,” Chelsea manager Emma Hayes said of the 26-year-old after watching Buchanan shine during a narrow defeat by Lyon in a friendly tournament in August.

“What an incredible player. With the right work she will become the best defender in the world.”

Mary Fowler

Joined Manchester City from Montpellier

Mary Fowler graphic

The Australia Professional Football Association (PFA) Young Women’s Footballer of the Year grew up playing football on the beach and could have joined her siblings, Caoimhin and Ciara, in representing the Republic of Ireland at youth level through her father.

The 19-year-old made her international debut at the age of 15 and has scored seven goals in 24 appearances for Australia. She also scored on her W-League bow for Adelaide United in 2019, but feels the European game suits her best.

“I like to play football with players who are also good on the ball, playing nice through balls and one-twos,” said Fowler, who might have chosen zoology had she not been so gifted with her feet, after signing in June.

She added: “I like this creative style, that’s the word that sums me up.

“Instead of playing the ball back, I like to go forward and be the attacker who starts the attack and doesn’t stop it.”

Her new City team-mate Ellie Roebuck is unlikely to want to be reminded of Fowler’s decisive quarter-final cameo at the Olympic Games last year. She beat the City goalkeeper with a deflected effort to seal a 4-3 win for Australia over Great Britain in extra time.

Fowler was aged 18 at the time and was about to make her mark in Europe following formative years in her homeland and the Netherlands.

Last season, the forward – who can also play as an attacking midfielder – scored five times in 15 appearances as Montpellier finished fifth in the French top flight.

Lucia Garcia

Joined Manchester United from Athletic Bilbao

Lucia Garcia graphic

The 24-year-old found the net on 28 occasions during her final two seasons in the Primera Division, becoming known for staying on defenders’ shoulders and making perceptive runs to latch on to chances.

“She’s just electric,” Manchester United manager Marc Skinner said of the striker, who joined the club in July.

“She’s somebody who I feel our fans will really engage with.”

A regular among the top scorers at youth international level, Garcia showed the cutting edge she can bring by scoring a header in Spain’s 4-1 win over Finland at Euro 2022 as part of an eye-catching display in the group stage.

“She can invade backlines, she can take the ball one versus one – another strategy to beat a stubborn defence,” added Skinner, whose side finished fourth in the WSL last season.

“We found ourselves against a lot of blocks last year, so adding her ability to invade lines at the right time is good.”

Lina Hurtig

Joined Arsenal from Juventus

Lina Hurtig graphic

The striker won two league titles, two Italian Super Cups and one Coppa Italia after joining Juventus in 2020.

Reports in Sweden say Arsenal paid a six-figure sum to sign the 26-year-old from the reigning Serie A champions.

She is most comfortable on the left flank, sending in dangerous crosses and occasionally scoring spectacular goals.

“I’ve always, always wanted to play in England,” said the Swede, who joins her international team-mate Stina Blackstenius at the Gunners.

She also knows the Arsenal manager, fellow Swede Jonas Eidevall, from when they were both operating in the Swedish top flight.

“Jonas believes a lot in me and I’m willing to do whatever it takes to improve as much as I can to help the team,” said Hurtig.

Euro 2022 was not as memorable for Hurtig as she might have hoped, losing her starting place after Sweden’s second group game and coming on as a late substitute shortly before England scored their final goal in a 4-0 win over her side in the semi-finals.

Sweden manager Peter Gerhardsson reflected that he did not get the most out of a player whose pace and strength has allowed her to score 19 times in 58 appearances for her country.

Laia Aleixandri

Joined Manchester City from Atletico Madrid

Laia Aleixandri graphic

The 21-year-old – who is an adventurous centre-back or defensive midfielder – has significant experience of the Champions League, helping former club Atletico Madrid knock new club Man City out of the competition in successive seasons from 2018-19.

A player who joined Barcelona’s academy at the age of 12, the new number four is a tactically astute guardian of possession.

“The club has a very similar philosophy to the way I like to play, which will help me to play to my full potential,” the free agent said when her three-year deal was announced.

Aleixandri was one of Atleti’s captains and one of the departing players to receive a guard of honour and a ceremony on the pitch when the men’s side played their final game of the 2021-22 season at the Wanda Metropolitano, where there is now a plaque honouring her time at the club.

An Under-17 Euro winner in 2015, Aleixandri made her debut at that level at the age of 14 and scored on her senior bow against Cameroon four years later.

She featured in all of Spain’s matches on their run to the Women’s Euro quarter-finals, entering as a 70th-minute substitute as La Roja came within six minutes of knocking out eventual champions England.

Eve Perisset

Joined Chelsea from Bordeaux

Eve Perisset graphic

Chelsea boss Emma Hayes praised Perisset’s mentality and tenacity when she joined Chelsea on a three-year deal from Bordeaux in June, and those qualities were abundantly clear when the 27-year-old faced one of the most high-pressure moments of Euro 2022.

France and the Netherlands had been inseparable until the 102nd minute of their quarter-final, when Perisset dispatched the only goal of the game from the penalty spot to put her side into the final four for the first time.

The Champions League regular is a versatile player who can play in both full-back positions or in a number six role further forward.

She has won a raft of European, Division 1 Feminine and Coupe de France Feminine titles with Lyon between 2012 and 2016, then represented France at Euro 2017 and the 2019 World Cup while with Paris Saint-Germain.

“The WSL is a very consistent league – I saw that it was decided by a point last season and that’s something that motivated me to come here,” said Perisset, who helped PSG beat Lyon to the title by point two seasons ago.

Perisset’s versatility is also certain to have attracted master tactician Hayes as she bids to restore Chelsea to the knockout stage of the Champions League this season.

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