Manchester City began the new season on Sunday with a first. Unfortunately, it wasn’t a positive one. The team lost to Aston Villa for the first time ever. It was the first game of the new campaign.
The early setback could be a bad omen for the season ahead. Current circumstances surrounding the team suggests the season could be a very difficult one. Unless manager Gareth Taylor is able to get the best from his new-look squad, this could be a long season for the Blues.
There have been many changes in the playing staff with several experienced members of the squad leaving the club for one reason or the other. In fact, eight key players have left the club heading into the new campaign. These are top quality and experienced players that will be difficult for any team to replace.
The exodus started from Georgia Stanway who left on a free transfer to Bayern Munich. Then followed vastly experienced defender and Ballon d’Or Feminin runner-up in 2019, Lucy Bronze, who moved to Barcelona. Forward Caroline Weir departed for Real Madrid
After helping the Lionesses to their first European crown last summer, both Ellen White and Jill Scott called time on their football careers, choosing to bow out when the ovation was loudest. Veteran goalkeeper Karen Bardsley followed. Their retirement, however, leaves City heavily impacted.
Even the reserve goalkeeper Karima Taieb has also left for France joining Marseille.
As if on a mission to wreck City, Barcelona came in for Keira Walsh, Player of the Match from the Euro 2022 final. With a fee worth around £400,000, which is a new world record transfer for a female player, and following the player’s desire to leave, the club succumbed on transfer deadline day after having rejected two previous bids.
New recruitments have been brought in to rebuild. Starting from a backup goalkeeper Sandy MacIver, defender Kerstin Casparij from the Netherlands, Spanish duo Leila Ouahabi and Laia Aleixandri, Japanese midfielder Yui Hasegawa, Venezuela’s Deyna Castellanos and Australian youngster Mary Fowler.
The average age of the seven new signings is 23, compared to 29 for those that left the team.
Sunday’s 4-3 loss to Villa in the team’s first league game of the season has served only as a further confirmation that this is a new beginning for the Blues. The signs have been there though, as the team has already been knocked out of the Champions League at the qualification stage.
Beaten 1-0 by Real Madrid, the goal was scored by - wait for it - Caroline Weir, as if to rub salt in the wound. Things are not looking good for City at the moment. But change can happen fast in football.
The manager will need to get the team to recover from the early setbacks and function effectively as a team to have any chance of challenging Chelsea and Arsenal for the Women Super League title, and other trophies on offer this season.