In falling to a 1-0 defeat against Swansea at The Liberty Stadium last Sunday Manchester City – courtesy of cross-city rivals United’s win against West Brom – fell to second place in the Premier League table after a lengthy run in first place.
In many ways it may have been some time coming. Despite maintaining a record 100% home record this season – a record-breaking 14 games (19 all told stretching back to 2010/11) – City have struggled of late on their travels, taking just eight points from their past eight games (W2 D2 L4) and have scored just four goals during this run. All of which means that although possessing the second best away record in the Premier League with 24 points this is nine short of United’s (who were so average themselves last season on the road) total of 33 points, mitigating their excellent home return.
There has been plenty written and discussed after the loss and the impact that it has had on their title ambitions but what are the reasons for City’s struggles away from home of late? Are there any common factors from these games that can explain their troubles – and in the process provide an answer to help them get back on track.
I have broken down City’s away season into two parts: their first six games where they went unbeaten – winning five and drawing one – and their past eight fixtures that have seen them yield top spot to United. In doing so, I have looked at the keys areas of City’s performances: passing, final third ‘zone’, chances and shots.
The overall (i.e. for the total match) passing numbers over the two period splits are as follows:
As the following graph also shows, there isn’t a significant difference between the two in terms of pass completion but the past eight games average around 20 or so more passing attempts and completions per game:
If anything, City are managing to complete a slightly higher number of passes (25.80) per game than they are attempting (20.13), leading to an increase in completion % from 85.89% to 87.45%. However, when placed in context with the total number of passes per game, an increase of five completions per game is negligible – particularly when it is not clear where (and when) these passes were completed and what their outcome was.
Next Page: Final Third analysis…
This area is one of importance as it demonstrates the capability of sides to get into the opposition’s defensive zone; therefore highlighting the extent to which a side is able to put themselves in position to create (and execute) chances. There are two areas which we can look at here: final third entries and then final third passing:
As we can see, City have increased their number of final third entries during their recent run of poor results (up from 65 to 69.5 per game) – suggesting, if anything, that their build-up play has shown no signs of faltering.
During this time, City have also increased their number of passing attempts in the final third by 8.59 per game – a not inconsiderable figure – from 163.16 to 171.75: reflecting their increased ability to get into the final third. However, and despite these increased numbers, their final third completions have only increased from 125.5 to 127.37 (1.87) per game, someway short of the increase in numbers of attempts and has seen their completion % fall from 76.92% to 74.16% (and reducing their season total figure):
This fall in passing completion is also reflected in the number of chances City have actually created, their total dropping from 17.66 to 16.25 (1.41) – still among the élite in the Premier League but indicative perhaps of them (backed up by the lower pass completion) not quite being as efficient or clinical in the areas that matter.
Next Page: Man City Shooting analysis…
If you don’t shoot, you don’t score. So goes the old adage in football but it is perhaps not as simple as that when analysing the numbers. Total shots by a side is the figure often referred to when discussing a side’s dominance in a game or trying to quantify potency in front of goal.
Not all shots are equal however. Certain shots undoubtedly have a greater worth than others and certain shots will have a better chance of leading to a goal (for instance City have scored fifteen goals inside the box and fourteen goals outside the box this season).
The graphic below looks at City’s total number of shots and then breaks this down into four categories: inside the box, outside the box, on target and off target. As is clear, there is a consistent pattern across all categories in terms of a drop in numbers between the first six and last eight games with one very important exception; shots on target:
Taking this a step further, we can look deeper into those shots that (in theory at least) should provide a greater opportunity to result in a goal being scored: shots taken from inside the box. The following graphic breaks down each of City’s away games this season and the outcome of these shots:
The first six games of the season – when City were in rampant goal scoring form – saw the Blues’ average 11.33 shots per game and hit the net 2.83 times. The following eight games have seen a dramatic reduction in terms of goals per game with a miserly 0.5 goals on average, having been shut out on four occasions.
Next Page: Shooting analysis continued…
The widening gap between the number of shots per game compared to goals scored is also evident in the below graphic that clearly demonstrates quite how City have lost their clinical edge in front of goal:
On face value, whilst the reduction in shots per game to 9.5 (a drop of 1.83 per game) appears to tell us a great deal (and correlates to the lower final third entry and final third passing completion numbers) but upon closer inspection two of the eight games were the trips to Liverpool and Chelsea, where City were restricted to just four and three shots (seven in total) inside the box respectively. Importantly, these were two of the four games in which they actually scored. Take these two games out of the analysis and in the remaining six games of the spell City had 69 shots from inside the box at an average of 11.5 per game – 0.17 shots per game higher than the opening six away games.
Both the shots blocked and shots off target only show negligible reductions (0.20 and 0.12 per game respectively) but interestingly, the number of shots saved by the opposition goalkeeper has increased by 50% from 1.83 to 2.75: simply a result of better goalkeeping or being less clinical in front of goal? A further – and important point – is that over the first six games of the season City’s goals scored total including five goals scored from outside of the box. In addition to a paucity in front of goal during the subsequent eight games City have also failed to score from outside the box and furthermore, have failed to score in open play since Mario Balotelli’s strike against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge back in December.
City’s away form of late – or at the least their return from away games – has seen their lead over United eroded to the extent United now hold the advantage in the title race. The numbers do show that not much has changed a great deal for City from an attacking sense – if anything shots from inside the box is one area they have increased. Admittedly the sample size being looked at is a relatively small one and it would be interesting to perhaps look at a breakdown of City’s home games or even other sides to see whether there has been a more of a ‘natural’ drop off as the season progresses as opposed to a blunting of their offensive sharpness.
However, it does appear though that the key for City being crowned as the 2011/12 Premier League Champions then looks to be not necessarily in creating more but in finding a return to their early season form in being able to more successfully convert these shots into goals – the one thing that has begun to elude them of late.
All of the stats from this article have been taken from the Opta Stats Centre at EPLIndex.com – Subscribe Now (Includes author privileges!) See Demo’s and videos about the Stats Centre & read about new additions to the stats centre.