Manchester City: Is Gareth Taylor the manager to turn the club’s WSL form around?

Manchester City’s fortunes in the Women’s Super League went from bad to worse yesterday as the side were thrashed 4-0 by Chelsea

Manchester City’s fortunes in the Women’s Super League went from bad to worse yesterday as the side were thrashed 4-0 by Chelsea.

Jessie Fleming opened the scoring for the Blues in the second minute, capitalising on a wayward pass from City goalkeeper Karima Taieb.

Although Manchester City enjoyed the majority of possession after Fleming’s goal, Sam Kerr doubled Chelsea’s lead just before half-time.

Fran Kirby and Magda Eriksson then got on the scoresheet after the break to secure an emphatic victory.

The defeat left Manchester City ninth in the table, 11 points adrift off league leaders Arsenal. They look a shadow of last season’s side, which reached the Champions League quarter-final and just missed out on the WSL title.

The loss also increased the speculation around Gareth Taylor’s future at the club. He was appointed manager in May 2020 and helped the team to an FA Cup victory some months later, but his time at Manchester City could now be up.

GiveMeSport Women assesses whether Taylor can turn his team’s fortunes around, or whether Manchester City need to find a new manager.

Manchester City lost to Chelsea in the Women's Super League

Can Gareth Taylor blame Manchester City’s injury crisis?

Manchester City’s poor run of form has largely been attributed to their severe injury crisis.

Number one goalkeeper Ellie Roebuck and her deputy Karen Bardsley are both sidelined, while captain Steph Houghton and Best FIFA Women's Player recipient Lucy Bronze have also been missing from the back line.

Chloe Kelly, Esme Morgan, Keira Walsh and Demi Stokes, plus summer signings Vicki Losada and Alanna Kennedy, are the other key names to miss out on some or all of this season’s action.

At first, it was understandable for Taylor to point his finger at the lengthy injury list as explanation for City’s disappointing performances, but this excuse is now wearing thin.

City were able to field a number of experienced international players during yesterday’s match, including Caroline Weir, Kiera Walsh, Lauren Hemp, Alex Greenwood and Ellen White. A team featuring these names should not be on the end of a 4-0 defeat.

Similarly, Weir, Walsh, Hemp, Greenwood and White were all on the pitch during City’s shock 2-0 defeat to West Ham. The starting 11 for this game should have been capable of overcoming the Hammers.

It is true Manchester City have struggled with third-choice 'keeper Taieb in goal, and perhaps if Roebuck or Bardsley was fit, the club would be higher up the league table.

But this does not fully explain the nature of Manchester City’s defeats this season. The injury crisis may make matches tougher, or allow for less flexibility when making substitutions, but it does not justify 4-0 or 5-0 losses. Something else is wrong. 

Gareth Taylor can no longer blame Manchester City's poor form on injuries

What does Gareth Taylor say?

Taylor has failed to give any other explanation for Manchester City's poor form. He has continued to blame injuries, denying "it's a tactical thing".

"I don't think the tactics are to blame at all," he said in his post-match press conference. "I've not really harped on about the injuries, the injuries are a fact.

"I still believe in this group of players with all the injured players that we have. I don't think it's a tactical thing."

Taylor, Manchester City’s academy manager before he was moved across to the women’s team, also described the results against Arsenal and Chelsea as "freakish".

"If you look at the stats, for possession, the opportunities and shots on goal, they were similar [in the Arsenal game], I think it was the same today, we dominated possession.

"We look at the performances, usually the performance leads to the result, unfortunately on this occasion it hasn’t done. On another day, without the errors, we stay in that game and we give ourselves a chance to win it."

Taylor’s inability to acknowledge that his side did not play well was described as "naive" by Sky Sports pundit Stephen Warnock.

It also suggests that Taylor may not know how to turn Manchester City’s fortunes around. It is hard to deny their recent results have not just been down to injuries, but the wrong tactical choices as well.

If Taylor cannot accept this, then how will he be able to reverse his club’s dismal run of form?

Can Gareth Taylor turn it around for Manchester City?

Following two victories, one draw and four losses, it truly has been a miserable start to the WSL season for Manchester City.

Injuries have undoubtedly played a part, but the club are now able to field a number of world-class players every weekend.

As a result, it is becoming less easy to explain why Manchester City are losing to weaker teams, or conceding a handful of goals without response to sides such as Arsenal and Chelsea.

Taylor’s recent comments suggest he does not truly know the reason for City’s poor performances of late, and this throws his ability to help the club back up the WSL table into doubt.

Manchester City may wait until Roebuck, Houghton and Bronze are back in the starting 11 before making a decision on Taylor’s future, but if the losses keep coming, he will no longer be able to hide behind injuries as an excuse.

It would not be surprising if Taylor was no longer Manchester City manager come the end of the season.

Manchester City are ninth in the Women's Super League table
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