Is poor finishing derailing Man City’s title defence?
Manager Pep Guardiola reckons poor finishing is to blame for Manchester City’s struggles this season, so is he right?
The two-time defending Premier League champions now find themselves 11 points adrift of league leaders Liverpool after being held to a 2-2 draw at Newcastle on Saturday, while Leicester in second place are three points better off.
“It is quite similar to last season,” said Guardiola on the draw with Newcastle. “We had 24 shots, not all of them on target. We had three or four one-on-ones with the keeper [Martin Dubravka].
“They shot twice and scored. They are incredible stats.”
The Catalan coach may have a point and he’s got his own team’s stats right here as they had 24 shots and nine of those were on target.
Guardiola has been a little harsh on Newcastle, though, as they fashioned six shots on goal and three of those were on target.
City have lost three games in the league this season and in all of those games they’ve created the most chances, including the 3-1 loss to Liverpool at Anfield where they produced 18 shots to the Reds’ 12.
It has been the same story in both draws as well although it isn’t just poor finishing that is letting last season’s treble winners down.
City keeper Ederson is the joint leader in terms of clean sheets in the Premier League, with five. However, in terms of saves, he is way down the list with 31.
Admittedly he faces fewer shots than most of his rivals, so is called into action less often, but in the 13 league games he’s played in he’s conceded an average of exactly a goal-a-game. The Brazilian is clearly a top keeper but perhaps his form has dipped this term.
There are also issues in defence due to some key injuries and Fernandinho doesn’t always look totally comfortable in his makeshift role at centre-half.
John Stones looks less impressive without Aymeric Laporte next to him and Guardiola doesn’t seem settled with his full-backs.
Joao Cancelo and Kyle Walker are still battling to be the first-choice right-back and if fit Oleksandr Zinchenko would be starting ahead of Benjamin Mendy on the left.
There may be room for improvement in City’s finishing but right now they need to raise their levels in all areas of the pitch to stand a chance of catching Liverpool, if that is even still possible after the latest round of fixtures.