When the United States Women’s National Team finished their first camp of the year, Megan Rapinoe described midfielder Sam Mewis as “the best player on our team right now.”
“I think it’s pretty easy to say,” added the 35-year-old.
Considering the USWNT have been the best national team in the world for quite some time now, winning the last two World Cup titles, it’s no small compliment to be called the best player.
Manchester City fans wouldn’t disagree with Rapinoe either.
Since arriving in England this summer, Mewis has scored six goals and has generally dominated in midfield. One of those goals was a header ball in the women’s FA Cup final in November, which was important in her collection of her first piece of silver with the club.
The fact that she is returning to her club this week with an injury is therefore a big blow. Mewis suffered a blow to the ankle last week and is likely to miss this weekend’s game against West Ham as a result..
However, despite the midfielder’s incredible impact at Manchester, January showed City can cope without her.
The turn of the year was a particularly important time for the club. Mewis, along with Rose Lavelle, was returning to the United States for a camp that would see her leave for almost an entire month.
The encounters she would miss with her club, except for a Continental Cup clash with Chelsea, might not have looked too difficult on paper, with Aston Villa and Brighton occupying places in the lower echelons of the board.
But the two proved particularly tricky opposition in City’s first two weeks of the season, with Brighton even taking a point from Manchester.
With citizens struggling for consistency at times during this time, there was legitimate concern about the extent of the impact the loss of their peerless performer would have on their bottom line.
Very little, as happened.
Villa was beaten 7-0 despite an outbreak of COVID-19 which meant that head coach Gareth Taylor was among those forced into solitary confinement. On top of that, a number of injuries forced City to name four academy players to the bench who had no previous senior experience.
Many key players remained unavailable for the following week’s game against Brighton but, again, this was not shown. The final score was 7-1 for City.
The loss to Chelsea was difficult to take, with the Blues winning 4-2 in overtime, but given the circumstances, associated with the lively performance, it was hardly devastating.
Indeed, while January could have determined how much City depended on Mewis, it instead illustrated just how adaptable and strong the team can be in tough times.
“I was really proud,” Taylor said. “Sometimes you learn a lot about people with your back to the wall.
“I thought in view of the [circumstances] and the changes we had to make in the Chelsea game, which were forced on us because the players hadn’t trained as much or didn’t have enough minutes under their belt. So, they were amazing.
Mewis’ January went just as well.
While his team excelled in England, she excelled in the United States, scoring a hat trick in the USWNT’s opener against Colombia and provide help within the second before limping injured.
No team ever wants to be without their best players, of course. But the fact that City have shone so much without Mewis and many others is a big boost in confidence, especially after their struggles earlier this season.
With huge games against Arsenal and Manchester United coming up in February and injured staff working to get back in time, it’s even more positive for the future.
“We’re entering a decent three-game period before the international break and we want to be there, we want to work as hard as possible to be fair in the mix. [for the title]Taylor added.
“We’re still in it right now, so we want to make sure that after those three games we’re still in it too.”
Janvier recalled all of City’s other talents, especially in attack. So now having players like Mewis back as we approach the most important part of the season gives him real reason to be excited about what lies ahead.