It was always going to be a tough act to follow for Manchester City, after having won the league in the last full season but what can be made of their 2017-18 campaign?
It was billed as an epic battle between City and Chelsea, both teams a class above the rest of the league, both going head-to-head for the title, in truth both showed their weaknesses, City off of the pace come the end of the season. It had all started so well, seven consecutive wins followed by a scoreless draw away to Chelsea but already the Citizens were showing that their lack of depth would ultimately hurt them. Having signed Claire Emslie and Pauline Bremer in the summer the Sky Blues were dealt a blow when the young German’s season ended before it started, Emslie however, proving to be one of the best British singings of the season.
Just like in previous seasons, the Manchester side had injury problems, everything seeming to finally catch up to them as they battled on four fronts. The draw with Chelsea coming a month after they had dispatched with their rivals in the league cup though needing extra time to see off Birmingham in the FA Cup later that month. It was the Blues who would prove to be the undoing of City as three days after their FA Cup win, they’d look rudderless at Damson Park; advantage Chelsea.
In action again three days later the Citizens welcomed a dominant Chelsea side to the CFA, though the visitors ran away with the match in the first half they allowed enough of a gap for the hosts to squeeze back into the match. Another draw, City still just one point behind their southern rivals.
Looking visibly tired, City lost the league cup final to Arsenal a week before playing out the first of their UEFA Women’s Champions League quarter final, a routine win over 10-man Linköping. Unable to avoid cup action, City were forced to extra time that weekend in Sunderland as they just about booked a spot in the last four before flying out to Sweden. Another win over the Swedish champions saw City through to the last four in Europe, the team back in action the same weekend, a blunt loss at home to Reading.
The ship was rocking in Manchester and things soon went from bad to worse as Chelsea knocked them out of the FA Cup at the semi-final stage for the third time in four years.
Back on solid footing in the league with a win over Sunderland, City held Olympique Lyonnais scoreless in Manchester before slipping to a 1-0 loss in France, a fine result against the all-conquering French side. Though at no point did City look like scoring in Lyon, it was still slight progress on their finish the previous season. Back in England, they hit Bristol City for six before falling to a shock loss away to Liverpool, Chelsea opening up a gap. By the time they left Borehamwood four days later without a point, the title was all but gone, four fronts, zero silverware. Finishing the season with wins over Yeovil and Everton, City did at least avoid the shame of missing out on Europe, a second place claimed as those below suffered their own losses.
It’s easy to dismiss a lack of depth as the problem as City have been perilously thin for the last handful of years but consistently playing almost every game possible, it’s clearly caught up to the squad. Not just a lack of depth, but with Nick Cushing refusing to rotate that often, his bench, though usually thin and inexperienced, looked over time and again, those on the pitch clearly flagging both physically and mentally.
Injures to Megan Campbell as well as Bremer have deeply hurt City, so too the loss of Steph Houghton late in the season, Mie Leth Jans, Julia Spetsmark and Tessel Middag have all struggled with knocks and Nadia Nadim failed to find her feet. It’s not been a glorious season for the Citizens though Cushing still seems the right man to lead the team, but the team need to strengthen across the pitch this season, and the manager needs to be brave with rotation in the future.