Thursday, November 14, 2013


You can find an abridged version of the following article at the official MCFC site

TRY GOOGLING “Manchester City away form” (don’t do this at home, kids) and you will find yourself bombarded by a shocking variety of headlines featuring the words “worried”, “perplexed”, at least one “bamboozled”, “negative effect on the title”, "worried for the future", "no chance at all", "Javier Garcia Murdered my Uncle Theofilius" and “bringing down a plague of locusts on the entire community of Greater Manchester”.

I may have made the last two up, but I'm pretty sure you get the approximate picture. It is a calamity, wrapped up in a disaster, cushioned with grief and waiting to explode all over us. Manuel Pellegrini’s hair, already a whiter shade of pale, must be turning peroxide with the worry.

Clearly, if anything can be said to be clear in football these days, City’s perfect home record is going a long way to balancing out what is happening away from Fortress Etihad, but let us take a minute or two to analyse the four away defeats that are providing so many people with ammunition at the moment.

Each one has been by a single goal. 3-2 at Cardiff and Villa, 2-1 at Chelsea and 1-0 at Sunderland. All close at the finish, despite City's evident profligacy upfront and hopelessness at the back..

The two matches, let us call them five goal thrillers for want of a more appropriate phrase (somebody must have been thrilled by them, let’s face it), saw City leading in both and finishing with overwhelming possession, corner, shots-on and -off stats (yes, I know, but bear with me). Anyone who witnessed the Chelsea match will not be able to say that defeat was deserved there either. City matched the home side overall in a feisty contest, beat them on all statistical data available and fell to an aberration when Joe Hart came out to collect Matija Nastasic instead of the the very last minute. 

As for the Stadium of Lright last weekend, where do you start? Sunderland – the home side, lest we forget- started the match in a kind of worried crab formation, scuttling backwards and sideways, running away and half coming back again. They then scored a goal. One cannot really say that it was out of the blue, but to say it had been coming would received some funny looks from all around. They then reverted to scuttling about under their shell. 

City had 63% ball possession and made 574 passes to Sunderland’s 298. Martín Demichelis and Aleksander Kolarov alone made more passes forward than Sunderland did. City had 24 shots to Sunderland’s 5. On top of everything, on a day when three of Jupiter’s moons aligned themselves with the top of Romark’s bald head to cause what experts call “severe confusion of the senses”, the winning goal was scored by David Bardsley, ex-United reserve, local black sheep and a man who gets forward to shoot at goal once every Blue Moon.

Most stunning of all, of the top 18 pass combinations between players during the match, only two featured passes between home players and that was only because one of the club’s sponsors demanded Ki be on the ball from time to time. (Bardley to Ki, 10 times, and Ki to Brown ten times. I can almost visualise that pretty triangle going round and round and round and back again until the ball rolled apologetically out into touch).

Haul your minds back to Cardiff, if you will. It’s ok, I’ll hold your hand. There'll be no bother, I promise. 70% possession for City; 561 passes completed to the home side’s 191; 17 of the top 18 pass combinations between City players. 16 shots to 9. (Yawn).

And on to Villa Park if you will: 67% possession for City. 487 passes completed to Villa’s 192; All eighteen of the top pass combinations during the match were between City players! 13 corners to the home side’s 2.

Off we go to Stamford Bridge, where you might expect it to have been a slightly different story. None of it. Although Chelsea, as you would expect, gave City a much tougher game than either Cardiff or Villa had managed to do, City had 54% of possession, had 6 of the match’s nine corners, made 404 passes to the home side’s 332. Of the pass combinations, 12 of the top 18 were between City players.

Now, I love a stat as much as the next man. I understand that all of those little numbers can be made to jump about in your favour almost at will. George Osborne might be able to cover over a few cracks, but these numbers tell a clear story of the Blues’ season so far on the road. Massive amounts of possession, a vast majority of the successful passing, more corners, more shots on goal than each of the hosts in each of the games. Much, much more.

I can blather on about this for months but let's allow those beautiful numbers to do the hard work:

City possession of the ball/Opponent
City shots on goal/opponent
City/opponent passses completed
City top passing partnerships


70%   /30%

16 - 9

561  - 191

17 out of top 18

Aston Villa

67%   33%

21 - 8

487  -  192

All 18 top passing combinations


54%  46%

15 - 12

404  -  332

12 out of top 18


63%  47%

24 - 5

574  -  298

18 out of top 20

Norwich City

68%   31%

27 - 7

711  -  292

17 out of top 18

The stats for the demolition of Norwich are not far beyond what we see for the Cardiff, Villa and Sunderland matches. The Chelsea match delivers similar patterns in slightly more balanced terms. City actually had more possession at Cardiff than during the seven-nil stroll against Norwich. Norwich had more shots on goal losing 7-0 to City than Sunderland had beating us 1-0. Both Villa and Cardiff made significantly fewer passes in beating City than Norwich did in getting toasted. So, how can this be? 

Is it down to Joe hart's dandruff endorsements? Or Javi Garcia's tug boat impersonations? Is it Yaya's off days or Señor Pellegrini's oddly taciturn configurations? Is it the Sun and Pluto in Uranus? Is it Vincent Kompany's hamstrings? Is it Romark having yet more revenge for Big Mal's early 70s shenanigans?   

Maybe we should be looking - apart from the obvious individual errors and odd choice of players - at the one area of the side that nobody has mentioned yet: the attack. For all its 28 league goals, how many chances have been missed?

Experts blame the goalkeeper (now goalkeepers plural, after one paper decided Pantilimon should "take a look at himself" after Sunderland's winner last weekend), poor choice of tactics, inappropriate line-ups, lapses in defending and the evil eye of Isabat al-’ayn but perhaps in reality it comes down to something we have been aware of for decades.

And the two magic words will not be uttered here, if you don't mind too much.


  1. sunderland adopted "...the worried crab formation." that's very good.

  2. City's away form is all the more perplexing when looking at those stats! We have been undone by moments of madness in all the away games thus far. In some ways I agree with Pelligrini when he says we need to change nothing but goal scoring is a must (as well as cutting out the defensive mistakes).

    What is worrying is that the same problems occurred under Mancini. How often did Roberto moan about the number of chances we missed after a game?

    We seem to lack great movement up front. Often in games the front four can be static whilst the midfielders have the ball. Bayern showed how to play with constant movement, with strikers dropping deep and midfielders going beyond them. We need to work harder at moving opposition defenders about creating gaps!

    1. Three home games to come next, so we'll have to wait a while before we see if anything changes. The stats say we have been wasteful, despite the high goals total. Amazing, isn't it? Particularly like the fact we had more possession losing to Cardiff than we did beating Norwich 7-0.


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