Women’s football has been on the rise across the world during the past 10 years.
Increased media coverage, modern attendance records being broken and award ceremonies recognising the achievements of female stars of the game have been some of the changes we’ve seen, finally giving light to an under-appreciated realm of the sport.
The English women’s system has witnessed one of the most rapid growths during the decade, with the FA introducing a Women’s Super League in 2011 and building that into one of the strongest professional divisions in the world. During the nine years since it’s inception, some amazing players have lit up the league and this is just one of the XIs that can be created from the long list of talent that’s graced these shores this decade.
Goalkeeper: Hedvig Lindahl
The FA Women’s Super League has seen a number of international-calibre goalkeepers through the years but none made more impact than Sweden’s Lindahl.
After playing her entire career in her homeland, Lindahl moved to Chelsea in 2015 and enjoyed immediate success. She conceded the fewest goals in the division during her debut season, as The Blues became FA Women’s Super League champions for the first time. A nomination for the PFA Player of the Year followed, while she was also included in the accompanying Team of the Year.
Her continued form over the next couple of seasons soon earned her global recognition with a selection in the FIFPro World XI. Interestingly, she remains the only player to be included whilst still playing in the FA Women’s Super League.
Lindahl eventually moved to VfL Wolfsburg last summer following a Spring Series triumph and another league win with Chelsea, meaning she experienced one of the most concentrated spells of glory in the history of the competition.
Defender: Lucy Bronze
Probably the one player guaranteed to be on everyone’s Team of the Decade, Bronze excelled in the right-back position at three different FA Women’s Super League clubs.
A title winner three times – once at Manchester City in 2016 and back-to-back with Liverpool in 2013 and 2014 – her personal honours are even more extensive. She’s won the PFA Player of the Year award twice, as well as being named in the Team of the Year on four occasions.
Her incredible career in England earned her a move to Lyon in 2017, where she’s since won two UEFA Women’s Champions League titles and been named the second-best player in the world.
Defender: Gilly Flaherty
Choosing between Niamh Fahey and Gilly Flaherty was a tricky decision as the defensive duo won several titles together as a centre-back pairing for much of the decade.
In a dominant Arsenal side, they won the FA Women’s Premier League title in 2009/2010 before securing the first two FA Women’s Super League crowns in 2011 and 2012. They also helped Chelsea to the title in 2015 but Fahey moved to Bordeaux shortly afterward.
Flaherty remained in the capital and went on to add the FA Women’s Super League 1 Spring Series and another league title to her list of honours, which earns her a place in this team.
Defender: Steph Houghton
While Fahey and Flaherty have ended the decade at clubs further down the table (Liverpool and West Ham United, respectively), Houghton has spent the past 10 years consistently fighting at the top end of the division – winning the league on three occasions and finishing as runner-up three times, too.
Nothing speaks more about the England international’s value than the 124 games she’s started in 132 FA Women’s Super League appearances representing Arsenal and Manchester City, with most of these coming at The Academy Stadium as captain.
Her outstanding qualities as a versatile defender and commanding leader have made her a key player for club and country. Her face has also been constant off the field, raising the profile of the women’s game like no other in this era.
Defender: Demi Stokes
Much like teammate Houghton, Stokes has been an ever-present figure in Manchester City’s successful backline.
She appeared in every game of their 2016 title-winning campaign – contributing two goals from left-back and only conceding four times during an unbeaten season – while recent performances have earned her two successive selections in the PFA Team of the Year.
With The Citizens only conceding three goals so far this season as well, Stokes could well make it three PFA appearances in a row in 2020.
Midfielder: Katie Chapman
England international, Chapman, enjoyed great success in the two decades preceding the 2010s, winning numerous Women’s FA Cups at capital clubs Millwall, Fulham, Charlton Athletic and Arsenal. She rejoined The Gunners in 2011 after a brief spell in America and continued to add to her legacy well into her thirties.
The central midfielder’s career took the same path as Flaherty during this era, with two titles at Arsenal and another two at Chelsea. More FA Women’s Cup success followed, too, and after securing The Blues’ second league and cup double in 2018, Chapman retired at the age of 36 as one of the most decorated players in English football.
Midfielder: Jill Scott
With 260 games between them, Fara Williams and Jill Scott could warrant places in a team of the decade based on appearances alone. However, Scott just edges out her former England teammate for the world-class midfield prowess she’s consistently displayed during spells at Everton and Manchester City.
On Merseyside, she helped The Blue Girls finish third in the FA Women’s Super League’s opening two seasons – being named the FA International Player of the Year in 2011 – before she moved to Manchester City and pushed for the top spot. She finally received a winner’s medal in 2016 as part of City’s dominant campaign but it’s a real surprise that more silverware hasn’t followed for such an enormous talent.
Midfielder: Kim Little
Another member of the successful Arsenal squad that entered the decade, Little played a huge part in their 2009/2010, 2011 and 2012 title wins by scoring freely from midfield.
The Scottish international hit nine goals in her debut FA Women’s Super League season before finishing as the division’s top scorer the following season on 11. This run of form earned her several accolades including the first-ever women’s version of the PFA Player of the Year award.
A move to America’s National Women’s Soccer League followed, where she won further trophies at Seattle Reign and also claimed silverware during a loan spell with Melbourne City in Australia’s W-League.
When she rejoined Arsenal after four years abroad, she continued her excellent form in the FA Women’s Super League by scoring eight goals in 2018/2019 to help The Gunners’ to their first title triumph since 2012 and is flying again this season, too.
Midfielder: Ji So-yun
Chelsea playmaker, Ji, has been a star in the FA Women’s Super League since her arrival in 2014. She’s been selected in the PFA Team of the Year four times and won the award for best player in 2015 after scoring a number of important goals – including some spectacular free-kicks.
She signed a new three-year deal with The Blues at the start of this season and her manager noted that she could play at any club in the world. It’s hard to argue with that, so expect to see even more amazing things from the South Korean in the next decade as well.
Midfielder: Gemma Davison
Some excellent players could vie for Davison’s position in this team, including Karen Carney and Jordan Nobbs. However, Davison’s constant presence during four FA Women’s Super League title triumphs with three different teams makes her a key figure of the decade.
Equally as dangerous on the left or right-wing, Arsenal, Liverpool and Chelsea fans have seen her carve opponents open through mazy runs that often end with her setting up teammates to deliver the final goal-scoring blow.
The 32-year-old hasn’t ended the decade well after damaging her ankle medial ligaments whilst training for new club Spurs but she can take stock of her great career whilst on the sidelines and look to light up the division again in 2020 and beyond.
Striker: Vivianne Miedema
Having just one striker in this team will result in some controversial omissions. Beth Mead and Ellen White have been free-flowing in front of goal during the last few years, while the competition’s all-time leading scorer, Nikita Parris, has the most grounds to be upset for missing out. However, Miedema is the best forward the FA Women’s Super League has ever seen.
So many records have been smashed by the Dutch international, including the most goals scored in a single season (22) and the biggest goal contribution from a single player in one game (six goals and four assists). She is also nine goals behind Parris at the top of the all-time scoring charts – despite playing half as many games – and looks set to overhaul her Lyon counterpart in the New Year.
If Miedema is to retain the title she won with Arsenal last season, she’ll have to keep up her red-hot form when Chelsea’s Sam Kerr enters the competition in January. The Aussie striker is probably the best forward in the world, meaning the next decade of FA Women’s Super League action should start off spectacularly.
By Lewis Davies (@lewis_groundhop)