Defenseless Manchester City Must Emphasize Offense to Snap Their Travel Woes
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After seven Premier League matches, Manchester City are a robust 4-0 at home.
Manchester City are not just unbeaten at the Etihad, they are quite nearly perfect there.
The first two home wins were shutouts. Their third, an utter domination of Manchester United, saw the Sky Blues hold United scoreless for 86 minutes until a Wayne Rooney free kick ended Manchester City's run of pristine defense at home.
Everton also netted once against Manchester City at the Etihad on Saturday, but the home side equalized a minute later and eventually posted a fairly comfortable two-goal victory.
Four matches, 13 goals for, two against and 12 of 12 possible points.
Despite it all, Manchester City are fifth in the Premier League table, one point back of Southampton.
You do not need a PhD in mathematics to figure out how Manchester City are presently trailing four teams in the standings.
As great as Manchester City have been at home, they have been as bad—if not worse—on the road.
Manchester City have played three matches as visitors. They outplayed both Cardiff City and Aston Villa for significant lengths of time in those matches and lost them both due to inexcusable defensive breakdowns.
At Stoke City, Manuel Pellegrini's makeshift lineup played like complete strangers and should have lost. Remarkably, the Stoke City trip is the one which produced Manchester City's lone road point.
Fortunately, Manchester City's home form can be instructive as the Sky Blues look to improve their dismal performances away from Manchester.
Manchester City's home record to date proves conclusively that the best way not to blow a late lead or lose a close match is to put the match out of reach as soon as possible.
Granted, Manchester City did not have the victory against Hull City put away until Yaya Toure's late free kick provided the final margin of 2-0.
In their other three victories, though, Manchester City led by at least two goals with 20 minutes remaining. Certainly there was still work to do even with a two-goal lead, but closing these games out proved to be no problem.
You might be tempted to suggest that prescribing more goals as a means to win more games on the road is as helpful as suggesting water as a thirst remedy. It is not as simple as that.
Manchester City need to score early and often in their road matches because they have defended very poorly on the road. A related symptom of that disease is Manchester City's inability to protect late leads like the ones they had at Cardiff City and Aston Villa.
Recent developments suggest that, if anything, City's defense projects to worsen before it improves.
According to Richard Jolly of ESPNFC, captain Vincent Kompany, who was culpable on the final Aston Villa goal in that loss, is suffering from a groin injury.
While Kompany's troubles are injury-related, Manchester City keeper Joe Hart is fully fit, fully healthy and, sadly, in something close to a free fall.
Manuel Pellegrini has revealed he thought long and hard about dropping Joe Hart for Manchester City's Premier League game against Everton and said it was 'a difficult decision' to select the England goalkeeper.
To recap, then: Kompany and Hart, the irrefutable spine of Manchester City's Premier League champion side two seasons ago, are now just question marks.
Therefore, saying that Manchester City must outscore their opposition to win matches on the road is not meant in a simplistic sense. It is a tacit admission that, because they are so fragile defensively, they need to rely on their prolific scoring power to put matches away quickly whenever possible.
After the current international break, Manchester City will head to Upton Park to face West Ham United. The Hammers are a fairly toothless side, with only eight goals in seven matches—though they hung three on Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday.
Manchester City's Premier League title hopes hinge on better road play. As it stands now, they are perfect at home, yet still three points and four teams behind the league lead.
Scoring more goals, preferably early, is Manchester City's only sensible strategy to start winning their road matches with regularity.
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