HomeOTHEREPLMan City v Norwich: A statistical recap

Man City v Norwich: A statistical recap

Seven games; Seven wins. Manchester City continued their fast start to the season and maintained their 100% home record with a resounding 5-1 victory over Norwich on Saturday.

A familiar pattern is beginning to emerge though with how opponents are approaching games at The Etihad Stadium. Granted, City’s opponents this season have been Swansea, Wigan, Everton, Aston Villa, Wolves, Newcastle and now Norwich – meaning they are yet to play one of the genuine top four challengers at home, but it is increasingly the case that teams are becoming more and more reluctant to try and take the game to City for fear of leaving themselves exposed to the attracting threat they pose.

This was even more so on Saturday as Norwich City were not only content to deploy numbers behind the ball, but in doing so defended far deeper than previously seen. In the early stages, the tactic proved successful with City enjoying possession and territorial dominance but found the path to goal a congested one. In 2010/11 Manchester City may have struggled to break down such an approach, with City’s fortunes often being intrinsically linked to those of Carlos Tevez. Fast forward a season though, and with the Argentinian persona non grata in Manchester, City possesses a more balanced and varied attack – and one that includes players who can create seemingly out of nothing.

Nor did Manchester City try to force proceedings or alter their patient approach play and with Norwich happy to cede possession (City enjoying a huge 70% during the first half) and territory, it becomes difficult to sustain such a defensive rearguard. This was proved to be the case with Sergio Aguero’s balance and quick feet creating himself just enough room to poke home the opening goal. And when Norwich did themselves no favours just minutes into the second hal;f the game was all but over with City finding the space and opportunity to convert their advantage into one reflected in the scoreline.

Such was City’s dominance – aided by Norwich’s approach – that they were able tie or set season highs in an incredible 12 different passing or attacking categories, reflected in particular in their passing numbers in the different areas across the pitch:

What the above table shows is quite how dominant Manchester City were in both the attacking half and the final third, with all four of City’s midfielders (Gareth Barry, Yaya Toure, David Silva and Samir Nasri) both attempting and completing more passes in the final third than any Norwich player did in total, illustrating just how advanced City’s midfield was able to operate.

What is perhaps a surprise is that teams appear so content to sit back in the way that Norwich did. Looking at the games where Manchester City have struggled this season – particularly in the Champions League but also on occasion in the Premier League, it is where teams have defended far higher up the pitch and pressed City’s midfield as opposed to a more passive approach.

The numbers for the season though show that teams are failing to stop City by adopting this approach, their attacking play showing a clinical nature. Not only do City create more chances, but their conversion is also impressive:

Through the 2011/12 season so far, City are creating on average 15.64 chances per games and attempting 19.42 shots per game (in total). Given that it takes them on average only 4.56 chances and 6.47 shots (in total) to score, merely attempting to get numbers behind the ball and congest City’s play is clearly not working.

The one game where City’s numbers were low in this regard was at Liverpool, where their midfield trio of Lucas, Charlie Adam and Jordan Henderson were aggressive and pressed City’s midfield and the rewards came in restricting City to just seven shots and seven chances throughout the game – less than half their season average, and in a season where Manchester City have at times appeared invincible has at least suggested that in the main teams have not got their approach correct when facing the Premier League leaders.

Managing Editor of SBNation's Manchester City blog 'Bitter and Blue' and author of 'Man City 365'.
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