Manchester City Women’s former manager Nick Cushing got the send off he deserved when the team defeated Arsenal 2-1 on Sunday. But apart from the feel good factor, the win means much more for the team he left behind. Having been recently knocked out of the Continental Cup by the same opponent, it was important to take a step forward in the title race. And that’s exactly what the players did handing the Gunners their third defeat of the season.
Sitting tied on points at the top of the Women’s Super League table before the match, a loss will have left Man City playing catch-up for the remainder of the campaign. But the victory put the team a point clear at the top of the standings and three ahead of Arsenal. The defending champions can consider their title gone if City do a perfect job in the remaining eight games of the season. But that will still leave the Cityzens empty-handed if Chelsea do the same.
Firstly, the Kingston upon Thames-based side will face City in a crucial game on February 23. With 21 goals scored in the last four games and an unbeaten run in the division this term to boot, Emma Hayes’ charges are in blistering form. Also, the team holds a game in hand over both City and Arsenal. Picking up maximum points in the rescheduled fixture against Everton would put the side top of the log, two points clear.
To prevent such a scenario, City must come out on top when the two sides square up. Suffice to say that the Sky Blues face a difficult task of toppling a team that has maintained an unbeaten run all season long. The reverse fixture ended in a 2-1 loss. The team will also need to negotiate an away derby tie against Manchester United at the end of March and come out victorious. That should serve as the last hurdle to cross as the other matches are all winnable.
With Pauline Bremer enjoying a rich vein of form in front of goal since the turn of the new year, the team looks good. Her return of 10 league goals this term is only bettered by Arsenal’s Vivianne Miedema and Chelsea’s Beth England who have netted 14 and 12 respectively.
But the City striker is ably supported upfront by Ellen White and Lauren Hemp. Experienced captain Steph Houghton who recently extended her stay at the Academy Stadium and midfielder Kiera Walsh provide solidity at the back and in the middle of the pack. together with their teammates, they form a strong unit capable of wrestling away the title from the other hopefuls.
However, it remains to be seen how the team will fare under new boss Alan Mahon who has now stepped up to take charge of the team after Nick Cushing’s departure.