There have been times when it appeared Gareth Taylor was clinging on to his job as Manchester City boss.
When his team were thrashed 5-0 by Arsenal in 2021. When they suffered 3-0 and 4-0 defeats by Chelsea in quick succession in the same year. When they were knocked out of the Champions League at the qualifying stage by Real Madrid in back-to-back campaigns. When they missed out on European football after being overtaken by rivals United.
Taylor has had his fair share of criticism and, at times, it has been justified. What he has rarely been afforded is praise for his successes.
City’s trophy cabinet should perhaps be bigger but during his four years in charge the club have won the League Cup and FA Cup. It is more silverware than Arsenal, whom City knocked out of the FA Cup on Sunday, have managed in the last five years.
Taylor is the Women’s Super League’s second longest-serving manager after Emma Hayes and he is the man who could stop her getting a fairytale ending in her final season with Chelsea.
Now is the time for Gareth Taylor to prove his worth and spoil Emma Hayes’ fairytale ending
City have played the better football but are three points behind Chelsea going into Friday’s clash
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City have played the best football this year but are second in the WSL, three points behind Hayes’ side. They would have beaten the Blues at home in the second game of the season had it not been for two controversial red cards which saw them finish with nine players. Chelsea scrapped to a 1-1 draw.
The two teams play each other again at Kingsmeadow on Friday in what could be a pivotal moment in the title race. They will then face off again next month in the semi-finals of the League Cup. Both are still on course to win every domestic trophy but City may have the upper hand given they are not in Europe.
The problem Taylor has had over the years is that City’s eloquent style of football has not always garnered results. Chelsea know how to win the pretty way and the ugly way. It has felt sometimes as if City only have Plan A. When that fails there is no alternative.
When the club signed Jill Roord from Wolfsburg in the summer, the Dutch midfielder noted they could sometimes focus too much on the performance — when it is winning that matters most.
‘The culture in Germany is very different from here and also the way we used to play in Germany, there was a lot of passion and fire,’ Roord said in November. ‘They don’t care about how they play, it’s all about winning.
‘Here at City, we care too much about how we play and we should care more about needing to win.’
Roord ruptured her anterior cruciate ligament last month but her words have made an impact. City struggled to play their usual brand of football at Arsenal on Sunday but, in the end, a scruffy goal saw them progress. It may have to be the same method on Friday.
Taylor deserves credit for his resilience. When City suffered back-to-back defeats at Arsenal and then at home to Brighton in November, it felt as if their chances of a title challenge were slipping away again. But his side have won every game since.
Hayes (right) leaves Chelsea at the end of the season to become the new USWNT boss
Perhaps one of the reasons Taylor is not as popular as other managers is that he is more measured. He does not come out with particularly passionate interviews like Hayes, nor does he get animated on the touchline like Arsenal boss Jonas Eidevall.
Certain questions in press conferences have irked Taylor and earlier this season he seemed to lose his cool when he accused Eidevall of bullying a fourth official. But he is usually a calmer figure than his opponents. That is not necessarily a bad thing — and it seems to be working in his favour this season.
Taylor still has a point to prove. This is the time for him to show his credentials and what he is really made of if he wants to finally beat Hayes to the title.
VAR-lite could give violence the elbow
There is a danger of sounding like a broken record when it comes to refereeing standards in women’s football but the last two weeks have highlighted the need for major improvement.
Two weeks in a row, referees have missed obvious elbows which should have been red cards.
On February 3, Aston Villa striker Rachel Daly was handed a retrospective three-game ban for an off-the-ball elbow on Bristol City’s Megan Connolly.
Rachel Daly (right) received a retrospective ban for an elbow on Megan Connolly (centre)
Then on Sunday, Arsenal defender Lotte Wubben-Moy elbowed Manchester City forward Khadija Shaw in the penalty box. Wubben-Moy’s elbow was less petulant but should still have resulted in a red card and penalty.
Nikki Doucet, CEO of the new company set to take over the WSL and Championship next season, said last month that refereeing was a priority but that introducing VAR is unrealistic due to the facilities at WSL stadiums.
VAR Lite, which uses fewer cameras, was trialled in pre-season and could be a solution — but it would need clubs to commit to investment. Doucet said: ‘It’s definitely something we’re looking at. A lot of the stadiums just aren’t ready for that (VAR) so it will require an amount of investment.’
Lotte Wubben-Moy (pictured) elbowed Man City forward Khadija Shaw – which should have led to a red card and penalty
Concerns over Euro 2025 in Switzerland
Questions have already been asked about whether Switzerland should have been awarded the 2025 European Championship, given their biggest stadium — St Jakob Park in Basel — holds just over 38,000. So to hear that the Swiss government are planning to cut their funding of next year’s tournament from £13.6million to just £3.6m only raises further concerns.
In comparison, the Swiss government spent more than £72.3m when they co-hosted the men’s Euros in 2008.
Councillor Katharina Ali-Oesch said the cuts to funding would present ‘major challenges’.
Not good enough. UEFA, who were approached for comment, should be looking into the matter.