7 Reasons Manchester City Appear More Beatable This Season
It seems a strange accusation to level at the only team left unbeaten in this season's Premier League, but there is an evident and identifiable air around Manchester City's games this season that they can be gotten at, can be beaten.
From their 14 games this season in the top flight City have won nine, drawn five and lost none—so how can this be so?
Remembering their race to the championship last season, there are several key differences between City 11-12 and City 12-13; when they won the title they were beaten only five times during the whole season which is an average of once every 7.6 games; by that rate they might already have been defeated twice this season.
Even so, here are seven reasons City look more beatable this term.
Not Scoring as Many Goals
First and foremost, Manchester City were a formidable attacking side over the second half of last season.
So far this campaign, they have been unable to recapture that intent in the final third.
During 2011-12, City scored a total of 93 goals, averaging 2.4 goals per game. This season that has dropped to just 1.9 goals per game. The significance of dropping below a second strike in any given game, of course, relates to lowering the chances of City winning. A single goal for an opponent immediately reduces the chance of three points being claimed if, on average, Roberto Mancini's men cannot score a second.
Mancini was previously criticised for not letting his team attack enough, but last season they looked to put an end to that tag. It's been a step backwards in that regard this season.
So far, at least.
Lacking the Air of Aggression and Invincibility of Last Season
As last season moved into the final third of the campaign, there was very much an air of inexorable inevitability about Manchester City; they were going to win the title no matter what.
Matches came, teams fought against them, but City overcame each challenge with impressive regularity. Even when they slipped up in a game, it was a surprise and shock—and the next team they came up against was in for an even bigger test.
This season there is no such feeling around City's approach to matches, and several of their key players from last season have suffered dips in form.
David Silva has yet to hit the heights of last term, while the normally imperious Vincent Kompany has also had his moments of uncertainty. The same can be said for Joe Hart in goal.
Drawing More Matches
Although City are undefeated, while they lost five times last season, City consistently won matches last term.
They picked up only five draws over the course of the whole season—they have already matched that figure this year.
Of course, should they go the entire season undefeated and draw 10 times, winning the same as last season, then they would be five points better off even though they had drawn twice as many games. So, drawing matches in itself is not a problem—but if those single points are coming at the expense of victories, Mancini and his men will have a real issue to deal with.
Poor Return from Big Money Signings
After the big successes of signing David Silva, Carlos Tevez, Sergio Aguero and Yaya Toure, it seems the football world expects world-class quality whenever Mancini ventures into the transfer market.
It didn't happen this summer; Mancini reportedly targeted a whole host of players who didn't join him at the Etihad Stadium.
Instead, they ended up with Jack Rodwell from Everton for more than £13 million and Javi Garcia for close to £18 million, as well as significant fees paid out for Scott Sinclair, Maicon and Matija Nastasic.
The Serbian centre-back has proven a shrewd buy, but the same, perhaps, cannot be said of the others, who have yet to prove they are capable of significantly improving the title-winning squad.
More is needed from the two big-money midfielders in particular if City are to improve their performances this season.
Fewer Goals from the Strikers
Against Wigan Athletic this week Mario Balotelli opened the scoring with his first league goal of the season.
During the 2011-12 season City's four strikers registered the following goals in the Premiership: Sergio Aguero (23), Edin Dzeko (14), Mario Balotelli (13) and Carlos Tevez (four).
The four forwards all contributed goals at important times and, with the exception of Tevez who missed much of the season, hit double figures.
This season only Edin Dzeko has been able to sustain scoring at such a rate—he is the only one of the four who has not failed to see an increase in their minutes per goal ratio.
Roberto Mancini's Tactical Indecision
Last season the way forward for Manchester City in each game was clear: four in defence, two strong central midfielders, two attacking midfielders who attacked from the wide areas, but frequently made runs central, and two forwards—one deeper, one high up the pitch working the channels.
This season Roberto Mancini has switched between using that system and using a back three, which he also displayed sporadically last season.
There's nothing wrong with changing tactics.
Indeed, most successful teams need an idea or two to switch things around to help swing a game in their favour—but it's got to be for the benefit of the team.
So far, Mancini has seemed incapable of either convincing his players that the system switch is for the better or has not had enough time on the training pitch to translate exactly what his ideas are.
More often than not, the tactical switches have had to be reactionary this season, when the initial system chosen has not gone to plan.
Every Game Seems a Struggle to Win
Statistics, tactics, players in and out of form...disregarding all this, there is still the inexplicable air of struggle about City as they play each match.
That they are second in the table and unbeaten speaks volumes for the quality of players they have, but they are still capable of far much more.
Their league title from last season, and the FA Cup from the campaign before, prove as much.
Even in their most recent game, which turned out as a 2-0 victory over Wigan, City were far from comfortable or convincing and had a real battle on their hands to emerge victorious.
Put simply, every match is simply a struggle and a big effort for City, as they bid to keep momentum going and get their form back to its imperious best.
They are certainly capable, that much is inarguable.
And for the rest of the Premier League, if and when City do return to their best form, then it will be a huge task to stop them.
But for now, they go into matches without an air of fearlessness, and their opponents certainly see them as beatable—and that will continue with Everton at the weekend.
statistics from statto.com and eplindex.com