Welcome to the latest edition of our digital Women's matchday programme, as FA Women's Cup action returns to the Academy Stadium with City hosting Arsenal.
Thursday night's clash sees the current holders lock horns with the competition's most successful side and with some marvellous, mesmerising and memorable encounters between the two teams over the years, it's sure to be a thriller.
Once again, the stands will sadly be empty without our beloved fans but as always, we'll do our best to bring you as close to the action as possible.
In the latest edition of our matchday programme, we hear from Head Coach Gareth Taylor and captain Steph Houghton, while Gemma Bonner reflects on her all-time favourite City game - a wonderful win against the Gunners.
Plus, Aoife Mannion tells us how she's been impressed by summer signing and shining starlet Chloe Kelly, while we also catch up with England's new Lioness Esme Morgan, who talks us through a 'whirlwind' few weeks!
The magic of the FA Cup... Roll on 7:15pm!
A WORD FROM THE BOSS...
Hello, City fans.
It’s great to be back at the Academy Stadium for Thursday night’s FA Women’s Cup semi-final against Arsenal. Welcome to their manager Joe Montemurro, his players and staff.
Needless to say, this is a game we’re really looking forward to. I would have been happy playing either Arsenal or Tottenham Hotspur. We watched their semi-final on Saturday and it was interesting for us to see our next two opponents go head-to-head.
It was a close game with 20 minutes to go; then it's 4-0, which looks like an emphatic scoreline. The games are coming thick and fast now but I have big belief in what we can achieve.
I was proud of the team for their performance on Sunday against Leicester City. It was a proper cup tie and a real team effort – everyone was really solid and even those who didn’t get on the pitch were doing their bit, all supporting each other.
We were a bit disappointed to give a goal away but it gave us the opportunity to show our resilience and determination. Sometimes, you need that third goal to kill a game off – at 2-0, the opposition are always going to have moments.
We knew it wasn’t going to be easy. I’d watched Leicester play twice this season already. They were emphatic against Blackburn and I also saw the game against Sheffield United, when they scored very late. They never gave up and I think they’ll be a real force in the Championship this season.
It’s not easy to play on a 4G surface either – it’s completely different to grass – and they had the advantage of a good knowledge and experience of playing on it.
In FA Cup ties, all sorts of elements can go against you. It was tough but I was so pleased with the desire and determination, and the way we battled hard when we had to.
We’re fortunate enough now to have a half-decent squad in terms of numbers. We still have a couple of injuries and the bench has been a bit light but now, we’re able to make changes if we need to. Everyone is supportive of that because over the next two weeks, having games every three or four days is really difficult.
I’ve said to the players: you have to earn the right to get into the team. We have good numbers in certain areas, which is going to help us massively in this period – but we can’t look too far ahead. We didn’t know until Sunday afternoon whether we’d have a game on Thursday! We didn’t know what our week was going to be and we couldn’t make plans.
It’s going to be difficult to get through to the Final so we have to make the most of the home advantage. Football doesn’t feel the same without fans but we have to take the opportunity of playing at home with the creature comforts and familiarity that comes with it.
Hopefully, that can make a difference for us.
Enjoy the game.
What a game we have in store! There aren't many bigger games than an FA Cup semi-final, especially when it's a cup you currently hold, and everyone is really excited.
Of course, our name has been on the cup for quite a long time and once you hold a trophy, you don't want anyone else to take it from you. The FA Cup is so special - not just in both the women's and men's games in England - but for football in general, and we'll do all we can to defend it.
That starts with a good performance against Arsenal to take us into the Final at Wembley. We've had a fair few trips there in the last few years and it would be amazing to have another one - and maybe even another later on in the season - but we have to get there first.
I don't need to tell you Arsenal are a strong side. They're in good form and they've added even more quality to their squad - a squad which was already of a high calibre - but we've shown we can thrive in these games; these moments bring the best out of players.
It's been well-documented that we've also had a lot of new faces come in and that level of competition is what we need to have the chance to win as many trophies as we can. When the games come along, the manager has so many players to pick from, he must be delighted!
That strength in depth is going to be key. We have a massive month ahead of us - a crucial one for our season.
It's going to be tough with the schedule we have but as a player, you'd rather have that than a game every six or seven days. Everyone wants to do their part to make sure we get as many wins as possible.
For us now, it's about gaining momentum and realising that we don't have to be peaking now - at the start of the season. As long as we're winning, that's all that matters and we did well to get back to winning ways with a hard-fought victory at Leicester City on Sunday.
Playing teams from the league below can be tricky and it was a tough surface, which meant it was difficult to play the way we wanted. Ultimately though, in the FA Cup, it's about getting through to the next round and thankfully, we did that.
