FA WSL Preview – Tottenham Hotspur

The 2020/21 FA Women’s Super League kicks off on the weekend of the 5th / 6th September. D2B is here to preview all twelve teams in the title race and assess their chances. Last year we went alphabetical in presenting the teams, but this year we’ve plumped for reverse order of where each club was placed when the league was finally abandoned due to the COVID-19 crisis. Having looked at West Ham United in the previous article now we turn to Tottenham Hotspur who last year made a very decent fist of their first ever topflight campaign…

Tottenham Hotspur Women

Management partnership: Karen Hills and Juan Amoros – “like a marriage”…

Last Season: 7th of 12

Nickname: Spurs, the Lilywhites

Founded: 1985

Home Ground: The Hive Stadium, Edgware (capacity 6,500, 5,419 seated)

Tottenham Hotspur’s first season in the WSL went about as well as could reasonably be expected. As well as finishing a creditable 7th in the table they were also involved in three of the biggest attendances in the Super League’s history – losing 1-0 at Stamford Bridge to Chelsea; suffering a 2-0 defeat to Arsenal at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium; and then beating West Ham United 2-1 at the London Stadium.

These results nicely illustrate their season and the final table couldn’t have been a more accurate picture of Spurs’ form up to the COVID-19 abandonment – unable to beat anyone that finished above them and unbeaten by anyone that ended up below them.

They are the only team in the division led by a Head Coaching partnership. Karen Hills, who first got the role in 2009, and Juan Amoros rotate all managerial duties between them and have steered the Lilywhites from semi-professional status in the lower leagues to building a tangible connection with the men’s team and establishing themselves as a mid-table WSL side.

“Our philosophies, understanding of the game and managing of people are very similar. We have a lot of common points, so it’s about a little touch here, a little touch there. You’re checking and challenging each other all the time. When you’ve got someone you really trust that can actually question or challenge your thoughts, it makes you think. If you can be open to that, it makes what we’re trying to do on the pitch more successful.”

Karen Hills, Joint Head Coach, via Evening Standard 19/8/2020

Figuring out how to snatch points on the road is key to maintaining topflight status and Spurs, to their credit, picked up a tidy 10 points from 8 away fixtures.

The strike force is ostensibly young – Rianna Dean, Angela Addison and Jessica Naz are all late teens / early twenties and enjoyed vastly different experiences of game time. Kit Graham is 24 and was a goal machine for Charlton Athletic, but has just the one WSL season under her belt (though it had its moments, ask Bristol City fans…) so she will be hoping for a breakout year.

Dean is a penalty box player while Graham can operate a freer role between the midfield and front line or look to work off the shoulder of central defender if opponents push higher.  On the face of it, then, they make a nice partnership – and did contribute half of Spurs’ league strikes – but the side did struggle for goals overall despite being capable of some nice attacking football.

Rachel Williams – brings a wealth of experience (Photo by Tottenham Hotspur FC)

This may explain Hills and Amoros opting to bring in 32-year old Rachel Williams from Birmingham City. But is she really the answer? Only time will tell, but Williams hasn’t hit double figures during a season for nearly ten years. What she certainly will do, though, is add experience, character, aggression and know-how which can only be good for developing those younger players.

“Coming back from my [ACL] injury last season and with everything being up and down, I’m looking forward to some consistency, I’m quite an aggressive forward. I know I am a strong header of the ball and, at Spurs, I just want to add goals and defensively add that aggression, drag the team up the pitch and be a leader from the front line.”

Rachel Williams, Striker, via Club Website

Winger Gemma Davison is now 33. An undoubted talent, Davison can make things happen from thin air but getting her healthy and on the pitch enough remains the challenge. Lucy Quinn featured in every fixture last season but mostly off the bench. She chipped in with 2 league goals, but has never been prolific in the WSL.

They could do with some help from midfield but it looks like a case of ‘no dice’ for Hills and Amoros on the transfer front right now. Rachel Furness departed for Liverpool last year and that really just left three central midfielders, none of whom are noted for their goal scoring prowess.  Welsh international midfielder Josie Green is approaching 100 senior appearances and, at 27 years old, has been handed the captain’s armband for the season following Jenna Schillaci’s retirement. Meanwhile younger players Chloe Peplow and Anna Filbey have proved to be willing workhorses but haven’t been able to find the net.

Josie Green – taking on the Captaincy after Jenna Schillaci left the club.

Possible solutions that could free up these midfielders to make more of an attacking impact may lie in the versatility of other players and experimenting with a change of team shape. Kiwi Ria Percival can play at full back but is also a capable and combative defensive midfielder. Equally, Australian international Alanna Kennedy, recently signed on loan from Orlando Pride, can play in central defence or in midfield. Kerys Harrop’s move from Birmingham also offers flexibility to hole-up or play more expansively as she can play at centre half, as an orthodox full back or a more attack-minded wing-back.

And if all else fails, at least the squad now has plenty of defenders to make Tottenham a lot more stubborn at the back.

Internationals Alanna Kennedy and Shelina Zadorsky will bolster the Spurs’ backline until their loan spells end.

Kennedy’s arrival was well documented before the official announcement was made but it was something of a bonus for the fans when it came to light that she would be joined by Orlando teammate and Canadian international centre half Shelina Zadorsky. The 27-year old is an elegant ball playing defender but knows how to mix it up when things get physical, which is a given in the WSL. She’s made 66 international appearances for Canada and won a bronze medal at the Olympics in 2016.

Although the off-season has been fairly low key, Spurs’ management team have added some interesting pieces to their squad that could offer additional tactical flexibility and more defensive resilience. To progress, though, they will need to figure out how to get more points off last year’s top six. That won’t be easy with all of those teams strengthening and Tottenham still looking a bit light on the goal scoring front.

Departures

  • Sophie McLean, Midfielder
  • Chloe Morgan, Goalkeeper
  • Jenna Schillaci, Defender
  • Megan Wynne, Winger
  • Coral-Jade Haines, Midfielder

Arrivals

  • Kerys Harrop, Defender
  • Rachel Williams, Forward
  • Aurora Mikalsen, Goalkeeper
  • Alanna Kennedy, Defender
  • Shelina Zadorsky, Defender
  • Alex Morgan, Forward (after original article)

Earlier this year, we charted on the Feedspot Top 40 list of Women’s football blogs. No one was more surprised than us here at D2B Towers; there’s so much other good stuff out there. Anyhoo, check out the link above, there’s a heap of great blogs and websites written by people who really know their stuff and have an infectious passion for the women’s game…

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