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WSL: Why have relegated Bristol City had such a bad season?

Written by on April 28, 2024

Such have been Bristol City’s struggles, concern has been raised about a growing gap between the WSL and the Championship and a chasm similar to that seen between the men’s Premier League and Championship could form.

Smith’s group are the first promoted team to go straight down from the WSL since Doncaster in 2016.

The manager sensed a gap to the elite when building her squad for this season, and throughout such a difficult campaign.

Before the 1-0 home defeat to Liverpool in mid April, Smith said: “We have a young team – a team of teenagers. Our ethos is developing young talent; we are all proud of it.

“Even the ones who aren’t teenagers are young to the WSL, and they have done well. When we look at what we are about, we can take success from this season.

“It depends on the lens you are looking through.”

Smith is correct to point to the inexperience of her team. Bristol City have the youngest average age of any starting XI in the WSL this season, at 24 years and 148 days. It is more than a year younger than the next side (Manchester City, with an average of 25y 306d).

A lack of WSL nous as a whole has told. Of the 30 senior players registered on the Bristol City books, only six have made more than 50 WSL appearances.

Smith was given rein to bolster her squad for the fight, with 14 signings – 11 permanent, with three on loan. But only three of the 11 full-time acquisitions came from fellow WSL teams.

Few can be called immediate hits either, with the truly successful signing being striker Amalie Thestrup. The Danish striker, signed from PSV last summer, has scored nine league goals – impressive considering the team have managed a total of 20.

At the back, it has been chaos with 58 goals conceded – a league high. A shorthand for the chaos can be seen in four goalkeepers being used in the WSL.

Kaylan Marckese was signed on loan from Arsenal in the summer but played only four times before returning to London in January. Shae Yanez was signed from San Diego Wave as her replacement, while Olivia Clark and Fran Bentley have also made league appearances between the sticks.

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