Here are three things Man City must do to break into the top three and secure a Champions League spot in 2023
Manchester City will end 2022 in fourth place and out of the Champions League spots, but with Manchester United just two points ahead of them, we look at three things Gareth Taylor’s side must do to leapfrog their rivals in the second half of the season.
The season started in the worst possible fashion with back to back defeats but as we enter the new year, Gareth Taylor’s Manchester City side sit just two points behind the top three and are unbeaten in their last seven Women’s Super League (WSL) games.
Coupled with the departure of key players Caroline Weir, Keira Walsh and Georgia Stanway, those two defeats in the opening two games of the season had fans fearing the worst for the season but City have more than steadied the ship and their battling display against Manchester United just before the break showed the steely determination that has developed at City since.
Taylor has insisted the team can aim for a title push, though qualification for the Champions League after the pre-season departures and disappointing start would be seen as an excellent achievement.
Can they do it? We look at three key things the club must do if they are to leapfrog their Manchester rivals and cement European football at the The Academy Stadium next year.
Ensure Bunny Shaw continues her goalscoring form
The Jamaican has had a terrific season so far, scoring eight goals in City’s first nine games to become the WSL’s top scorer heading into the new year.
Outside of Chelsea’s Guro Reiten, the 25-year-old has produced the most goal contributions in the WSL and, on average, scores a goal every 96 minutes. She is pivotal to City’s chances of Champions League qualification this season and is truly showing up when it matters in front of goal.
Shaw has that goalscoring instinct of being in the right place at the right time scoring seven of her eight league goals in the box. If City’s England internationals Lauren Hemp and Chloe Kelly can continue to supply the Jamaican as they have done in the first half the season, the evidence indicates she is likely to end up the WSL’s top scorer and that gives them a distinct advantage in battle to finish amongst the top three come May.
Add more firepower
Gareth Taylor has already admitted that Shaw is his only real number nine so, as outlined above, should Shaw be missing for any period of time, it would be a real blow to City and would force them into an unnecessary reshuffle.
Any of Chloe Kelly, Lauren Hemp and Deyna Castellanos could play a striker’s role but a) non of them are remotely close in style to Shaw and b) it would see a potential a change in style and a reshuffle in other positions, which would disrupt a settled City side that have grown in confidence as the season has progressed.
It would be a shame to remove Kelly from her right wing berth, where the winger has added four assists and has created more big chances than any other WSL player, according to FotMob. Signing another out-and-out number nine that can challenge Shaw is a must.
Retain key core players
Retaining Alex Greenwood just before the break was a huge boost for City, with the defender commiting herself to the club until 2026.
However, there are still a number of important players that will see their contracts end in May and securing the future of those players will be important for stability. Head coach Taylor has already admitted he felt the upturn in form resulted from having a settled squad and he will want to ensure that continues in the second half of the campaign.
Laura Coombs is currently in talks about extending her stay at the club after being one of City’s stand out players in the first half of the season but the likes of Hayley Raso, Demi Stokes and Vicky Losada’s current deals expire at the end of the season. While they have struggled for regular gametime, they still form a solid part of City’s core squad and are difference makers on their day.
Ellie Roebuck has only 18 months left to run on her deal too and it would provide a boost it the club can extend that.