Manchester City now have 18 English players in their squad after the signings of Lucy Bronze, Alex Greenwood and Chloe Kelly. But does their overreliance on English talent mean City are in danger of falling behind?
The Citizens could hypothetically start a full squad just made of English players. That’s a starting XI and a full bench of seven.
Liverpool struggled to name a full bench all of last season, naming four against Blackburn in the FA Cup.Embed from Getty Images
The philosophy of incorporating exciting English talent in the squad has always been part of the City makeup. But that’s being stretched to another level this summer.
The introduction of Bronze and Greenwood pretty much guarantees their entire back-five will be English for a while to come.
Kelly’s signature and the fact she’s been given the number nine, signal she will play a huge part too.
There’s no denying that a squad that looks like that could be more than competitive in the Women’s Super League. On their day, the defence is impenetrable.
That’s not to say Man City will only play with English players next season. Caroline Weir and Janine Beckie have proved themselves to be some of the best footballers in the league.
But is that enough for City? Pauline Bremer had the best goals per 90 in the league last season, scoring 10 in fewer than 600 minutes of game time.Embed from Getty Images
Losing a player of Bremer’s calibre would be difficult for any team to deal with.
City replaced her with Kelly and the former Everton winger is a fantastic talent, but will she have the same impact?
Kelly scored a career-best nine goals in the league last season and will have to improve on that to give City the best chance at catching Chelsea next campaign.
Why Foreign Players Could Prevent City Falling Behind
You only have to look as far as title-rivals Arsenal and Chelsea to understand the quality that foreign-born players bring.
Vivianne Miedema, Danielle van de Donk, Guro Reiten, Magdalena Eriksson and Sam Kerr are not English and yet are all essential to their sides.
Man City’s negligence to adopt foreign players as part of their template will result in their stagnation.
Refusing to adapt to an evolving women’s game will cost them.Embed from Getty Images
On the contrary, many of the English players City have (or will have, in the case of Bronze and Greenwood) are world-class in their own right.
Lucy Bronze is arguably one of the top-five players in world football. Ellie Roebuck is one of the best keepers in the game and she’s still only 20-years-old. Gemma Bonner is one of the most underrated defenders out there and Lauren Hemp has the potential to be a world-beater.
However, City need to be careful not to fall into the same mistakes that Phil Neville’s Lionesses do.
An occasionally shaky defence alongside an attack that needs more end product, the England national team has faltered in recent times.
Adding a Pernille Harder, Shanice van der Sanden or Marie-Antoinette Katoto could change the entire way that team plays.
Obviously this isn’t feasible for Phil Neville, but it is for Man City. There is a risk they flatten off and fail to keep enough dynamism in their squad to break down all competition next season, particularly as they chase a Champions League title.
How Will City Actually Lineup?
Barring any more introductions, City will probably revert to a 4-4-2 system to incorporate as many of their stars as possible.
That kind of style will also benefit Gareth Taylor in his first season as head coach. He will be familiar with the system and the expectations for individual players in that formation.
Youth sides often use it as a way to provide players with a good platform of footballing knowledge.Embed from Getty Images
City have some very versatile players in their squad, with Georgia Stanway and Beckie amongst those. They could adapt to any formation as the two wide players.
Beckie finished the season tied with Vivianne Miedema for most assists in the WSL last season. That’s despite playing at right-back for the majority of the time.
Other than Beckie, the only other “non-english” player that would be a regular in the starting XI would be Caroline Weir.
Weir has become an essential part of the Man City system, showing her class week-in, week-out. She even scored the only goal as City won the first Manchester derby in the WSL.
This begs the question, why are City so intent on making their side so Lioness-heavy? It could be looked at cynically, that they are this way for marketing reasons.
More likely is that they are trying to make the transition as easy for Gareth Taylor as he steps into his first role in women’s football.
But if Chelsea and Arsenal’s successes are anything to go by, City are in danger of being left behind.