Given their recent history in games at Goodison Park, perhaps it was not a huge surprise that Manchester City fell to defeat on Tuesday. The defeat signalled City’s fourth (in all competitions) in the month of January as they saw Manchester United draw level on points at the top of the Premier League.
Yet it was as much the manner of the performance in defeat that led to much consternation in some quarters of City’s support; a growing belief forming that City are in part losing their way, the fluid and cohesive attacking play beginning to stutter and the accumulation of recent results and performances climaxing at Everton as Darron Gibson’s deflected goal condemned them to defeat.
Much of the anxiety has centred around the lack of goals City have netted of late: failing to score in three of the past six games as the Autumn days that rained goals begin to fade. But where exactly does the problem lie? City are certainly not without creative elements within their side and are amongst the most clinical sides in terms of shot and chance conversion.
Looking at the numbers behind City’s performance in the loss, we can see they enjoyed their usual dominance in terms of possession, enjoying some 68% of possession and in territory – as we can see from the following passing and offensive number breakdowns:
Individually, the midfield duo of David Silva and Samir Nasri were also productive and were central in everything City managed from a creative aspect and City’s 81 final third entries were their third most of the season as was their 32 crosses attempted, with the nine successfully so being their equal highest figure:
Recent injuries, suspensions and International call-ups have tested the depth of Roberto Mancini’s squad and currently no area looks as thin as his attacking options. With Carlos Tevez still ostracised and Mario Balotelli serving a four-game ban, his options are limited to one or both of Edin Dzeko and Sergio Aguero. Dzeko is currently out of form and struggling to make an impact whilst Aguero is perhaps feeling the effects of a debut Premier League season. This was also shown by the options Mancini had from the bench as after Adam Johnson was introduced for James Milner, the Italian’s next two substitutions were Aleksandar Kolarov and Nigel de Jong.
Still, City were hardly shot-shy during the game. They attempted 21 shots (12 inside and nine outside the area), but nine were off target and ten were blocked by an Everton side who also made 19 interceptions and 38 clearances (15 of which were effective).
Heading into the game Everton knew that the key to victory had to be to stop City scoring; after all, their previous ten games had seen them fail to score more than one goal. Despite this relative paucity in attack, they had a foundation to build upon: their defence, which was leading the Premier League in allowing only 78 shots prior to facing off against City.
Absences in the Everton squad forced David Moyes into fielding a reshuffled side, with Tony Hibbert having to play in a central role but both he and Jonny Heitinga were excellent and pivotal in keeping City at bay, making 11 clearances each amongst a host of impressive defensive numbers:
There was comfort at least in defeat from City’s perspective too that despite the loss they entered February top of the table, a feat that the past eight Premier League winners also achieved. Despite the reversal City at least showed that they are retaining the ability to create plenty and as much as City’s display is being analysed for faults, credit too should be given to Everton for their approach and their ability in ultimately being able to stifle City from an attacking perspective: an approach that they may well begin to see far more of over the remainder of the 2011/12 season.
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Managing Editor of SBNation's Manchester City blog 'Bitter and Blue' and author of 'Man City 365'.
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