It's going to be strange playing at home in a semi-final without our fans there. We're gutted you can't be with us. Having you in the stands with our family and friends, cheering us on, gives us such a big advantage - but we'll have to do this ourselves.
I think we can still make the most of home advantage. We love playing at the Academy Stadium and we pride ourselves on our home form, making sure it's a fortress. Clubs don't like coming here and as soon we as knew we'd be playing at home, we were determined to go and give it our all so we have no regrets when it comes to the Final.
It's important to realise what's at stake, come together as a team and focus on our game, playing the way we play, sticking to our values and working as hard as possible so we can give ourselves the best chance of getting to Wembley...
Come on, City!
MY FAVOURITE GAME:
In our latest edition of My Favourite Game, presented
by Marathonbet, our super centre-back shares
her most memorable match...
I’ve gone for the 2-0 win against Arsenal at home – just before Christmas in the 2018/19 season.
Although I could have chosen one of the Cup Finals, I thought this game was one of the best performances we’ve had as a team. It was a really enjoyable game and it was such an important win.
Nobody expected us to beat Arsenal because they were flying so much but we played so well – we were so calm, composed and confident – and we deserved to win.
Everyone had been talking about Arsenal and how good they were. One of the big talking points was how many goals they’d scored and the players they had.
For us, we quietly went under the radar – we had to block all of that out and remember: we also have very good players in our team and we were also in good form.
We knew we had a job to do.
Everyone had built the game up to be a pressure game and we knew we had to win but we never felt under pressure.
We’d worked as a team on controlling what we could control and we’d worked hard on the gameplan. Of course, tactically, Nick Cushing is unbelievable.
The biggest thing was focusing on ourselves, rather than looking at their threats. We worked to our advantage and exposed their weaknesses, while containing their strengths.
That was probably one of the games where I'd had a good feeling beforehand. I knew we’d prepared so well in training – we were ready for whatever they were going to throw at us.
The gameplan was spot on and executing it well paid off.
We absolutely nailed it.
We were always in control. Of course, there are times in a game where you are under pressure – and even at 2-0, the game is never over against a team like Arsenal – but I remember feeling really comfortable. It wasn’t stressful at any point.
We managed to get the goals (Georgia Stanway scored twice) and the way we were playing and managing the game, I felt confident we would go on to win.
A big three points
Coming off the pitch, you could tell everyone really enjoyed it.
It felt really good, especially because everyone had been talking about their quality beforehand.
It was an important win, especially just before the Christmas break, and to have put that performance in, in that situation felt like a big step for the team.
Of course, we didn’t end up winning the league, although we very nearly finished the season unbeaten but on that day, we just did our job really well.
Nickname: The Gunners
Stadium: Meadow Park (Borehamwood)
Division: FA Women’s Super League
FA Women's Super League (2011, 2012, 2018/19)
FA Women's Premier League National Division (1992/93, 1994/95, 1996/97, 2000/01, 2001/02, 2003/04, 2004/05, 2005/06, 2006/07, 2007/08, 2008/09, 2009/10)
FA Women's Premier League Southern Division (1991/92)
FA Women's Cup (1992/93, 1994/95, 1997/98, 1998/99, 2000/01, 2003/04, 2005/06, 2006/07, 2007/08, 2008/09, 2010/11, 2012/13, 2013/14, 2015/16)
FA WSL Cup (2011, 2012, 2013, 2015, 2017/18)
FA Women's Premier League Cup (1991/92, 1992/93, 1993/94, 1997/98, 1998/99, 1999/00, 2000/01, 2004/05, 2006/07, 2008/09)
FA Women's Community Shield (2000 - shared, 2001, 2005, 2006, 2008)
UEFA Women's Champions League (2006/07)
London County FA Women's Cup (1994/95, 1995/96, 1996/97, 1999/00, 2003/04, 2006/07, 2007/08, 2008/09, 2009/10, 2010/11)
Manager: Joe Montemurro
Appointed: November 2017
The Gunners boss is well-known within the City Football Group, having guided Melbourne City Women (featuring the on-loan Jennifer Beattie) to an impressive double-winning campaign in 2015/16 in his first season in charge, before leading his side to back-to-back Championship success.
