Manchester City 2018/19 WSL Season Preview: Citizens hope to return to the top

Manchester City come into the new domestic campaign with the sole target of reclaiming their WSL crown from Chelsea.

The Londoners beat Nick Cushing's team to the title after also winning the Spring Series the year before and it's likely to be another two-horse race again this season - that's unless Arsenal find an extra level.

Despite struggling last term, City are still a force to be reckoned with and it should be another intriguing battle in 2018/19.

Last time out

So used to winning major honours in recent years, they failed to win a single trophy last season - City's lack of squad depth proving to be a real downfall as they fought on four major fronts.

Man City's campaign started brilliantly but the demands of the Champions League soon caught up with Cushing's small squad.

City scored the most goals in the WSL last season, but ultimately finished six points shy of Chelsea in second place.

They lost out in the Continental Cup final, whilst also suffered a semi-final defeat to Chelsea in the FA Cup. But there was an impressive Champions League run for the Citizens.

They reached the semi-final stage only to be beaten by eventual winners Lyon, 1-0 on aggregate.

Summer signings

City have been busy over the summer signing no less than five players, all who add great quality to an already impressive side.

As if they didn't need more goals, Cushing has snapped up multiple attackers ahead of the new season.

Promising teenager Lauren Hemp has arrived from Bristol City, after what was a breakthrough 2017/18 campaign in which she won the PFA Women's Young Player of the Year award.

The ever reliable Caroline Weir was also signed from Liverpool. It feels like the Scot has been around forever but at still only 23 years of age has her best years to come. Also arriving from Liverpool is defender Gemma Bonner who will provide competition to the stable pairing of Steph Houghton and Jennifer Beattie at centre half.

Man City also snapped up Belgium's record goal scorer Tessa Wullaert from Wolfsburg. She had a mightily impressive record at Standard Liege but struggled to put the ball in the back of the net after arriving in the Frauen Bundesliga. Cushing will therefore be hoping she can renew her purpose in front of goal in the WSL.

Their final summer signing was Canadian international Janine Beckie who coincidentally joins from Sky Blue FC in the NWSL.

With five players arriving, five also departed. The most high profile of those was Izzy Christiansen's move to Lyon. Jane Ross and Tessel Middag both joined West Ham whilst 18-year-old Ella Toone joined city rivals Manchester United. Julia Spetsmark meanwhile returned to Sweden, joining Djurgarden.

There was also a slight saga involving Nadia Nadim, who handed in a transfer request after failing to adapt to life at the club. For now, however, she remains a part of Cushing's plans.

Bouncing back

City's squad still contains a similar amount of players as it did and they may well have to rely on players staying fit if they are to mount a better challenge than they did last season. The club will again compete on four fronts and after last season Cushing should now have learned that rotation is necessary.

The attacking signings suggest that he's going to be more open to rotating when possible, and with a host of promising youngsters in the Citizens ranks it shall be interesting to see how things play out at the CFA.

Man City would love another strong run in the Champions League but domestically they will want a better title challenge and a return to the top.

Their opening game sees them play Chelsea and with things often so tight between the pair it could give either side a big early advantage for the rest of the season.

Chelsea failed to lose a single WSL match last term so it would be a big sign of intent if City were to beat them on the opening weekend.

Key players

The rock in Man City's side is Houghton and her absence with injury towards the back end of last season was really felt. The hugely experienced centre-half is a big part of Cushing's team and she will be someone they will rely on heavily to help keep attackers at bay.

In midfield, Keira Walsh and the driving force of Jill Scott will be pivotal. Walsh has been excellent in front of the back four in the past couple of season's and at the age of 21 can only get better. Scott meanwhile is a canny operator at both ends of the pitch, capable of breaking up play and also scoring the odd goal.

City have a wealth of attacking options and it will be intriguing to see who gets the nod as the season goes on. Of all of them, Nikita Parris is arguably the most important, having netted 14 goals in 2017/18, the most of any City player.

What to expect?

After not winning anything last season you can expect City to be a more focused team as the new campaign kicks off.

A better title challenge is surely on the cards and with multiple players capable of scoring goals that will only boost their chances of winning the league.

Despite that, you feel as though City are only a few injuries away from struggling again and therefore better rotation in other competitions is necessary if they are to prove a threat to Chelsea.