Manchester City will be hoping to win the WSL title for the first time since 2016 after being cruelly denied last time out.
When the last Women’s Super League match was played this season, Manchester City were top of the table. When the campaign was brought to an end, City found themselves bumped down a spot thanks to the points-per-game system calculations that left them second, behind newly-crowned champions Chelsea.
That suggests they’ll certainly feel they have something to prove this year under freshly-installed head coach Gareth Taylor.
“We’ve known Gareth, he’s been the coach of the Under-18s [boys] for a number of years and I watched his coaching sessions, I’ve seen how his teams have played, and I had the utmost respect for him before he was announced as our manager, so it’s been an exciting few weeks,” says captain Steph Houghton.
“I feel like this has been the longest pre-season ever,” attacker Georgia Stanway admits. “It’s the longest time I’ve ever spent with my family and I’ve had enough of them now and I’m ready to get the season going.”
It was a disappointing curtain-raiser to 2020/21, though, losing 2-0 to Chelsea in the Community Shield, and having the experienced midfielder Jill Scott sent off for an indisputable pair of yellow cards.
They will need to recover quickly – they open their WSL season against newcomers Aston Villa on Saturday (September 5).
A pair of USA World Cup winners arrive at the last gasp of pre-season on loan to bolster the squad – Sam Mewis and Rose Lavelle. Rather more under the radar, City have also welcomed the young English talent Chloe Kelly, an attacker who shone for Everton after her move from Arsenal.
Keira Walsh anchors the midfield and grows in confidence as she gains senior and international experience. She is an integral part of the England squad and at the age of 23 she will be the lynchpin of City’s side for years to come.
With a squad including Mewis, Lavelle and Kelly, plus Lioness Ellen White, Scotland’s Caroline Weir, and Canada’s Janine Beckie, City will never be short of creativity, attacking impetus or goals.
Though the City forward line looks strong, reinforcements in defence could still be needed in case of injury, and because of the imminent fixture congestion when the Champions League starts up again. Alex Greenwood and Lucy Bronze have both been linked with a return from Lyon – but there has been no confirmation of that yet.
And even if they do come back, with so many additions to the squad, there have to be questions around how well the squad will gel, particularly with the number of players who have missed so much of pre-season.
Certainly a Champions League spot has to be the aim for City, and they will be hoping for some silverware now their squad has expanded.
“I’m really looking forward to this season – I think we’re building a squad that’s going to be able to challenge for every trophy and for us, hopefully, our quality shines through,” says Houghton.