This is a pivotal moment in the history of Manchester City Women, where the Club need to establish a new strategy for the future in order to develop the team even further.
The departure of Nick Cushing to take up the Assistant Manager reins at New York City is just one of the many changes impacting upon Manchester City Women this season.
Since the reformation of the Womens team back in 2014, the Club has competed in the WSL. Initial investment in the playing squad saw the arrival of the core of the current side, with players such as Steph Houghton, Karen Bardsley and Jill Scott all arriving.
That new investment allowed City to make a mark in the new League and since then a League title in 2016, two FA Cups and three League Cups have all arrived.
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Whilst this is a good return, City could have been said to have underwhelmed as well during this period and at times a strategy to invest in young talent, rather than ready made stars, has threatened to limit the extent of the on field performances.
There have been some notable exceptions, such as Carli Lloyd who arrived in 2017 for a short stay and brought some stardom to the Academy Stadium. But mainly the traffic with stars has been the other way, as many of the best players have been plucked from the Club by Lyon- perennial winners of the Champions League. Lucy Bronze, Izzy Christiansen and Nikita Parris all left City for Lyon in recent years.
To understand what has been happening at Lyon probably helps to understand why City may need to develop a new strategy to really compete at the top table.
Lyon Womens team has been fully integrated with their men’s side since 2004 and the team enjoys the best facilities and the biggest budget in European Womens football.
That budget has been coupled with a Harlem Globetrotters style recruitment , leading them to focus on bringing in one or two top players each year. Lyon have been comfortably able to outbid any competitors giving them free rein to remain at the top of the game.
City are on the cusp. Whether this season delivers another League title or sees a narrow fail, there is a change in strategy required if City are to cement a legacy. Right now there are 3 or 4 WSL sides at similar levels with others beginning to challenge.
The ageing core around which the City side has been built will need some refresh and investment, and as other teams in the WSL have invested more heavily in recent years, it feels as though there is some catching up to do.
We are at the point where the City team needs some investment to be able to continue to compete and if they really want to compete at the top table, then a galactico style policy needs consideration.
In preparation for this, City have started to tie up some of the squad to longer term deals to ward off interest from abroad, but some players still see their current deals expiring at the end of the season. Gemma Bonner, Megan Campbell, Tessa Wulleart and Jill Scott all may leave at the end of the season, with another 7 first teamers ending contracts in 2021.
Whilst short term deals have been a feature of the womens game for some time, it is this approach which allows clubs like Lyon to cherry pick the best talent. So the second part of City’s new strategy has to be to install long contracts to afford financial stability to the players.
Let us not forget that the salaries of Women players for most players are at lower levels than is paid in non League football to male players. So City may need to review their wage structure too if they want to lure players from Arsenal, let alone Lyon.
As fans we need to hope that City continue to support our Womens side and invest even further to deliver a team capable of sustaining and improving their performances for years to come. City need to be the place to come as a woman player and the destination of any player with real ambition.
There is a chance right now to dominate the emerging Women’s game in England and City need to take that chance before it passes.