Women's Super League: Where do clubs stand after season end?

By Emma SandersBBC Sport
Anita Asante, Christie Murray, Ella Toone and Kit Graham
The WSL transfer window opens on 11 June

Chelsea retained their Women's Super League crown, Bristol City were relegated and Leicester City will be in the top flight for the first time following the conclusion of the 2020-21 season.

But where does each club stand? How successful were their campaigns? And what do they need to look at for next season?

Here is BBC Sport's assessment...

Chelsea

Chelsea celebrate winning the WSL title
Chelsea won a record fourth WSL title

Position in 2019-20: 1st

Position in 2020-21: 1st

Summary: Emma Hayes' side retained their WSL crown in emphatic style. They have built a squad capable of competing at the highest level in all competitions and want to dominate English football. Everything is in place to do that - Hayes has investment, resources, board support and squad depth. The only question is who will Hayes bring in to strengthen this summer? Manchester United star Lauren James is expected to be among them.

Manchester City

Position in 2019-20: 2nd

Position in 2020-21: 2nd

Summary: Manchester City were beaten to the title despite bringing in some big names in the summer but they kept up the chase until the end. Manager Gareth Taylor, who took over in March 2020, has now had a year under his belt and the improvements his side made in the second half of the season were vast. They will need to invest again this summer to make up ground on Chelsea and to progress further in the Champions League, where they fell at the quarter-final stage this season. They have already lost Sam Mewis and Rose Lavelle, while Chloe Kelly has picked up a long-term knee injury, but City are still expected to keep most of their key players.

Arsenal

Position in 2019-20: 3rd

Position in 2020-21: 3rd

Summary: Arsenal are without a manager following the departure of Joe Montemurro after four years with the club. His replacement will be their top priority but there are also concerns over key players and conversations around contract extensions. Striker Vivianne Miedema and defender Leah Williamson are among those believed to be stalling over a decision. The club needs investment if they hope to keep pace with Manchester City and Chelsea.

Manchester United

Casey Stoney
Casey Stoney's resignation came as a shock following a three-year spell at Manchester United

Position in 2019-20: 4th

Position in 2020-21: 4th

Summary: Casey Stoney's departure is a huge blow to Manchester United and it will be a tough task replacing her. Concerns around training facilities are believed to be part of her decision to leave so that is something the club needs to address. They also have a few key players who are yet to agree contract extensions, including defender Amy Turner, while United States pair Tobin Heath and Christen Press' futures remain unknown. It will need to be a busy summer for United if they want to compete with the top teams, though it is understood most of the recruitment has been completed already by Stoney.

Everton

Position in 2019-20: 6th

Position in 2020-21: 5th

Summary: Everton have given manager Willie Kirk a great platform to build on. They showed progression in both league position and squad depth this season and reached the FA Cup final, but they fell short in terms of competing with the top four despite having a decent player budget. Kirk said earlier this month "we probably have two or three players secured already in terms of new signings" but he hopes to bring in up to six players in total. Discussions on whether midfielder Jill Scott will extend her loan move or sign permanently are also expected to take place.

Brighton

Position in 2019-20: 9th

Position in 2020-21: 6th

Summary: Hope Powell has done a good job this season at Brighton and they exceeded expectations. They have recruited smartly and efficiently and will hope to do the same again this summer in order to push closer towards fifth place. Liverpool's Rinsola Babajide is a potential target in the transfer window after the club showed interest in January. Keeping their young talent will also be key.

Reading

Fara Williams
Fara Williams is England's most-capped player after making 172 appearances

Position in 2019-20: 5th

Position in 2020-21: 7th

Summary: Reading stagnated this season and have work to do. They have lost key players in Fara Williams, who has retired, and Angharad James, who joined North Carolina Courage. Long-serving duo Lauren Bruton and Molly Bartrip have also moved on. They can welcome back striker Jeon Ga-Eul, who suffered a long-term injury, but there will still need to be a rebuild so it will be a busy summer for manager Kelly Chambers.

Tottenham

Position in 2019-20: 7th

Position in 2020-21: 8th

Summary: It's been a tough season for Spurs. Just two months after signing two-year contract extensions, joint head coaches Karen Hills and Juan Amoros were sacked and replaced by Rehanne Skinner in November. It was a move which raised eyebrows and has not fully paid off yet. Tottenham survived relegation but not as convincingly as they would have liked. Skinner can build her own squad in the summer though, so she must be given the tools to do so.

West Ham

Position in 2019-20: 8th

Position in 2020-21: 9th

Summary: West Ham are another club who survived relegation but ultimately struggled. Manager Matt Beard departed in November after reaching the FA Cup final in 2019. They missed out on their number one target Carla Ward before naming Olli Harder as a replacement. His side picked up a bit of form in April but were hugely disappointing before then. Harder will need to add quality in the summer and bring some identity to the side.

Aston Villa

Mana Iwabuchi
Japan captain Mana Iwabuchi joined Aston Villa in January 2020 after signing in December

Position in 2019-20: 1st in the Championship

Position in 2020-21: 10th

Summary: Villa's aim was to retain their WSL status after earning promotion from the Championship and they achieved that. But it was a tough first season in the top flight. Sporting director Eniola Aluko, who last week announced she is leaving the club, chose to bring in Marcus Bignot as interim manager in January when results under Gemma Davies had not materialised. Bignot was expected to improve them defensively in order to avoid relegation and though it came down to the final day, he achieved that. They will need to recruit strongly to progress next season and find a permanent manager following Bignot and Davies' departure.

Birmingham City

Position in 2019-20: 11th

Position in 2020-21: 11th

Summary: Birmingham City were one of the resounding favourites to go down in the summer but they defeated the odds under Carla Ward. There were just eight senior players when she arrived in August. The club had points deducted by the Football Association for fielding a suspended player and for forfeiting a match due to being unable to field a team. Players also sent a letter to the board complaining about conditions for the women's team.

But Ward's resignation at the end of the season was arguably the biggest blow and they now have almost an entire squad out of contract. Several of those players are expected to move on - including goalkeeper Hannah Hampton and top scorer Claudia Walker. The club need to show serious support and investment if they want to keep competing in the WSL.

Bristol City

Position in 2019-20: 10th

Position in 2020-21: 12th (relegated from the WSL)

Summary: Bristol City were relegated despite a dramatic upturn in form in the second half of the season under interim boss Beard, who covered Tanya Oxtoby while she was on maternity leave. Bristol City picked up just two points from their opening 10 games but draws with West Ham, Birmingham, Tottenham and Villa meant they had a slim chance of staying up on the final day. Ultimately, they left their resurgence too late but if they can retain the majority of the squad, they should be very tough to beat in the Championship. They have already lost star striker Ebony Salmon though so will need to replace her as a priority.

Leicester City

Leicester City celebrate winning the Championship
Leicester City won the Championship with two games remaining

Position in 2019-20: 6th in the Championship

Position in 2020-21: 1st in the Championship (promoted to WSL)

Summary: Leicester became a full-time outfit last summer with the intention of earning promotion to the WSL and they achieved it with two games remaining. The club have shown ambition and investment which has paid off. General manager Jade Morgan already has plans for a new five-year strategy with the goal of competing strongly in the WSL, earning mid-table status and challenging for a European spot in the long term. They have good foundations but will need to add some more quality as they step up to the WSL. Recruitment plans are already under way.