Erin Cuthbert – Chelsea
Cuthbert’s rise to the top has been rapid – but although her goals might catch the eye, she is glad that her grit and determination are equally obvious.
Her Scotland coach, Shelley Kerr, has acknowledged her “abundant talent”, but added that she also values her player’s confidence. “She’s a fighter with a real desire to win,” Kerr said.
Cuthbert agreed. “I feel such a sense of responsibility and make sure I leave nothing on the pitch. It is nice that people see that because, more than goals or skill, I’d like to be known for my attitude, always giving everything and working for the team.”
The exciting midfielder, who can also play up front, offers creativity as well as a goalscoring option and has proved herself invaluable for Chelsea, helping them to the double in 2017-18 and impressing in their Champions League campaign.
Cuthbert signed for Chelsea from Glasgow City following a remarkable 2016 in Scotland – a year in which she was the club’s top goalscorer and was named Player of the Year, as well as collecting a Scottish Women’s Premier League winner’s medal.
Steph Houghton - Manchester City
It is Houghton’s image that has adorned marketing campaigns for the women’s super league as well as spearheading the England lionesses, whose development into genuine competitors for this summer’s world cup in France has been remarkable.
Women’s football in England is unrecognisable from the game that Steph Houghton first encountered when making her first-team debut for Sunderland aged just 14 in 2002. Her own part in that rapid metamorphosis should not be underestimated.
Houghton was one of the first players to earn an FA central contract in 2009, which arguably marked the first step on England’s journey to becoming a world force.
Described by those who know her best as “talented, hard-working and genuine,” the 30-year-old has had to endure several serious injuries, which stymied her progress at crucial moments, not least suffering a broken leg two days before she was due to fly to the World Cup in China in 2007.
Since joining City almost four years ago she has won all three major domestic honours, having done the same with Arsenal in her three-year spell there between 2010 and 2013. With City, she has also reached two Champions League semi-finals.
Vivianne Miedema – Arsenal
She has made her mark at international level too, as part of the Netherlands squad which won the euro 2017 title thanks in part to her brace in the final against Denmark.
Miedema has had one of the most stunning seasons in WSL history.
By February, she had already broken the league record for most goals in a single season – and she just continues to add to that hugely impressive haul.
Now in her second year with Arsenal, she has really found her niche. She signalled her intent for the season ahead by smashing a hat-trick on the opening day of the season.
The statistics continue to startle but Miedema herself is not focused on counting the goals she scores.
“The goalscoring numbers don’t really say anything to me but I do watch games back and think, ‘Viv, you lost the ball way too many times’ or ‘Viv, you need to be stronger here’,” she told her club’s official website.
“Because I like football so much, I don’t mind watching it back or watching other games. I just want to be better.”
Nikita Parris - Manchester City
The diminutive striker joined Everton’s Centre of Excellence as a teenager, making her debut for the senior team a few years later before joining City on a season-long loan in 2015.
She then made the move permanent, telling the club’s official website: “I’m really happy to have signed permanently. I’m so glad because here at City, I feel I’ve got a place I can call home.”
Now she is the WSL’s all-time leading goalscorer thanks to her consistent years of putting the ball away and helping her club to impressive levels of domestic success.
A League Champion, Continental Cup winner, FA Cup winner, Champions League semi-finalist and regular senior England international, Parris will be hoping to impress in France this summer. She had some experience of big-game goalscoring when she got her name on the scoresheet at the U20 World Cup in 2014 and at Euro 2017.
Keira Walsh - Manchester City
Growing up as a City fan, it is really no wonder that she delights in life at the Academy Stadium, helping them garner silverware for that trophy cabinet, including the 2017 Women’s FA Cup – where Walsh was named Player of the Match.
“I work with Keira every day and we see what she can do,” her club coach Nick Cushing has said. “Technically she’s good, she’s dedicated, she wants to be a professional footballer for the rest of her career. She has a real passion for the game. She watches football all the time, she watches players and her understanding of the game is unrivalled in the league.”
Having made her senior debut for the team the year before – and having just finished her A-levels.
At the time she admitted that turning pro with her childhood team was a “dream come true”, telling the club’s official website: “I never thought I’d be playing for City!”
England boss Phil Neville has also been impressed with her, saying after the 2019 SheBelieves Cup: “Keira Walsh, I think, is getting up to the level of being world class and believing it: she takes the ball, she passes the ball, she’s athletic and has real energy.”
JI SO-YUN - CHELSEA
Now one of the longest-serving overseas players in the WSL, Ji So Yun has never been less than brilliant since signing for Chelsea in 2014 and in the process deservedly collected the 2015 PFA player of the year award after a string of outstanding performances that were duly recognised by her peers.
The first South Korean woman to play in the competition, she joined the Blues from Japan’s INAC Kobe Leonessa, and during her time at the club so far she has helped them to plenty of silverware - and has been the orchestrator of their strong Champions League campaign in 2018-19.
As her manager Emma Hayes observed: “Ji is a technically gifted player and brings a lot of quality to the squad. A player with great vision, a deft touch and an eye for goal – all key attributes towards being a great player.”
She is also indispensable for her country, helping South Korea to the 2018 Asia Cup, and is a four-time winner of the South Korean Footballer of the Year award. She now has over 100 international caps having made her debut for the senior team at the age of 15, becoming the side’s youngest ever goalscorer a month later.