Liverpool FC Women 2021-22 season preview: how the Reds stack up
Ah, I love the smell of a new season in the air.
Despite the challenges facing women’s football in general, there are plenty of bright spots to look forward to as the Liverpool Women enter their second league season. The return of manager Matt Beard, who has led the team to two back-to-back WSL titles, and a plethora of new signings to make up for goals taken with our outgoing players.
The women played their final preseason friendly this weekend, ending a mixed record with a 0-0 draw against Birmingham City and the new season begins a week at home on August 29. Gabe and I looked at how things might move for women in the new season.
Who wins the starting gloves?
Gabé: Liverpool are very lucky to have two very good goalkeepers. Rachael Laws is the oldest statesman at 30 and was the starting goalie for most of last season, where Liverpool allowed the fewest joint goals in the league. Rylee Foster is a talented young gunslinger, barely 23 years old. Foster came in strong and took over the starting position for the final games of the season before suffering a concussion. These two shared starts during the preseason, but the club have given no indication of who will be the starter for the opener. Either way, Liverpool should be in good hands.
Jordan: I think we’ll probably see Laws start in the league and save Foster for the Continental Cup and the FA Cup. I would love to have the tables turned, to gain some experience in the Foster League, but Laws also played with Beard in the good old days and we know how loyal he is to players who do well under him. That’s not to say it’s a bad choice – they’re both good goalies and have even more competition now that Katie Startup has joined the ranks as well.
What is the preferred pairing in the middle of the back?
Gabé: Liverpool captain Niamh Fahey and New Zealand international Meikayla Moore created a formidable partnership last season behind the back. Fahey was a good organizer at the back, allowing Moore to play aggressively on the front foot. While being strong defensively, they also scored goals on the other end. This season, Matt Beard brought in the competition in the form of Jasmine Matthews. Matthews played for Beard at Bristol City last season after previously playing for Liverpool, and appeared as a starter at full back in a pre-season friendly. Will Matthews be able to get a starting place away from either of the holders?
Jordan: I think it ultimately depends on Meikayla Moore. She’s been really impressive since she arrived, and even playing in the Olympics has been a great experience that she can keep. I doubt Niamh Fahey will ever be abandoned, not only because she’s the captain, but just because she’s so reliable at the back, so it could depend on the opponent and Moore’s physical form and by Matthews. Moore brings, like you said, aggression and forward press, Matthews brings experience and a little more defensive spirit, so that’s a big deal to have when you can change like that . Fahey is also so stable that I am also not worried about the possibility of a change.
What is the form in midfield?
Gabe: Liverpool have a group of talented midfielders, and the competition for places will be fierce. Considering that all of the preseason games have been closed-door business with no video feed, the team’s form is still unclear. Digging through the lineups (when available) it looked like a single pivot in a 4-3-3 or double pivot in a 4-2-3-1. Jade Bailey is the regular midfielder and Ceri Holland can play alongside him in a double pivot or as a box to box player. Rachel Furness and Bo Kearns are both capable of playing in figure eight or a more advanced role behind the striker. If nothing else, Matt Beard should have plenty of options himself.
Jordan: I don’t really expect us to do anything other than a simple 4-3-3 pivot unless something happens – Furness is such a great organizer in Role 8 that I would be reluctant to change that , although like central defenders, you could put anyone around her. I’ll be interested to see where Ceri Holland settles in, but a box to box role would be really great to let Furney or Bo Kearns fly a little more freely to help the attackers. There’s also the addition of Carla Humphrey to further strengthen the midfielder, as she was also in the No.8 role at Bristol with Matt Beard.
Where will the objectives come from?
Gabé: The first half of last season was the spectacle of Rinsola Babajide and Rachel Furness when it comes to goals. The second half of the season was more like an Oprah scene – “You get a goal, you get a goal, everyone gets a gooooooaaaaaallllll!”
That said, almost 50% of the goals scored in the FA Women’s Championship last season were from players who are no longer with the club. Rinsola Babajide (5 goals), Amalie Thestrup (4), Becky Jane (3) and Amy Rodgers (3) alone totaled 15 of 36 goals this season. The only players left in the squad with more than two goals are Rachel Furness (5), Melissa Lawley (3), Ceri Holland (3) and center-back Niamh Fahey (3).
Manager Matt Beard has brought some new faces to hopefully help fill the void in attack. New signing Leanne Kiernan was given kit number 9. As a teenager, she was a prolific goalscorer in the Irish league and has already managed to find the back of the net for Liverpool on several occasions in the pre-season. Rianna Dean is another young player with a lot of potential who can hopefully convert consistent playing time into production on the goal front.
Jordan: I think now that Mel Lawley is entering his goal scoring groove, we should see a lot more contributions from him, and the support from new players will hopefully fill the void as you said. by outgoing players. The players who score goals are also performers, so with more to play as they fight for promotion again this year, and returning fans, will hopefully contribute to all goals.
Really, I’m very excited about the connection between midfield and attacking, because it seems like we have a lot of players who understand these partnerships, and the problem in previous seasons has been that that connection has deteriorated. Either the forwards couldn’t read where the midfielder was going to send the balls and were never in the right places, or vice versa, and that really hurt our scoring abilities, so with more players ready to move on. and the midfield competition for positions, good things should happen.