Brian Sorensen’s Everton Women side begin their 2023/24 campaign this Sunday with a home fixture against Brighton and Hove Albion. Twelve months ago the tone of this piece read very differently as the experienced Dane had a real task on his hands of making the Blues competitive again.
While Sorensen’s task is nowhere near complete, there is a renewed hope and optimism that a plan is in place for the Toffees to crack the seemingly unbreakable top four. Whether it can be done this season remains up for debate but Everton will be approaching the upcoming campaign in a stronger, more settled fashion than a year ago.
So, who has been retained, added, and who has said goodbye to Merseyside? Let’s recap.
Ramsey returns to Gwladys Street
Strength in depth is always a must if a team is to mount a challenge, particularly on more than one front. Last season Sorensen leant heavily on the loan market, with Emily Ramsey being one of his loanees.
Featuring eight times for the Blues last season, the former Manchester United star returned and signed a three-year-deal in August, and will continue to provide strong competition for fellow goalkeeper, and close friend, Courtney Brosnan.
The duo will also be joined by 18-year-old Libby Hart, who this month signed a contract with Everton, following spells with both Birmingham City and Manchester City.
While the first team may be a little too soon for Hart, having two keepers Sorensen can both rely on will be invaluable for the season ahead.
Last season’s fifth-placed team in the WSL, Aston Villa, scored 18 more goals than the side immediately below them, Everton. With 29 goals in 22 games, the Blues were by far the lowest scorers in the top half of the table.
Katja Snoeijs’ goalscoring form helped during the latter end of the season, but while the Dutch star took time to settle into WSL life, she still topped Everton’s scoring charts. With loan signings Jess Park and Aggie Beever-Jones returning to their parent clubs, Sorensen knew the forward line needed reinforcements.
Step forward, Martina Piemonte. The Italian striker became the Club’s first summer signing, having just come off the back of her highest goals return in a season. The former AC Milan star netted 14 times in just 24 appearances and will provide greater prowess and competition in the forward line.
But she wasn’t the only forward to arrive in the transfer window, with the Blues delving into the loan market to land Alyssa Aherne from Manchester United. The versatile forward can operate across all areas of the forward line and will fit in nicely to a three-pronged attack, something the gaffer is fond of.
And it isn’t just new additions set to bolster the Toffees’ offence this season, as a returning Toni Duggan looks better than ever and keen to test herself in a league where she has earned iconic status.
Now a proud mum to baby Luella, the Liverpool-born forward was part of Everton’s FA Cup triumph in 2010 and has won eight domestic trophies with Manchester City, Barcelona and Atletico Madrid in between her two spells with Everton.
Rounding off the competition is Nicoline Sorensen. Following her return to action in December 2022 from a career-threatening anterior cruciate ligament, the Danish star has hit the ground running, becoming the first Everton player to assist in three consecutive Women’s Super League matches since October 2020 with contributions against Tottenham Hotspur, Reading and West Ham United.
Ball retention is key
It is no secret that the manager’s ethos is to retain possession, so a competitive, confident and strong midfield is essential. Gabby George and Rikke Sevecke’s departures saw two of Sorensen’s most experienced and versatile ball retainers create voids that needed filling.
The arrivals of experienced midfielder Justine Vanhaevermaet from Reading, as well Emma Bissell from Florida State Seminoles, provides experience, depth and variety to an already stacked roster that also includes World Cup veterans Clare Wheeler and Hanna Bennison.
Also a strong advocate of youth, teenager Karoline Olesen also arrived to reunite with the Everton boss, with both working together during their Fortuna Hjørring days.
Even the most ardent of Blues would be hard pressed to force a justified argument for Everton cracking the top four this season. That being said, stranger things have happened (2005 men’s side), and Sorensen is building a team full of confidence and ambition.
The blend of youth and experience, coupled with competition for places gives the Blues every chance of bettering their six-placed finish last season, or even improved runs in both cup competitions.
Last season, a goalless draw away at Manchester United was heavily praised as the Blues battled gallantly for a point. Also met with surprise, Sorensen will be desperate to alter that mentality and change the odds, rather than simply beat them.
And his team are in a perfect position to progress.