Print editor, Harry Wilkinson, was at Villa Park on Sunday where the second city derby took placeWritten by Harry Wilkinson on 24th April 2017
Is This The Start Of The Transatlantic Shift In Women’s Football?
Following the recent transfers of Alex Morgan and Crystal Dunn to European clubs, Nancy Frostick explores the shift in women's football
Hold on tight folks, the Americans are coming. Forgive me for getting carried away, but the announcement that two of the USA’s brightest stars – Alex Morgan and Crystal Dunn – are leaving the National Women’s Soccer League for European teams is just a little bit exciting. Gone are the days of top European talent having to pack up and go stateside for a decent level of football – the tide might just be turning.
Just before Christmas, Alex Morgan dealt a bit of a slap in the face to Orlando Pride fans by announcing that she was ditching Florida for three-time and reigning Champions League winners Olympique Lyon in France on a six-month loan. Signing one of the biggest names in women’s football is a major score for Lyon, who have been less than discreet about their desires to capture the USA striker for a long time by publicly fawning over her on Twitter. Whilst Morgan’s move isn’t permanent, allowing her to return to Orlando for some of the NWSL season in 2017, it is a pretty big statement for Europe’s domestic leagues. Following Arsenal’s re-signing of BBC Women’s Player of the Year Kim Little from Seattle Reign in October, it seems like the titans of American women’s soccer might not be able to hold on to the best forever.
Meanwhile, Crystal Dunn’s addition to an outrageously talented Chelsea attacking line-up certainly makes them interesting prospects for next season. After Manchester City’s rampant dominance in their recent undefeated WSL 1 campaign, it was hard to see how anyone else in the league might get a look in. But, following Little and Dunn’s moves to City’s only serious rivals, it doesn’t seem out of the question that Arsenal or Chelsea could return to the summit of English women’s football. There’s only one hitch for Chelsea, and that’s the fact that they have too many good players in similar positions. Emma Hayes has the unenviable task of choosing between Dunn, Ji, Carney, Davison, Aluko, Kirby, England and Bachmann for three or four attacking positions at most. Now I’m all for squad depth, but something tells me not all of them will make it to the Spring Series whilst still wearing a Chelsea shirt.
“Signing one of the biggest names in women’s football is a major score for Lyon, who have been less than discreet about their desires to capture the USA striker
It doesn’t end there either – World Cup winner Heather O’Reilly is another name rumoured to be browsing the catalogue of WSL 1 teams with Arsenal a likely destination at the moment. It gets better– even if it seems extremely unlikely, the fact that Ballon D’Or and World Cup winning USA captain Carli Lloyd has been in England over the Christmas break hasn't gone unnoticed. She wasn’t just stopping off at the tourist hotspots either – Lloyd watched Arsenal at the Emirates before heading to Liverpool to catch a couple of their games in the conveyor-belt of Christmas fixtures. I’m not an incessant Twitter stalker (I promise) but neither am I deluded – it really would be a coup for any WSL team to secure her services and is extremely unlikely. But, the current state of things in American women's football isn't perfect, especially following the wage disputes and the complaints of players like Hope Solo about the standards of pitches and facilities, so maybe a move to the WSL isn't so outrageous.
With the news this week that Sunderland have returned to part-time status, the new signings that the ‘big three’ have managed to attract has sparked a bit of a debate on whether this will be the start of a polarised WSL. There is certainly a gulf in the types of players newly promoted Bristol City and Yeovil will be able to attract in comparison to the likes of Arsenal and co. There have also been questions about where the future of young English talent lies with the arrival of more international stars, although there’s no need to panic just yet as far more players from overseas have left WSL teams during the offseason than have joined. The likes of Corboz, Henning, Pablos Sanchon, Losada, Byrne and Borges have all departed in the last few months – just with less fanfare than the arrivals. Whatever the squads of the WSL teams look like by the start of the Spring Series, it will certainly provide an interesting shake up in a new era for European women’s football.