By 90Min
October 13, 2019

Despite being at the forefront of the women's game since being placed into the WSL in 2014, Manchester City have claimed English football's biggest prize just once in that time. 

The 2016 squad that surged to WSL success was one of the finest in the league's history, with City's forward thinking attitude to women's football seeing them attract a number of high-profile England players - resulting in an unbeaten season.

Such was the strength of that 2016 team, three members have since been picked off by Lyon, the greatest club side in the women's game. 

Fast forward three years and Nick Cushing's side took their place at the summit of the WSL on Saturday after a comfortable 3-0 win over Birmingham. Could this squad mount the most serious Man City title challenge since their remarkable 2016 campaign?

Quite possibly.

Saturday's victory sent out a real statement to the WSL; City are more than capable of winning the title once more.

What was most frightening about Saturday's performance was despite the convincing win, it felt as though City still had more gears to go up if required. When a team wins 3-0 seemingly without breaking a sweat, the rest of the WSL have plenty to be concerned about.

Chloe Knott - Danehouse/GettyImages

City scored three, and could have had more, against a Birmingham outfit who prior to Saturday's fixture had not conceded more than one goal in a game all season. An impressive feat in itself, even more so considering Man City's two most dangerous attacking threats are currently sat in the stands. 

The influential Georgia Stanway suffered a hamstring injury in September, but is expected to be fit by the end of the month. Likewise, Ellen White is yet to make her Man City debut following her summer move from Birmingham. The England striker, who hit six goals at the World Cup, underwent knee surgery in August, and is also nearing a return to action.

In their absence, Caroline Weir and Pauline Bremer have ensured there's been no creative void left - demonstrating City's supreme strength in depth. 

With Stanway's flair and White's eye for goal, City will be a force to be reckoned with upon their return. The fact Cushing's side sit top of the table in spite of their injuries is frightening, quite frankly.

Defensively, few sides are sounder than City. Steph Houghton is not only superb at marshalling the back four; her ability to play out from the back is unrivalled. 

Having played in just about every position during her glittering career, the England skipper is blessed with the passing range that very few central defenders have in their locker. Her cross field diagonal balls are the catalyst for many of City's most dangerous attacks. 

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Houghton is also guaranteed to hit the scoring figures of an attacking midfielder due to her prowess from free kicks. To posses a central defender who carries such an attacking threat is a rare weapon to have.

Saturday's win over Birmingham, though, was all about Keira Walsh. The deep lying midfielder controlled the tempo of the game, scored the first and played a perfectly weighted ball in behind to help City score their second. 

Walsh's vision, composure and intelligence are finely balanced with Jill Scott's energy and athleticism to help form a dynamic midfield partnership - and alongside Houghton, the pair keep things simple - playing short passes when necessary and looking for that killer pass when the opportunity presents itself. 

It won't be plain-sailing though, with perennial challengers Arsenal again looking strong. The defending champions have picked up from where they left off last season, looking mightily impressive during their 4-0 trouncing of Reading. With a squad overflowing with world class talent, it will take a real effort from City to prevent the Gunners from winning consecutive WSL titles.

However, Arsenal are playing Champions League football for the first time in five seasons. City on the other hand are accustomed to competing both domestically and in Europe, having successfully juggled both during their previous three campaigns. 

It's all about fine margins, and City's ability to compete on both fronts could make a telling difference in the title race.

Kate McShane/GettyImages

The pair meet on 27 October, just three days before Man City play Atletico Madrid in their crucial Champions League second leg. With neither side looking like dropping points any time soon, this encounter could be crucial in determining the direction of the WSL title.

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