Manchester City finished just two points shy of champions Chelsea in the WSL title race last season and are determined to win their first league title since 2016.
A poor start to the season cost City last time around as they went on to take an incredible 42 points from a possible 45 between the start of December and the end of the season.
There have been quite a few changes this summer, but City will hope they have retained enough of that momentum to start strongly this time and take the fight to Chelsea from the front.
TransfersIn: Ruby Mace, Khadija Shaw, Vicky Losada, Hayley Raso, Alanna Kennedy
Out: Rose Lavelle, Sam Mewis, Megan Campbell, Aoife Mannion, Tyler Toland, Lee Geum-min, Abby Dahlkemper
1. Karen Bardsley (GK)
3. Demi Stokes (DF)
5. Alex Greenwood (DF)
6. Steph Houghton (DF)
7. Laura Coombs (MF)
8. Jill Scott (MF)
9. Chloe Kelly (FW)
10. Georgia Stanway (MF)
11. Janine Beckie (FW)
13. Hayley Raso (FW)
14. Esme Morgan (DF)
15. Lauren Hemp (FW)
16. Jess Park (FW)
17. Vicky Losada (MF)
18. Ellen White (FW)
19. Caroline Weir (MF)
20. Lucy Bronze (DF)
21. Khadija Shaw (FW)
24. Keira Walsh (MF)
26. Ellie Roebuck (GK)
30. Ruby Mace (MF)
33. Alanna Kennedy (DF)
34. Karima Benameur Taieb (GK)
Gareth Taylor leads City into his second full season as head coach after replacing Nick Cushing in May 2020. Formerly a player for the men’s team, he has already been part of the club’s fabric from a coaching perspective for 10 years after re-joining in 2011.
It would be easy to make the case for someone like Ellen White, Georgia Stanway or Caroline Weir as City’s key player, but that would to be ignore the crucial role that Alex Greenwood will play for the club in what is her second season back in England.
Greenwood had always been known as a left-back prior to joining City from Lyon last summer but successfully transitioned into a centre-back role. She has now been given the number five shirt, which suggests it will be a permanent switch, and her experience and leadership at the back is important for a squad that still lacks defensive depth.
Young player to watch
Lauren Hemp only recently turned 21, is already a three-time PFA young player of the year, is a well-established talent in the WSL and a burgeoning star at international level. It is no secret how good she is, which means fans should perhaps be watching out for Ruby Mace instead.
The versatile talent turns 18 this month and arrived from Arsenal during the summer, a move which upset plenty of Gunners fans. She made six senior appearances for them last season, as well as starring in the WSL on loan at Birmingham, suggesting she is already ready for a higher level.
Live TV broadcasts have been chosen for games up to 10 October, other dates and/or kick-off times after that point remain subject to change. All games except those chosen for live TV broadcast will be available to stream free via the FA Player.
4 September 2021 – 1.30pm – Everton vs Manchester City (BBC One)
12 September 2021 – 6.45pm – Manchester City vs Tottenham (Sky Sports Football)
26 September 2021 – 6.45pm – Arsenal vs Manchester City (Sky Sports Football)
3 October 2021 – 2pm – Manchester City vs West Ham
9 October 2021 – 1.30pm – Manchester United vs Manchester City (BBC One)
7 November 2021 – 2pm – Leicester vs Manchester City
14 November 2021 – 2pm – Manchester City vs Chelsea
21 November 2021 – 2pm – Manchester City vs Aston Villa
12 December 2021 – 2pm – Birmingham vs Manchester City
19 December 2021 – 2pm – Manchester City vs Reading
9 January 2022 – 2pm – Brighton vs Manchester City
15 January 2022 – 12.30pm – Aston Villa vs Manchester City
23 January 2022 – 2pm – Manchester City vs Arsenal
6 February 2022 – 2pm – Chelsea vs Manchester City
13 February 2022 – 2pm – Manchester City vs Manchester United
6 March 2022 – 2pm – Manchester City vs Everton
13 March 2022 – 2pm – Tottenham vs Manchester City
27 March 2022 – 2pm – Manchester City vs Birmingham
3 April 2022 – 3pm – West Ham vs Manchester City
24 April 2022 – 2pm – Manchester City vs Leicester
1 May 2022 – 2pm – Manchester City vs Brighton
8 May 2022 – 12.30pm – Reading vs Manchester City
Whether behind Chelsea or Arsenal, City have agonisingly finished second every season since they last won the WSL title in 2016, even including the shortened 2017 Spring Series. But that doesn’t actually look like it is going to change this season either.
There is still an exceptional squad, although whether it has improved enough to topple Chelsea is up for debate. USWNT star Rose Lavelle is no loss because she made minimal impact, but Sam Mewis was nominated for PFA player of the year and even Barcelona’s Champions League winning captain Vicky Losada or the returning cult hero Jill Scott will struggle to replace the American.
Defensively, City have let five go, bringing only former Tottenham player Alanna Kennedy in. The first choice back four when fully fit is as good as any in Europe, but when Lucy Bronze had minor knee surgery before Kennedy arrived, there were only four recognised defenders who were fit. It highlights how vulnerable the squad could be to even just a couple of injuries.
While City should still have enough to finish above Arsenal and the rest, those small margins won’t be enough to battle Chelsea over the course of a long season and come out on top.