After Manchester City became the fastest ever Premier League club to rack up 100 goals in a season, Emmott Leigh argues that such a tremendous strike rate doesn’t mean the silverware will necessarily follow.
Whilst record-breaking centuries have been making headlines in cricket recently, with New Zealand’s Corey Anderson notching a ton off only 36 balls in their ODI series against the West Indies, the latest speedy hundred in sport is even more impressive – Manuel Pellegrini’s Manchester City reached the landmark in goals during their 4-2 routing of Cardiff City, after only 34 games in all competitions.
Luis Suarez may be the most talked-about striker in the Premiership due to his extraordinary finishing proficiency, but Manchester City boast three first-class finishers in Edin Dzeko, Alvaro Negredo and Sergio Aguero, two of whom have scored 20 or more goals this season already. As Alan Shearer astutely observed: “You just know they are going to score goals.”
If Dzeko can notch four more goals to his tally, City will become the first side with three forwards who have bagged 20 in a season since 1981-82. Such a feat is obviously remarkable, but it should be noted that lots of goals does not necessarily equate to lots of success.
After all, it might be expected that the former champions would be sitting pretty once again at the head of the Premier League, but in reality, City are a point behind the league leaders Arsenal (whom they humiliated by 6-3) and finished only second in the Champions League group stage. How have Arsenal and Bayern Munich managed to edge ahead of the record-breaking side?
The answer tarnishes City’s feat a little. Yes, they have destroyed sides like Norwich (7-0), Newcastle (4-0) and even their Manchester rivals (4-1). Yes, their home record is absolutely phenomenal; only Bayern Munich have managed to come away from the Etihad Stadium with a victory this season.
Even the managers have been dealt the most severe of blows; Tottenham’s Andre Villas-Boas was sacked after his side leaked six goals to City and Sam Allardyce won’t last long after his West Ham outfit took a pummelling by the same scoreline. This is all very impressive, but it hasn’t lifted City to the top in the Premiership or the Champions League. Their losses may yet truly define their year.
With 18 matches yet to be played, the Blues have plenty of time to unseat Arsenal. However, it remains to be seen as to whether their ignominious 3-2 defeats at Aston Villa and Cardiff, of all teams, will ultimately decide their failure, along with a 1-0 loss at Sunderland. Conceding three or scoring none is lamentable for a top side, especially when two of their conquerors are struggling against relegation.
Similarly, their loss to Bayern Munich has proved to be by far the most decisive result in their Champions League exploits, far more than a 5-2 or 4-2 thrashing of the other sides in their group. Now they are faced with the daunting task of bettering the mighty Barcelona over two legs.
It seems that pundits are focusing too heavily on the team’s excellence in the final third. The ‘first third’ has seen them suffer a little, with 28 conceded goals outnumbering those of Arsenal and Chelsea by 30 percent. As full-back Zabaleta admitted: “Sometimes when you play an offensive game, you leave yourself exposed at the back.”
Such a point is evidenced by the likes of Yaya Toure, who charges forward like an Ivorian express train at the first opportunity only to amble casually back again once the ball is lost and danger threatens. Martin Demichelis has been unable to cover his weaknesses either, often leaving the rest of the back four exposed through over-eagerness.
Even City’s captain Vincent Kompany has faltered occasionally; he was turned twice in the lead-up to Cardiff’s second on Saturday, and not for the first time, as Southampton’s Dani Osvaldo will recall. In light of these issues, is it possible that Manchester City’s strike rate is too excessive?
It would explain why so many of their hammerings have been tainted by a couple of concessions at the other end. Arsenal have scored 43 goals in the top flight against City’s 63, but how does the significance of 20 more conversions weigh up against that of the six fewer conceded by Arsenal? The single point between them seems to indicate the increased importance of the latter.
That relationship is apparent elsewhere in the table; Tottenham have converted only 29 times this season, yet find themselves level on points with Liverpool, who have blasted home 53 times (five of those occasions against Tottenham themselves). In fact, it is a sure indication of how important a defence is that 11 of the 26 goals let in by Spurs were scored by Manchester City and Liverpool, over two matches.
Pundits praise the forwards for bagging the goals, but they fail to recognise the fact that Tim Sherwood’s side have otherwise leaked only 15 times in 20 matches, less than a goal a game. Spurs have won 13 of their 22 matches, which is the same amount as Liverpool and only three times less than City. How many times did they win 1-0 or 2-0 when the other two were smashing five past their foes?
100 goals in 34 matches works out to an amazing strike rate of 2.94 goals per game, which is ridiculously impressive in the modern era and may never be surpassed. It is a statistic for the history books, but will it lead to trophies? Not if the more cohesive back fours of Arsenal, Chelsea and Barcelona have anything to say about it.bookmark me