FA WSL 2016 - Mid-season review: Manchester City

After finishing second last year, could Manchester City go one better and win the league this time?

FA WSL 2016 - Mid-season review: Manchester City
Striker Jane Ross celebrates after scoring against Arsenal. Photo credit: FA

Next in our series of mid-season reviews we look at Manchester City, who couldn't have asked for a better start in the league.

After an impressive campaign in 2015 when they finished runners-up and in the UEFA Women's Champions League places for the first time in their history, things were looking good for Manchester City Women. They signed Scottish international Jane Ross from Vittsjö GIK and Kosovare Asllani from Paris Saint-Germain to add more firepower to the attack.

Marie Hourihan was signed from Chelsea as a backup goalkeeper while Irishwoman Megan Campbell was signed from Florida State Seminoles. Attacker Nikita Paris' loan deal from Everton was also made permanent.

Solid start

Manchester City began the season with a tricky FA Women's Cup trip to the Select Security Stadium to take on Liverpool Ladies. Manager Nick Cushing handed out debuts to both Ross and Asllani, while 17-year-old Georgia Stanway also started. The game finished 2-0 to the visitors, with Stanway netting a goal of the season contender. Parris added another one just after the hour mark as City eased to the quarterfinals of the cup.

The Blues began their league campaign with a home game against Notts County. After plenty of chances for both sides which included Notts winger Jess Clarke putting a penalty wide, he game looked all set to end in a draw, when captain Stephanie Houghton put in a free kick in the first minute of injury time as the home side began the season with three points .

Next up was the visit of potential title contenders as Arsenal visited the Academy Stadium looking for a perfect start to the season after three points against Reading on the opening day. City's job was made much easier when defender Jemma Rose was sent off for a foul on Ross, who headed in the opening goal after the break. Twelve minutes from time, Dominique Janssen fouled Parris in the box allowing the excellent Toni Duggan to put the ball in from the spot and round off a comfortable win.

Influential forwards Ross and Parris were on target once again, this time in the FA Cup quarterfinal against surprise package SC Albion. Albion had done very well to come this far, but two goals before the half hour mark was enough to knock the visitors out. The reward for reaching the semi finals was a trip to London to face league champions Chelsea. Midfielder Jennifer Beattie returned to the side after injury.

The game was intense, with tackles flying around until Jane Ross tapped in the ball following some confusion in front of goal. However, five minutes from time, Ji So Yun put one in the bottom corner. The game went into added time and looked destined for penalties when Fran Kirby scored moments before the final whistle, sending her team to Wembley and breaking the hearts of the travelling fans.

Blues bounce back

Manchester City knew they had to recover, and away trips to Birmingham and Sunderland was not ideal. City however, showed impressive character as a unit, triumphant by two goals in both games with Daphne Corboz, Ross, Duggan and Parris scoring to preserve City's winning record.

Newly promoted Doncaster were next, and the writing was on the wall at the very moment the referee blew the whistle as City's attackers ran riot in the first half, sending the Belles 5 goals down at the break. Duggan chipped in with her own seventeen minutes before time as the home side made the FA WSL2 champions pay a heavy price due to some questionable defending.

Nineteenth March gave City a chance to gain revenge over Chelsea for knocking them out of the cup, and this time there were no mishaps as Chelsea were deservedly beaten at their own patch. Demi Stokes gave City the lead going into half time, and a Jennifer Beattie header after the break ensured three points at the home of the champions. City were obvious favourites to win at Liverpool, this time in the league but were held to a 0-0 after a great defensive performance by the Reds. The draw meant City failed to score for the first time this season.

Can City keep their form going? | Image credit: Chris Brunskill - The FA/The FA via Getty Images
Can City keep their form going? | Image credit: Chris Brunskill - The FA/The FA via Getty Images

Key players

Manchester City have scored in every bar one game this season, and are yet to concede a goal, let alone lose a game. We take a look at some of the key players.

Jane Ross - The Scotland international is without doubt one of the signings of the season, and her goals are the prime reason why City are top of the league.Crucial goals in big games like Arsenal and Birmingham are sure to be of great importance at the end of the season when the title race heats up.

Steph Houghton - The current England captain has played a massive role at the heart of the City defense, and her partnership with U23 centre back Abbie McManus seems to get better with each passing game. She has marshalled the defence superbly and solid performances in every league game have prevented the best strikers from having a sniff of goal.

Jill Scott - Midfield powerhouse Jill Scott, who is England's top goalscorer in their Euro 2017 Qualifiers, is doing the business for her club and country. A strong box-to-box midfielder, Scott has delivered on both ends of the pitch.

What's next?

City signed Ajax's Tessel Middag this month to add to their midfield, presumably building a squad fit to compete in the UEFA Women's Champions League which begins in October.

After quite a big break, City return to league action taking on fourth place Liverpool at home. A trip to Sutton Coldfield follows as the Blues begin their Continental Cup campaign against Aston Villa and will be desperate to go all the way after missing out on the chance to win the FA Cup. They will be eyeing the games - Arsenal and Chelsea, both at the end of the season, as potential title deciders. Their last league game is at home to Birmingham City.

A breakthrough season for City will surely turn sour if they fail to win the league from this point onwards. We're at the halfway point, but this season guarantees entertainment and will surely be another exciting WSL season.