Everton Women headed into the 2022/23 campaign with a new manager and a huge squad overhaul as the Blues looked to improve on a disappointing tenth-placed FA Women’s Super League finish in the previous season.
Brian Sorensen was the man charged with leading the change coming over from Fortuna Hjørring, and the Dane implemented a new style and outlook as the Toffees went on to secure sixth and give the fans hope that this wouldn’t be a flash in the pan and that Everton could soon be a contender in challenging that impenetrable quartet that dominate proceedings in the WSL and the domestic cup scene.
No fewer than nine players said goodbye as the rebuild began in the summer, including captain Danielle Turner and forward Simone Magill. Kenzi Dali also departed for Aston Villa, while Toni Duggan was sidelined for the season upon announcement of her pregnancy but should be ready to return for the next campaign.
Stalwarts like Izzy Christiansen, Lucy Hope (formerly Graham) and Gabby George remained, but Sorensen added the experienced and versatile Katrine Veje to his ranks, while also reuniting with combative midfielder Claire Wheeler after securing the 25-year-old’s services from Fortuna Hjorring.
Katja Snoeijs arrived from Bordeaux, bringing with her a big reputation and a wealth of experience competing at the highest level in her homeland, where she was top scorer in the Eredivisie in back-to-back seasons. The Dutch star’s goals towards the end of the campaign would prove vital in securing league points for the Blues.
Sorensen also put a strong focus on youth as part of his plans. Kenzie Weir, daughter of former Everton star, David, signed a professional deal with the Club, while exciting young prospects such Jess Park, Aggie Beever-Jones and Emily Ramsay arrived on loan deals.
Exciting teen talent, Giovana Queiroz Costa, also arrived on loan but would have her tenure cut short upon being recalled by her parent club, Arsenal, in January
Danish twins Sara and Karen Holmgaard both agreed moves from German side Turbine Potsdam, as the Toffees boss looked to provide greater depth and strength in both defence and midfield.
Sorensen’s press conferences had a few familiar themes running through them. Win, lose or draw, the Blues boss focused heavily on retaining the ball and being comfortable on it. Predominantly implementing a back three, the onus was on playing out from the back rather than a long ball approach.
Though not always plain sailing and a few heavy defeats against the league’s big guns, Everton recorded nine wins in the season, with only the five teams above them recording more.
The new system also saw new roles for certain players. Gabby George - my pick for player of the season - transitioned into the role of wing-back with ease. The England international explored a new side of her game by becoming a provider, as well as notching stunning strikes against Reading and Liverpool.
So what were the tactics, highlights of the season? And where does Sorensen’s team go from here?
As mentioned earlier, Everton endured a few heavy defeats throughout the season, with some pointing towards playing out from the back as a catalyst for the reverses. Sorensen kept faith with his ethos and his team, who showed metal and resilience to grind out points and comeback from disappointment.
While the Blues faithful will recall other games before the league fixture at Old Trafford, the clash with the Red Devils announced Everton as aa team that could mix it as they held their hosts to a goalless draw.
Courtney Brosnan’s heroics between the sticks rightfully took the plaudits that day, but this was a great team effort that put a dent into the title aspirations of Marc Skinner’s side.
Of all Everton’s nine WSL wins, this season’s first derby will be the favourite. With both fixtures televised and staged at both Goodison Park and Anfield, the Blues put on a dominant show at their former home, running out 3-0 winners.
Park’s eye-catching display really announced her on the WSL stage, with the Manchester City loanee catching the eye of the England national team.
The Toffees were unable to complete a league double over their neighbours though, as a much improved Liverpool team played out a hotly-contested 1-1 draw, in a fixture that will be remembered for the controversial ruling out of a goal for the visitors, as well George’s stunning strike in the first half.
Progress an ongoing process
Sorensen’s ambitions go far beyond being the best of the rest in the WSL. A solid first season for the Dane, who has already began preparing for the campaign ahead (more on that in the coming days).
Izzy Christiansen and Rikki Sevecke will depart the Club following the announcements of retirement and departure, while a number of loan signings have returned to their parent clubs.
With a defensive record that was only bettered by the big four, Sorensen will be encouraged that his system will continue to work and improve as the players grow in experience. The striking areas have been addressed, although it will be interesting to see Snoeijs next season now she has a full WSL campaign under her belt, while a returning Duggan will be vital with her wealth of experience and eye for goal.
Nicoline Sorensen’s return from injury during the season and impressive was a welcome boost, and hopefully a full injury-free campaign greatly increases the Blues prowess up top.
While the job is nowhere near complete, Everton have gone from directionless also-rans to a team with a vision and an ethos. The boss has a plan and will see it through
Long may it continue!