Pernille Harder, Chelsea
Emma Hayes’s WSL champions have seen their attacking armoury receive a significant upgrade with the arrival of one of the best forwards in Europe from Wolfsburg. The 27-year-old Denmark striker cost a world record women’s transfer fee of about £300,000. Harder can play anywhere across the front line or as an attacking midfielder and, having scored 25 times in 28 Champions League games, remains dangerous from any position. She registered 103 goals in 113 games for Wolfsburg, winning the Frauen Bundesliga four times and twice finishing a Champions League runner-up after leaving Sweden’s Linköpings in 2016.
Rose Lavelle, Manchester City
Gareth Taylor, City’s manager, regards Lavelle’s stellar midfield qualities as the cornerstone of a rebuilding project designed to elevate last season’s WSL runners-up to a new level. The 25-year-old World Cup-winning United States international joins on a one-year deal from Seattle’s OL Reign, who had only signed her from Washington Spirit in August and will control her playing rights in the American league. Capped 45 times, scoring 12 times and starring in the 2019 World Cup semi-final win against England, she joins her richly talented US teammate Sam Mewis at City. Recognised as one of the world’s best midfielders Lavelle combines superior vision with an excellent passing range. She also scores her fair share of goals and, like Mewis, promises to afford City’s play a new dimension.
Jess Fishlock, Reading
No Wales player has more caps – 113 – than Fishlock. The outstanding 33-year-old central midfielder has joined upwardly mobile Reading, where Kelly Chambers aims to improve on last season’s fifth-placed finish, on loan from OL Reign. Back in England after eight years she has won the Champions League with Frankfurt and Lyon and is on a mission to teach her new teammates how to control the tempo of games. Although it may take Fishlock a little while to regain optimal form following a year out with an ACL rupture, her triple aim is to help Reading into the top three, qualify for the European Championship and gain a place in the GB team at next summer’s Olympics.
Steph Catley, Arsenal
One of the international game’s best – and most attacking – left-backs joins from Melbourne Victory. At 26, Catley – originally a midfielder – has 82 caps for Australia and has played in the past two World Cups. She has spent time in the US with Portland Thorns, Orlando Pride and Seattle (now OL) Reign. “We’re privileged to have Steph here,” says Arsenal’s manager, Joe Montemurro. “She suits our fluidity and she’s very good in a positional sense. But, more importantly, she’s very effective going forward.”
Shelina Zadorsky, Tottenham
Capped 66 times by Canada, the two-footed centre-half joins on loan from Orlando Pride in a deal with the potential to become permanent and which seems emblematic of the growing strength and pulling power of mid-table WSL teams. At 27, the Michigan University psychology graduate has played in Australia and Sweden as well as the US and is a vocal on-pitch presence. Her international centre-back partnership with Kadeisha Buchanan has made defence a particular Canadian strong suit. “I’m looking forward to testing my technical ability against WSL forwards,” says a player joined at Tottenham by her highly rated Pride teammate and experienced Australia defender Alanna Kennedy.