Johnathan Stack and Rachel Lara Cohen joined the Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur media conferences as Gareth Taylor and Rehanne Skinner looked ahead to battles ahead this weekend (20/1/23).
Manchester City are back in WSL action tomorrow as Gareth Taylor’s side takes on Aston Villa at the Academy Stadium.
City’s 1-0 win in the Conti Cup against Leicester City in midweek extended the Sky Blues’ run to 11 wins in the last 12 games – a run which has seen them clinch a place in the quarter-final of that competition and rise rapidly up the WSL table.
Taylor spoke to the media ahead of the clash with Villa, and the City boss thinks that his side’s recent run of form has helped to maintain belief in a Barclays Women’s Super League title push.
Taylor said, “We’ve always spoken about that belief within the team and even if you’re far away from your objective it can feel like a big difference but having the belief to do it comes from winning games. That’s really important and the margins are so tight in the WSL, the difference between winning and drawing a game can be crucial.
“That draw last week helped us gain a couple of points and gave us momentum, we just have to concentrate on the next game.
Ahead of tomorrow’s home game, the City boss Taylor said: “We’ll try our best tomorrow. If we win the game [against Aston Villa], fantastic, but if not, we know we’re not out of it. There’ll be some more movement with teams going up against each other in the games coming up as well.”
In the WSL’s only game tomorrow, City will be looking to keep up with pace-setters Chelsea, Manchester United and Arsenal in what will be City’s first home game of 2023.
City lie in fourth position three points behind third-placed Arsenal, with leaders Chelsea a further three points in areers.
by Rachel Lara Cohen
In her press conference Tottenham Hotspur manager Rehanne Skinner, talked about new signing Manu Iwabuchi, suggested there may still be more transfer news, discussed Spurs’ defensive issues, the team’s next opponents, Leicester City, and provided some injury updates.
New signing: Mana Iwabuchi
Skinner outlined the qualities that she believed Mana Iwabuchi, Spurs’ new loan signing, from Arsenal brings. She highlighted the Japanese star’s on-field intelligence and identified ways that she and Beth England, will improve Spurs offence:
“I think what she, what she brings is that she’s very calm. She’s very composed. She’s technically outstanding. And so when you’re in possession of the ball it helps to give you an opportunity to build in a way that helps develop the possession in your favour, because of how good she is at managing the ball and those situations. Out of possession, she understands and reads the game very well. So it enables her to be more effective out of possession, to help to obviously work within a team [to] essentially make it more difficult for the other team to break you down because of her positional awareness.
“She’s a fantastic character as well, and anybody that’s ever been in a team with her would say that about her, you know. So she brings a lot to the team, you know, on and off the pitch. I think that’s going to be a huge asset to us alongside her experience. Collectively, we want to make sure that we’re looking after possession in a way that helps us to develop the game with a purpose really. And recognizing the right times to do the right things. And she’s certainly got an awareness of the game that’ll help us to add value to that, as with Beth.
And Beth’s timing and movements are excellent, and she wants to be in and around the box, and she wants to get goals. So I think when you add the two of them, they’re two really important players that are going to help was to be more effective in different areas.”
While Iwabuchi is likely to bring much-needed creativity to Spurs, it’s not entirely clear where she will fit within the Spurs line-up and Skinner gave few clues “She’s just been in the door couple of days, really, and we need to make sure that we find the best fit for Mana within the squad”.
Iwabuchi has often played as a 10, but Drew Spence has started in this role most games this season. Sharing game time with Iwabuchi might be an answer to this. Or perhaps we’ll see her taking a wider attacking role. It’s also possible that Skinner switches from the double pivot she’s been using to a single defensive midfielder, playing Iwabuchi just behind Drew.
It may be, however, that we don’t see the club’s newest signing getting a lot of game-time in the upcoming three game week (when Spurs face Leicester in the WSL, Chelsea in the Conti Cup Quarter Finals and then London City Lionesses in the FA Cup, all at home). Having played just 29 minutes in the WSL this season (as well as some Champions League minutes), she is likely to be a little rusty. Skinner emphasised that it is “really important, that we manage [training and game time] properly for her in the next few weeks to make sure that she’s at the best possible condition, she comes up to speed and it doesn’t put her at any kind of risk.”
Having already made two high-profile transfers in this window, Skinner was asked about whether there would be any more incomings. She suggested that the club were not ruling out another signing in the final two weeks of the transfer window.
“I think we’re always looking at our options. And there’s still a few weeks left in the window, so we need to keep being aware of what’s available. And obviously we’ll see what happens within that I think it’s a never say never. Because again, if the right players are available and we managed to make that work, then we would definitely try and do that.”
She also noted that doing well last season enabled Spurs to “target certain players in a different way.” But that the aim was long-term, to “build a squad for the future, and a club for the future that’s sustainable, and that’s doing a job at a really high level. So there’s a lot going on constantly within the club, and obviously transfers within that have been really important.”
Fixing defensive issues
If England and Iwabuchi are, potentially, key to Spurs scoring more goals. There have also been issues at the other end of the pitch. In response to a question about what they might do to shore up what’s become a leaky defence, Skinner said that it was not about new personnel, but rather….
“The biggest thing for us is we’re constantly trying to work on being the hardest working team and making ourselves hard to beat. And we were too expansive in certain situations pre Christmas. And obviously we’re trying to rectify that. So that’s a big focus area for us. And it’s not about personnel. It’s about ensuring that we’re all working on the same page.”
The upcoming game: Leicester at Brisbane Road
With regard to Sunday’s opponents, Skinner highlighted the physical side of Leicester’s game: “They’re operating in a way that’s helping them to get results. They’re always physically challenging and they make life quite difficult for you in that sense. And I think in terms of how they’re cohesive now, that’s probably more than what it was last time we played them I think it’s going to be a tough test for us and one we’ve got to be ready for.”
Spurs fans will be less pleased to hear that the injury crisis at the club isn’t entirely over. The club started last week’s game against Aston Villa with four outfield players on the bench (and then brought all four on as substitutes). The Tottenham boss said that “We’ve had some players with some areas, that means that they’re not available for a full 90. So that the squad numbers might be the squad numbers, but they’re not necessarily always available for the full minutes. But we’re trying to move everybody back in that direction as quickly as possible.”
There was good news about Amy Turner, who went off against Aston Villa. “Amy wasn’t well [but] is now in a position where she’s been back training in today, and she’s looked great today. So she’s just needed a few extra days really, to try and get herself back on track as loads of things going around.”
Jessica Naz has not been seen since the game against Everton on 16th December. Skinner said that “Jess has obviously had an injury that’s kept her out last week, and she’s been partially training today. So we’ll see where she is by the weekend.”
Ramona Petzelberger, hasn’t played since late September, and her return seems a way off. “She’s not back on the grass at the moment. So that’s going to take a little bit longer for her to come back into the team.”