Manchester City Women’s manager Gareth Taylor signed a new contract on Thursday, keeping him in charge of the team for another year. But, after a difficult season, that saw the blues fail to land a major trophy and also miss out on Champions League qualification, if this the last opportunity for Taylor to finally make his mark?
Taylor became head coach of the City girls in 2020, inheriting a good team from outgoing boss Nick Cushing. But, despite winning 79 games out of 109, City haven’t really been a threat in the WSL. This season was the closest they came, but defeats at Arsenal, United and Liverpool ended any hopes of being crowned champions.
Those results, in addition to the League Cup semi-final loss to Arsenal and the extra-time defeat to Aston Villa in the FA Cup, turned out to be a catastrophic collapse in form that cost the blues any chance of silverware.
Taylor did express his desire to sign a new contract earlier this year when he stated that talks were dragging, but was hopeful of signing a new contract soon. It was anticipated amongst some of the fans that City’s failure to secure a top-three place would spell the end of his tenure, however, Taylor seems to have been given a stay of execution until at least next June.
Is This Taylor’s Last Chance?
Last summer, Taylor made some major changes to his City squad, which resulted in some of the blues top names leaving the club. Georgia Stanway, Caroline Weir and Lucy Bronze all left the club, with Keira Walsh being a fourth surprise departure. joining Bronze at Barcelona and Weir in Spain. Jill Scott retired, which was always on the cards following her loan spells towards the end of last and this season, while Ellen White also retired, but adding the term ‘with immediate effect,’ prompting some to speculate that she was forced into retiring.
Goalkeepers Karen Bardsley also retired and Karima Benameur Taieb joined Marseille. Taylor also sent Jess Park and Ruby Mace out on loan, while Vicky Losada joined Roma and Julie Blakstad left on loan during the season.
To replace them, Taylor brought in Venezuelan striker Deyna Castellanos, then signed Spanish duo Leila Ouahabi and Laia Aleixandri from Barca and Atletico Madrid respectively. Striker Mary Fowler, defender Kerstin Casperij and midfielder Yui Hasegawa joined the club.
However, Taylor has failed to play Fowler regularly and Castellanos has so far struggled to make an impression. Added to that, the manager seemed to lose faith with Hayley Raso, who made just one start in the WSL. The Australian, who announced she was leaving the club following the 3-2 final day victory over Everton, started every League Cup match until the blues visited Arsenal in the last four, when Taylor dropped her to the bench.
As a result of Taylor’s inept decision making, City at times struggled to break down the opposition. They came back from 2-0 down on the opening day to lead 3-2 at Villa Park, but had no answer to Villa’s attack as the home side staged a remarkable comeback to win 4-3. An annual defeat at Chelsea quickly followed, but an unbeaten run until April gave the blues hope.
But it was matches against their biggest rivals that cost them dearly. A 1-1 home draw with United, a team which they had previously dominated, a lacklustre stalemate at home to Villa, and the three defeats against United, Arsenal and Liverpool ended all hope, and proved once again that City under Taylor just cannot compete against the league’s better sides.
Who Will Be City’s Rivals Next Season?
City will be aiming to challenge Chelsea, Arsenal and United for the title, but, realistically, City are now up against a resurgent Villa side and it will be interesting how Carla Ward will recruit over the summer. The former midfielder recruited Jordan Nobbs and Rachel Daly last season, two signings that took Villa from relegation candidates to the top half of the table.
The worry now is that Taylor’s recruitment policy, together with his limited coaching skills and inability to make effective changes in times of need, will cause City to drop even further down the table.
With former Readin and Wales star Jayne Ludlow being part of City’s technical set-up, the blues have a ready-made replacement should Taylor blow his final opportunity to take City to the next level.
What do you think? Is this Taylor’s last opportunity for success? Should the blues have offered a longer contract or should he have already gone? Let us know your thoughts.