18 May 2014, FA WSL: Arsenal 0-1 City (Duggan)
24 August 2014, FA WSL: City 0-4 Arsenal
18 October 2014, Continental Cup: City 1-0 Arsenal (Christiansen)
19 April 2015, FA WSL: City 0-1 Arsenal
9 August 2015, FA WSL: Arsenal 2-3 City (Bronze, Christiansen, Duggan)
1 October 2015, Continental Cup: Arsenal 1-0 City
28 March 2016, FA WSL: City 2-0 Arsenal (Ross, Duggan)
4 September 2016, Continental Cup: City 1-0 Arsenal (Beattie)
11 September 2016, FA WSL: Arsenal 0-1 City (Ross)
28 May 2017, Spring Series: City 0-1 Arsenal
30 September 2017, FA WSL: City 5-2 Arsenal (Ross, Houghton, Stanway, Christiansen, Scott)
14 March 2018, Continental Cup: City 0-1 Arsenal
12 May 2018, FA WSL: Arsenal 2-1 City (Nadim)
2 December 2018, FA WSL: City 2-0 Arsenal (Stanway x2)
23 February 2019, Continental Cup: Arsenal 0-0(p) City AET
12 May 2019, FA WSL: Arsenal 1-0 City
27 October 2019, FA WSL: Arsenal 1-0 City
29 January 2020, Continental Cup: Arsenal 2-1 City (Bonner)
2 February 2020, FA WSL: City 2-1 Arsenal (Bremer, Hemp)
Georgia Stanway is City’s joint top scorer against the Gunners, netting three goals with former teammates Izzy Christiansen and Jane Ross. She bagged a brace in a 2-0 triumph in December 2018.
City skipper Steph Houghton captained Arsenal and spent three years with the Gunners between 2010 and 2013, alongside striker Ellen White.
The pair lifted the 2011 and 2012 FA WSL titles, 2011 and 2013 FA Women’s Cups, and 2012 and 2013 Continental Cups with White also victorious in the latter’s 2011 competition.
Laura Coombs (2007-2011) and Chloe Kelly (2015-2017) also represented the North London outfit with Kelly stating she has ‘something to prove’ against her former employers!
Arsenal's Jennifer Beattie spent four years at City, helping the Club to FA Women's Super League, Continental Cup and FA Women's Cup success. She scored against the Gunners in the Conti Cup semi-finals in 2016 en route to lifting the trophy.
Australians Lydia Williams and Steph Catley played for Melbourne City, while goalkeeper Fran Stenson also played for City in the 2018/19 campaign.
MANNION: KELLY CAN BE WORLD-CLASS
Aoife Mannion believes Chloe Kelly has the makings of a superstar.
A summer recruit from Everton, 2019/20 PFA Young Player of the Year award nominee Kelly has made a seamless transition from royal to sky blue.
Smashing in goals throughout pre-season, netting her first competitive strike in the FA Cup win over Leicester and at the heart of City’s best attacking threats in the new campaign, the 22-year-old forward has made an instant impact and has quickly become one of the first names on Gareth Taylor’s teamsheet.
Also starring for England’s senior squad, the future is looking bright for Kelly and fellow Lioness Mannion has been impressed.
“You don’t need to know too much about the game to watch and realise that whenever she gets the ball, it looks like something is going to happen,” she hailed, speaking to our pre-match show We’re Not Really Here.
“She’s young and she’s energetic.
"You’d almost run the risk of not noticing her as a signing as much as you would notice Lucy Bronze and Alex Greenwood because they are big names – but in five or six years’ time, that will be Chloe.
“That’s the direction she’s going in.”
Despite her youth, Kelly is already a household name, having starred for Everton with her incredible eye for goal.
Yet, she is also is no stranger to adversity, having endured spells on the sidelines through injury – a fact Mannion says has made her a stronger player and more mature person.
“What’s really interesting about her journey to the team is that she’s been quite injured through her time at Everton,” she reflected, “so to be able to have the year she did last year as a top performer is fantastic.
“I remember when we played against Everton… it felt like if something was going to come, it was going to come through her.
“To be able to do that and to have had some rubbish injuries on the way, I have this extra layer of respect for her.
“She’s young, but I feel like she’s wise beyond her years."
HERE'S TO BRIGHT BLUE SKIES...
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With the current situation, we are obviously sad about being unable to attend games.
With this in mind, the Manchester City Women Official Supporters Club would like to thank the Club for the opportunity to display our flags at the Academy Stadium. We hope it shows the team we are still there in spirit, backing them 100%.
We also would like to thank the whole media team for the work they do in helping us to stay connected to the team and follow the games via live broadcast streams and match reports.
To help our members, we have arranged a virtual meeting where we can watch the game on television 'together' and create a little bit of that matchday atmosphere at home.
We're behind you all the way, City!
MCWFC Official Supporters Club
Q&A with → Esme Morgan
Catching up with City and
England's newest Lioness...
Esme, congratulations on your first England call-up. What a few weeks it's been for you. Can you talk us through it?
It's been a bit of a whirlwind! I've not taken it all in yet! If we get a bit of a break at some point, it will probably come over me…
I have to say, it was a complete surprise to get the call-up but a really cool experience.
