Sitting fifth in the table, just eight points behind league leaders Arsenal, Manchester City must surely have their eyes on one of the league’s three Champions League qualification spots.
This represents a huge turnaround from the start of the season. The early months of the campaign saw last season’s league runners-up blighted by a seemingly ever-growing injury list.
While the Sky Blues do not have a small squad, there have been several occasions where manager Gareth Taylor has had to name a bench of only four players.Embed from Getty Images
City’s injury crisis has mainly been contained to two key areas of the pitch. Throughout the season, Alex Greenwood has been the only defender to be consistently available. Despite having seven recognised defenders, at times, the backline frequently featured midfielders and forwards.
The result was often what could be expected from such a makeshift defence — simple defensive errors which led to conceding from counter-attacks and simple set pieces.
City’s goalkeeping crisis is well-documented, and Academy talent has made up much of City’s options for this season.
Missing Ellie Roebuck has massively affected the team. The WSL’s inaugural Golden Glove winner sustained injury while on Team GB duty over the summer, only returning this month. She was a huge absence for a side that prides itself on defence.
The Blues have already conceded seven more league goals than they did in the entirety of the 2020/21 season. Taylor will no doubt be hoping that the return of his first choice goalkeeper will prevent that figure rising further.
While City have scored the joint second highest league goals, they currently have a goal difference of just +10.Embed from Getty Images
Could City’s luck finally be changing?
Following a string of defeats, City are now beginning to pick up the points they so desperately need. Their draw against Arsenal and victory over Manchester United have helped edge Taylor’s side ever closer to the coveted top three league positions.
For a team like Manchester City, securing UWCL qualification is crucial in attracting the calibre of players Taylor will be hoping to sign over the summer transfer window. Pride will also be driving his side on as the end of the 2021/22 season comes into view. The Blues have not finished lower than second in the league since the year after the team was relaunched.Embed from Getty Images
It has been since the away win at Brighton that City have really begun to rediscover their form. The return of captain Steph Houghton has led to many aspects of City’s game improving. The Blues are utilising counter-attacks more effectively, whereas before few shots were coming from these situations.
Now however, almost 50 percent of chances are being created when Taylor’s side are on the break. Last season’s league runners-up have also been more secure in possession. Losing the ball far fewer times and recovering quicker when they do, City have given their opponents fewer opportunities to capitalise on errors.
Manchester City claiming a UWCL qualifying spot will require an immense finish to the season. With a maximum 24 points left to play for, they will need to be almost flawless over their next eight games.
While the Blues still have players unavailable through injury, news of Chloe Kelly’s approaching return is sure to boost the spirits of fans. The striker has been sidelined for almost a year after sustaining an ACL injury last season, and her return will be a welcome addition to the City attack.