WSL predictions: Who will challenge for 2022-23 title and who will struggle?

By Emma SandersBBC Sport
Chelsea celebrate winning the WSL
Chelsea won the WSL for a third successive season in 2021-22

The Women's Super League is back on Saturday and it is set to be the biggest season yet following England's success at Euro 2022.

Ticket sales have soared, teams have strengthened in the transfer window and there's more competition for silverware and Champions League qualification spots.

I've been given the task of predicting where teams will finish in the table based on last season's performances, their summer business and how they fared in pre-season.

So here goes...

Emma Sanders' predicted 2022-23 WSL positions at a glance
3Manchester United
4Manchester City
9Aston Villa
11West Ham
12Leicester City

1. Chelsea

Chelsea have been a level above the rest for a few seasons now and they have added some more quality this summer, which I think will take them to a fourth successive title. The arrivals of defenders Kadeisha Buchanan and Eve Perisset, from Lyon and Bordeaux respectively, are particularly exciting and could be key to success in Europe too. Striker Lauren James' return to full fitness is also good for Chelsea - she has scored some super goals in a strong pre-season campaign and made her England debut.

Last season: Champions

2. Arsenal

Leah Williamson and Beth Mead
Arsenal defender Leah Williamson and forward Beth Mead were key players for England at Euro 2022

Arsenal came so close to the title last season and Euro 2022-winning captain Leah Williamson said that hurt her and has given them more determination this time around. Jonas Eidevall has added Sweden forward Lina Hurtig to the squad from Juventus, which is a good signing, but rivals Chelsea have strengthened even more. Arsenal missed out on a few targets and a lot of their players won't have had much pre-season due to being on international duty. That could be where they fall short again - do they have the squad depth to rotate?

Last season: 2nd

3. Manchester United

Manchester United needed to have a good transfer window to bridge the gap between themselves and the top teams. They have added a bit of depth and experience, but I think they have missed an opportunity to put real pressure on the teams above. Spain striker Lucia Garcia, who joined from Athletic Bilbao, is a shrewd addition in attack and former Brighton player Maya Le Tissier is an exciting young defender. Pre-season performances have been a little patchy but the high turnover of key players at Manchester City may have opened the door for United. If they can keep their star players fit and consistent, they have enough quality to finally clinch a Champions League qualification spot.

Last season: 4th

4. Manchester City

A lot has gone on at Manchester City this summer. They have lost some huge players, including England internationals Keira Walsh, Lucy Bronze, Georgia Stanway and Ellen White, and Scotland star Caroline Weir. Walsh's departure, to Barcelona for a record transfer fee of £400,000, is huge and I think they will miss out on Champions League qualification. They lost to Real Madrid in their Champions League qualifier and have had a mixed pre-season. There is understandably concern. How can those players be replaced and why are so many leaving? Manager Gareth Taylor has brought in some exciting new signings, particularly Australia striker Mary Fowler and Spain defender Laia Aleixandri but can they gel quickly enough? I don't see them challenging Chelsea or Arsenal and Manchester United could go up another gear.

Last season: 3rd

5. Tottenham

Angharad James
Wales midfielder Angharad James returns to the WSL this season with Tottenham

Tottenham are the dark horses this season. They exceeded expectations last year and have been hugely ambitious in the transfer window. Poland international forward Nikola Karczewska, Wales midfielder Angharad James, former Aston Villa midfielder Ramona Petzelberger and ex-Manchester United defender Amy Turner are all strong additions and should improve the starting XI as well as the squad. They lacked goals last season and Jamaican international Drew Spence's arrival from Chelsea will help in that department, but they could still struggle against the top teams. That could be what holds them back, but I expect them to narrow the gap to the top four even more.

Last season: 5th

6. Everton

It would take a big push from Everton, under new management, to climb four places higher than last season's finish, but they have plenty of quality in the squad. Off-field issues and a run of poor results hurt them in 2021-22 but new Danish boss Brian Sorensen seems to have steadied the ship and they have had a promising pre-season. A lack of squad depth could hurt them if they suffer key injuries but the mood is positive in camp and I think a few good results could build some momentum.

Last season: 10th

7. Reading

Reading are used to being underdogs and they haven't got the budget to compete with teams around them and yet I think they will do well again. Manager Kelly Chambers usually has a high turnover of players in the transfer window but she has managed to keep hold of the core of her squad. That consistency could be vital. Their pre-season has been inconsistent, largely because of injuries, but I think they will grow over the next few months.

Last season: 8th

8. Liverpool

Shanice van de Sanden
Dutch Euro 2017 winner Shanice van de Sanden returned to Liverpool this summer

Liverpool insisted they would build good foundations on their return to the WSL and they have done that. They had a strong pre-season - beating WSL opponents Aston Villa and West Ham, while drawing with Manchester City and losing narrowly to Manchester United. The arrivals of Shanice van de Sanden from Wolfsburg and Emma Koivisto from Brighton were statement signings and added real quality to a squad full of confidence. Leanne Kiernan and Katie Stengel showed their goalscoring class last season in the Championship and boss Matt Beard has plenty of top-flight experience - they will cause teams problems.

Last season: Championship winners

9. Aston Villa

Manger Carla Ward has been busy in the transfer window - French international Kenza Dali and Euro 2022 winner Rachel Daly are good signings and they are set to bring in forward Kirsty Hanson on loan from Manchester United too. They desperately needed goalscorers so those signings will help. But they have also suffered setbacks with the ACL injury to striker Simone Magill, who they signed from Everton, and midfielder Ruesha Littlejohn's broken foot. They haven't looked great in pre-season either - losing to Reading and Liverpool and drawing with Everton after a tough week in Spain. The squad is quite thin but they should have enough quality to avoid trouble and, if Hanson and Daly provide goals, they could climb up the table.

Last season: 9th

10. Brighton

Brighton were ambitious off the pitch last season and started with lots of promise before their form dipped hugely in the second half of the campaign. They have not had a great transfer window either. Key players Maya Le Tissier, Inessa Kaagman and Emma Koivisto have left, while some of their replacements have come from sides who finished lower than them in the league last season. Liverpool, Reading and Villa have all strengthened around them and though Brighton have some good young talent, they might lack quality in depth.

Last season: 7th

11. West Ham

Yui Hasegawa
Japan international Yui Hasegawa will be a key player for West Ham this season

I don't see the long-term vision at West Ham. They have had lots of changes in recent seasons. They were making progress under former boss Olli Harder but he was replaced by former Hammers player Paul Konchesky this summer. They lost some key players too - Adriana Leon joining Manchester United and Katerina Svitkova moving to Chelsea. France forward Viviane Asseyi from Bayern Munich was a good addition for them but, while they have also brought in a few players with WSL experience, I think they could struggle.

Last season: 6th

12. Leicester City

Leicester could be in trouble. They did enough to finish just above bottom side Birmingham City on their WSL debut last season but struggled to compete in a lot of games. Manager Lydia Bedford, who was appointed in November, extended her contract after the campaign, but they needed to bring in real quality this summer and might not have done enough in the transfer window. They have some good young players at the club and they have brought in some experience, but they need to add more in January. Staff additions - including appointing former Everton boss Willie Kirk as director of football - show their ambition, but with other clubs much further down the road in their progress, it will be a tough season.

Last season: 11th