The WSL 2020 summer transfer window was pure marvelous carnage.
We thought it was pretty exciting when Manchester City signed Chloe Kelly in July – then chaos unfolded.
We had World Cup champions, Olympic gold medalists and Champions League winners come down to the league, the transfer record was broken, Lucy Bronze came back and to top it off Alex Morgan spontaneously joined Tottenham.
But while everyone was excited about their various new signings, Chelsea had someone who had been at the club for half a decade, but at the start of the 2020/21 season it would look like a whole new signing.
Fran Kirby – once the tiny, short-haired future of English football after bursting onto the 2015 World Cup stage despite playing for the Reading Championship kit – had only played four times for the Blues in the previous campaign.
Kirby was diagnosed with pericarditis – an inflammation of the lining around the heart – in November and admitted she was about to throw in the towel and turn her back on the game. She missed the rest of the season. , but Chelsea made do in his absence and won the WSL title.
Their already enticing line of attack had seen the arrival of Sam Kerr in January, and then Pernille Harder this summer – two of the best players in world football. It could have been easy to forget Kirby.
But despite going nine months without kicking the ball in competition, the 27-year-old has hit the ground running this quarter. In the Community Shield at the end of August, neither Chelsea nor City had played since February. Kirby hadn’t played since November. Still, she looked the sharpest player on the pitch.
His performance was a sign of things to come. The England international has operated at scale for much of the season, where his complex play, vision and ability to provide for his team-mates really shone.
Against Reading in Chelsea’s last WSL outing, Kirby was deployed in the number ten role – a position she frequently held for the Lionesses – and took center stage.
The forward has scored four times (including two headers despite being 157cm tall) in a devastating attacking performance. Her cohesion with Kerr was electric, she jumped on any slack in Reading’s backline and was sharpened in front of goal as the Blues beat the winners 5-0.
Chelsea face Manchester United on Sunday as the last undefeated WSL sides face off. United were hardly wrong on that term, but with Kirby in the form of his life, his undefeated record will be in jeopardy.