Looking back over the last three years (since you were promoted to City's first-team), can you believe what you've achieved? Do you think you've changed much?
It's absolutely whizzed by! Everything’s moved so fast, it’s crazy!
I don't think I've changed much, except for losing my fringe! As a player, I’m very different but I don’t think I've changed as a person. I'm still cheerful and bubbly, and maybe still a bit overawed by everything that goes on.
I still don’t think I’m very good at taking in what I’ve done. Even when I moved up to the senior squad, it hadn’t really sunk in I that was in the first-team at City.
I don’t think I’ve changed too much... maybe I'm just more confident – I tell players what I want them to do, which I wouldn’t have dared to do back then!
After a season on loan with Everton, you're back at City and getting gametime. How has that been?
I've really enjoyed it. I gained a lot of confidence and developed at Everton, which has helped me a lot coming into the City set-up.
Last season, I began to believe in myself that I could be a decent WSL player and it gave me confidence to demand and challenge others - even those more experienced than me. That’s when you become better as a team: taking ownership and challenging others to be better makes life easier as a player if your teammates are doing what you need.
I loved my time at Everton and it's a shame we weren't able to carry on and finish what we started when the season ended early. When I came back to City, I wasn't nervous but I wasn't sure where I stood in terms of whether I was going back on loan but Gareth Taylor said from the start that he wanted to keep me here, work with me and give me opportunities.
He's been really encouraging with me, giving me the belief I can be an important part of the team. Having that security and stability really helped in my head and it was another big confidence boost. There was no doubt then what I was going to do so I could put all of my attention on what I wanted to do for City.
I came back into the group and I feel I'm doing well in training. I'm comfortable in the environment and although the standard is so high with world-class international players, I feel like I fit in, which has helped me going into games at that level.
I had a lot of minutes in pre-season, which I enjoyed and started off the season in the team. Playing at Wembley was amazing experience. It's a place everyone wants to play at when they're younger and I'll never forget that day.
With the signings made over the summer, the competition for places has never been higher. What do you make of the squad depth, particularly in your position?
So many people have asked me: 'Are you sad Lucy has come?' Not at all!
I want to be part of a team that wins trophies and wants to win every competition we’re in. When you’ve got one of the best players in the world playing, you have the best chance to do that.
I'm really happy she’s come. She's a great player to be able to learn from and I want to take little bit of what I see in training. I'm sure she’ll help me out - she said she wants to help the younger players coming along and create a winning environment here, which is really exciting.
We want to win trophies here over the coming years and it’s a fact: making big signings gives you the best chance of doing that. There are so many people with different experiences - World Cup winners, Champions League winners - and there's so much you can learn from each other. Everyone is really open to learning from each other at City, pushing each other to be better.
The standard in training is so high. At the start of pre-season, we were playing small=sided games. I had Lauren Hemp running at me on the first go and then in the change-over, it was Chloe Kelly! I'm thinking: ‘Woah, give me a break!’ But in all seriousness, that can only make me better.
I trained with Chloe last year at Everton and she's a huge part of the reason I came on so much. To be able to train with her, Lauren, Janine Beckie, Sam Mewis, Rose Lavelle, Ellen White, Georgia Stanway - amazing attacking players - can only help my game. I have to find solutions stop them, which helps me to become a better defender.
It's a great environment to be in, and it's going to improve me and push me on to become more established.
With Gareth Taylor appointed as Head Coach, he's brought with him a new style - one that encourages composure and playing out from the back. How have you and the team adapted so far?
It was really difficult at first because what he asking us to do was so different to what most of us had experienced previously with Nick and other managers. It took time to get used to what he was asking us to do but everyone is taking it on board, executing the principles he's putting in place.
As a new coach, Gareth sees things with a different lens, picking up on different things others haven’t, while different players notice things too. We all see what he’s trying to do, which is input a really positive style of play, which ensures we have a lot of the ball. That’s what you want as a player.
Once it's properly clicked into place, we’ll end up playing really nice football and hopefully, start to dominate games, beating teams convincingly.
In terms of targets, are you still looking to 'watch and learn', or do you see this as your breakthrough season?
This year, I want to push on and break through to become a regular and earn more minutes. I'm always looking to develop and I'm getting little bits of information to help me to get better, taking on board what I can.
My main target this season is to win a trophy but play a bigger part in it – I was here when we won the FA Women's Cup and Continental Cup but I wasn’t in the squad for either game. I want to feel more of a part of the success.
As a team, we want to win as many trophies as we can and I personally, want to feel like I’ve really contributed to it, so I want to try and play as much as I can and push on.
Hopefully, I'll be part of the senior set-up for the rest of the season.