Women’s Super League mid-season review: No 4, Manchester City
If you had asked Manchester City at the start of September whether they would be happy with an FA Cup trophy in their cabinet by Christmas, I think they’d have taken it.
Gareth Taylor’s side’s extra-time victory over Everton at Wembley Stadium in November saw them successfully defend their trophy and celebrate a 2019-20 triumph during the 2020-21 season. Bizarre.
On the flip side though, City have stuttered and stalled during their Women’s Super League campaign.
After the heartbreak of missing out on the title last season - when they finished top but lost the league to Chelsea through the points-per-game method - it has not been the ideal response.
A drab goalless draw at home to Brighton on gameweek two was followed up by a 3-1 defeat to reigning champions Chelsea in October.
More dropped points at Reading left them down in fifth, before they threw away a two-goal lead against table toppers Manchester United.
That disappointment was sandwiched between comprehensive wins over Bristol City and Everton, with a crucial December victory over Arsenal leaving them with a modicum of hope heading into the new year after an up and down few months.
Let’s take a more in-depth look at their season so far and where the rest of their campaign could be won and lost in 2021.
League position (last season at Christmas in brackets): 4th - 18 points (2nd - 24 points)
WSL record so far this season: P: 9, W: 5, D: 3, L: 1
Season highlight: 2-1 v Arsenal
When Vivianne Miedema struck after just three minutes to give Arsenal the lead against Manchester City, Taylor’s side appeared to be heading out of the title race before Christmas.
But Mewis stooped to head City level after half an hour to give the Sky Blues a great chance of victory after the break.
And after 45 minutes of solid pressure in the second half, City finally found the winner in stoppage time when substitute Caroline Weir superbly found the bottom corner from the edge of the area.
The three points keeps them in with an outside chance of mounting a title charge in 2021 as they go in search of a first WSL triumph since 2016.
Key player: Sam Mewis
A host of US national team players joined the WSL for the start of the 2020/21 campaign as American soccer continued to be disrupted due to the coronavirus pandemic.
It was probably World Cup final goalscorer Lavelle who caught more headlines upon her arrival, but it is Mewis who has shone in the first half of the season.
Not only has she found the back of the net at key times against Reading and Arsenal, the 28-year-old has also been a driving force at the heart of the Man City midfield.
She has been involved in everything positive so far for her new side and will need to continue that form is to add to the FA Cup she won in November.
Biggest test to come?
In February, Man City travel to Arsenal and then host Man Utd just five days later in a week which could define their season.
Safe to say both matches hold a huge amount of significance in their title challenge, but it is clear that with an eight point deficit to make up, a defeat to their local rivals Man Utd would spell the end for their chances of WSL glory.
After throwing away two goal lead to draw 2-2 at Leigh Sports Village, they were then beaten by the Red Devils on penalties in the Continental Cup five days later.
So as well as title ambitions, Man City v Man Utd on February 12 is a chance for the blue side of Manchester to silence their ever-noisier neighbours.