Top Squad Gives Kirk ‘Selection Headache’ Ahead Of New Season

Everton Women boss Willie Kirk admitted he will have tough decisions to make on team selection in 2021/22 after an impressive start to pre-season.

The Blues have impressed in their opening three friendlies at USM Finch Farm, scoring 12 goals and conceding twice.

Kirk’s side were at their best over the weekend during an impressive 6-1 win over Brighton.

With the likes of Simone Magill and Valérie Gauvin to return from injury – and Sandy MacIver, Nathalie Björn and Anna Anvegård yet to link up with the squad – the Everton boss says it will be a difficult task to select a starting line-up each week.

“I said to the players during the week, the way they’ve been training has been really pleasing,” he told evertontv.

“I said it with a smile but I’m going to have a lot of selection headaches trying to pick a team if the players continue to apply themselves like this – and the quality that they’ve been producing in training has been excellent.

“It’s a fantastic squad we’ve put together. We've got real good quality and options.

“We’ll be really versatile in terms of the way we want to play.

“It’s really exciting. It’s going to be really tough picking teams every week but that’s my job.

“I have recruited a big squad, and a squad full of quality, knowing that it’s going to pose me a problem but it’s a really nice problem to have.

“It’s up to the players to continue to give me that problem.

“Things are looking good so far, and we've had three [pre-season] victories as well, so it's good to keep that going.”

Willie Kirk
It’s a fantastic squad we’ve put together. We’ll be really versatile in terms of the way we want to play.

One of the players who has shone in the Blues' friendly matches is defender Megan Finnigan.

The Academy graduate signed a contract extension in the summer and scored the opening goal against Brighton on Sunday.

The Scottish boss praised the 23-year-old defender's quality and mentality.

“She’s a really big threat from set-pieces and she should be,” Kirk added.

“She’s a fantastic header of the ball, it’s just about getting her timing right.

“For us, it’s about getting the opportunities right for her.

“She’s had a great start to pre-season.

“It’s a completely different Meg Finnigan now.

“A couple of years ago when we brought in players, she struggled with the pressure to compete every day for her place.

“She now knows after a year of guaranteed game time that she’s under that pressure again but she’s dealing with it in a completely different way.

“She’s looking really good.”

Danish forward Nicoline Sørensen, meanwhile, is part an exciting group of forwards vying for a place in Everton's starting XI.

The Denmark international has scored in all three pre-season games so far and Kirk has been impressed by his number 14.

“Nico is a really good, clean striker of the ball.

“It’s now about her playing with confidence and getting into positions where she can utilise that.

“We see it everyday in training, she works on it a lot.

“She’s scored in every pre-season game so far and long may that continue.”

The squad's strength in depth was highlighted in the Brighton win, with Claire Emslie coming off the bench in the second half and scoring a brace.

Kirk explained how he may consider playing the fellow Scot in a more central attacking position as opposed to on the flanks.

“We have got three or four number nines this year and we’ve only been able to really work with one of them during pre-season because of injuries and availability," he added.

“Claire might have just given us a fifth.

“I know she played as a number nine for six months at Melbourne and she did well.

“I watched a number of the games before she became an Everton player and she did really well.

“Some of her runs were fantastic off the shoulder, and she produced some good finishes.

“It [Emslie's ability to play as a central striker] gives us lots of different options.”