WSL Golden Boot race examined as Lionesses star amongst leading contenders

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Daly hit a hat-trick in a win over Reading at Villa Park earlier this season (Image: Getty Images)
Daly hit a hat-trick in a win over Reading at Villa Park earlier this season (Image: Getty Images)

As we head towards the end of the winter break, the WSL will resume one of it's most competitive seasons to date.

Three, possibly four, teams are all in with a genuine chance of claiming the title, with defending champions Chelsea narrowly in front of Arsenal and Man United having played a game more than their rivals. But it is not only the title race that is proving tricky to call this time around.

Forecasting the race for the Golden Boot at this stage of the season looks nearly impossible. Two may have set the pace but there are some proven top-flight goalscorers not far behind them with just over half of the season still to play.

Here Mirror Football looks at the leading contenders and their chances of joining a roll of honour that includes Eni Aluko, Natasha Dowie and Vivianne Miedema.

Rachel Daly

Rachel Daly may have spent the summer at left-back during England's run to European Championship glory but her move to Aston Villa has seen her return to an attacking role. Daly, 31, returned to her homeland permanently after a spell with Houston Dash and Villa boss Carla Ward has chosen to utilise her solely as a central forward.

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Daly has returned her faith with goals, never looking back after scoring two in the 4-3 win over Man City that kickstarted Villa's season. An impressive hat-trick against Reading then helped Daly to the Barclays November Player of the Month award, a month where she was also given a chance to play up-front for England in a 1-1 draw with Norway. Daly opening the scoring with a fine header.

In total, she has eight from nine games to put her join first in the race for the award. But can she sustain the pace? To be the leagues top goalscorer while playing for a team that may well finish in the bottom half would be a major achievement.

Daly didn't score in her last two matches before the Christmas break and may well need to hit the ground running against Tottenham next week, if she is to remain in the hunt. With Villa's final game an away trip to an Arsenal team who may well still be chasing the title, Daly may need to lead the pack before that game to have a chance of claiming the crown.

Chances of winning the Golden Boot- 6/10

Khadija 'Bunny' Shaw

WSL Golden Boot race examined as Lionesses star amongst leading contendersKhadija Shaw of Manchester City celebrates after scoring their side's first goal during the FA Women's Super League match between Manchester City against Liverpool (Photo by Lewis Storey/Getty Images)

Khadija Shaw has been something of a revelation this season. Supporters at Man City were understandably concerned at Ellen White's surprise retirement before the season started, yet Shaw has managed to fill her boots so far this season.

Like Daly, the Jamaican has eight goals from her first nine games prior to the Christmas break, helping City to a length unbeaten run that has given them a glimmer of the WSL title. Shaw hit braces in comfortable wins over Leicester and Spurs that set the tone for the City revival, with perhaps her most important goal the winner at Everton in November.

Although Shaw wouldn't have been every pundits pick for Golden Boot winner at the start of the season, she is never far away from a goal record. She was the Division 1 Feminine top goalscorer at former club Bordeaux in 2020-21, hitting a remarkable 22 goals in just 20 games.

Shaw is also Jamaica's all-time highest goalscorer and was the top markswoman in the 2022 League Cup, which City won. Shaw does still have to face Arsenal's defence twice this season and has yet to score against fellow title contenders Chelsea or Man United this season.

But if she can find the net in those games, the 25-year-old will be red hot favourite to finish the campaign with more goals than any other player.

Chances of winning the Golden Boot - 9/10

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Sam Kerr

After hitting 20 goals on her way to claiming the prize last season, only a fool would rule out Sam Kerr at this stage of the season. Arguably still the best striker in the world, Kerr is the only female footballer to win a Golden Boot in three different leagues across three different continents, as well as having a record for her national team of more than a goal every other game.

With five league goals so far this season, Kerr does have work to do to catch up with both Daly and Shaw. However, if Chelsea maintain their title push throughout the second half of the season, you can expect the Aussie forward to be amongst the goals.

WSL Golden Boot race examined as Lionesses star amongst leading contendersChelsea's Sam Kerr has scored 10 goals in total this season but only five have come in the WSL (Photo by Bryn Lennon/Getty Images)

Kerr also has a secret weapon the other contenders don't posses - Guro Reiten. The Norwegian is the leading the WSL assist chart for this season with nine, five clear of the next players. She produced an outrageous pass to create Kerr's goal against Leicester, which has since been nominated for December's Goal of the Month award.

If Reiten stays in-form Kerr has a great shout of clawing back the deficit. However, she'll first need to dislodge Fran Kirby as Chelsea's top scorer, before pushing Shaw and Daly close.

The 29-year-old will have to move quickly. Chelsea have played a game more than both Villa and City, and have a tough looking restart, making the trip to Arsenal before hosting Liverpool a week later. If Kerr finds the net in both of those games, another 20-goal season wouldn't be out of the question.

Chances of winning the Golden Boot - 7/10

Other Contenders

Both Kerr's Chelsea teammate Kirby and Liverpool's American forward Katie Stengel are above her in the current chart, with six goals each. Kirby is Chelsea's all-time top scorer and is never far away from a goal.

WSL Golden Boot race examined as Lionesses star amongst leading contendersFran Kirby of Chelsea scores her team's first goal during a 3-2 win over Reading

However, it would be a tall order for any number 10 to outscore Shaw and Daly, even in this free-flowing Chelsea side. Stengel has departed to life in the top flight superbly since arriving on Merseyside and helping Liverpool win promotion.

The Reds do have goals in them, as shown by back-to-back 3-3 draws with Brighton and Reading, but unless Stengal can find the net against the strongest teams in the division, as she did in the opening day win over Chelsea, the Golden Boot looks a stretch.

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Jack Lacey-Hatton

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15.07.2024, 17:44 • Investigation