Assessing 10 top contenders for the major 2021/22 awards – XenBet

There are four main individual awards in the WSL that recognise the best player over the course of the season, each slightly varying.

There are two major prizes handed out just by the PFA.

One is the PFA Players’ Player of the Year, as voted for by – you guessed it – the players themselves. It has existed in the men’s game since the 1973/74 season, with an equivalent women’s award created for the 2012/13 season.

The other is the PFA Vertu Motors Fans’ Player of the Year, which is decided solely by fans and for which voting will take place exclusively on 90min in due course.

FWA Women’s Footballer of the Year was first handed out at the end of the 2017/18 season and is voted for by football writers. The men’s version is the original individual prize in English football, first awarded way back in 1947/48 – at a time when women’s football was unthinkably banned by the FA.

There is also an individual gong handed out by the league – Barclays WSL Player of the Season.

Read on for an overview of 10 top players in the running to win any one of the four awards…

Millie Bright

Millie Bright has taken her game to new levels this season / Alex Pantling/GettyImages

Chelsea are on course to secure a third successive WSL title, and Millie Bright has been an absolutely pivotal part of this, ever present in all 19 of the Blues’ league games so far.

The centre-back has been a rock at the back, particularly instrumental during captain Magdalena Eriksson’s prolonged post-Christmas absence.

Chelsea played Manchester City and Arsenal in the space of five days in February, kept two clean sheets and took four points – results that could define their season. Bright turned in a pair of player of the match performances.

Jessie Fleming

Jessie Fleming has shone after initially taking a season to settle / Alex Davidson/GettyImages

Jessie Fleming played just 433 minutes during her debut season with Chelsea in 2020/21, went off and won an Olympic Gold medal in the summer with Canada and came back to the WSL firing on all cylinders.

The 24-year-old has played in midfield and as part of a front three for the Blues this season, bringing energy and intelligence and chipping in with six goals and four assists.

Her goals have been pretty special too; from her mesmerising control in the build up to her finish against Leicester, to the absolute scorcher she netted against Tottenham.

Alex Greenwood

Alex Greenwood is now an elite ball-playing centre-back / Robbie Jay Barratt – AMA/GettyImages

Alex Greenwood has been a figure of consistency for Manchester City this season, featuring in all 19 of her side’s WSL fixtures.

The defender has marshalled the backline in the absence of long-term captain Steph Houghton, and looks like she’s been playing at centre-back all her life, despite spending the majority of her career to date at left-back.

Her pace and reading of the game have bailed City out defensively, while her distribution is such an asset going forward.

Lauren Hemp

Lauren Hemp is always a threat for Man City / Clive Brunskill/GettyImages

Lauren Hemp is just stupidly good at football. Manchester City leaned on the England winger during their early season struggles and she happily shouldered the responsibility, with nothing seemingly fazing her.

Few players in the WSL are better when driving at backlines with the ball at their feet than Hemp, with her mazy runs a real trademark.

The 21-year-old has chipped in with seven goals and four assists in 19 league appearances this term, and has constantly been City’s source of attacking inspiration.

Sam Kerr

Sam Kerr has scored crucial goals for Chelsea all season / Visionhaus/GettyImages

Sam Kerr has proved her worth as the player to pop up with the big goals on the big occasions time and time again this season.

The Australian international leads the WSL scoring charts with 17 goals in 17 appearances, and constantly carves out opportunities for herself with her clever movement and instinctive runs.

Two of Chelsea’s biggest results in their title run in have been their last gasp 1-0 win over Aston Villa and 10-player triumph over Tottenham. Kerr scored the crucial winners on both occasions.

Kim Little

Arsenal’s Kim Little has turned back the clock this season / Jan Kruger/GettyImages

Kim Little was the first ever winner of the PFA Women’s Players’ Player of the Year award almost a decade ago. It is a testament to her, in her second spell with Arsenal, that she is in the running for individual prizes again.

Having stepped away from international football last summer, the midfielder started the club season with a new lease of life and has been vital to Arsenal’s WSL title challenge.

She was also prolific in the early stages of the campaign and has more recently settled into a deeper play-making role.

Beth Mead

Beth Mead has been back to her best in 2021/22 / Eric Alonso/GettyImages

Beth Mead started this season the best possible fashion when she put Chelsea to the sword in an impressive Arsenal win on the opening weekend.

After struggling with her form in the second half of the 2020/21 campaign, which cost her a place at the Olympics with Great Britain, Mead has returned to her best this season and is a relentless threat.

The 26-year-old recently also broke Karen Carney’s record as the WSL’s all-time leading assist maker. Given she still has many years left ahead of her, the sky is the limit as to how she can take that record.

Vivianne Miedema

Vivianne Miedema always makes opposing defenders think / Visionhaus/GettyImages

Mastering two positions is no mean feat, but Vivianne Miedema has underlined her world class status by operating both as a devastating ‘number nine’ and an intelligent ‘number 10’ for Arsenal this season.

Having started 2021/22 as a prolific striker, Miedema shifted a little deeper to accommodate January signing Stina Blackstenius and has been just as effective creating chances as she is at finishing them.

The Dutch superstar has since ultimately filled more of a hybrid role and took her number of WSL goal involvements to 100 in March.

Alessia Russo

Alessia Russo has had a stunning breakout season / Clive Brunskill/GettyImages

Long-term injury last season meant that Alessia Russo started the 2021/22 campaign on Manchester United’s bench as the club sought to carefully manage her fitness after so long on the sidelines.

It worked a treat because Russo has been on fire since November and goes into the final stages of the season as the WSL’s leading English scorer.

The 23-year-old is proving herself as an all-round striker, someone capable of finishing chances with her feet or head, but who is also a strong assister and is regularly involved in general build-up play.

Ella Toone

Ella Toone has become the face of Man Utd / Jan Kruger/GettyImages

There was a lot of pressure on Ella Toone to rise to the fore at Manchester United this season, but the youngster has done it in style to arguably become the face of the club and England’s next star.

Toone actually began the season filling in as a ‘false nine’ but has found her home as a smart ‘number 10’ pulling the strings behind a vibrant front three.

She has established herself as an England starter under Sarina Wiegman this season, despite only making her senior Lionesses debut 14 months ago, and is the WSL’s leading assister – 14 goal involvements in total.

Interview: Ella Toone on Alessia Russo partnership & England progression

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Author: Heidi Porter