What's Different About Manchester City at Home and on the Road?

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What's Different About Manchester City at Home and on the Road?
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It's the question most often asked in the Premier League this season: How can a side who have won all 10 of their home matches, including big wins over Manchester United, Tottenham and Arsenal, struggle so badly on their travels?

It's had writers, pundits and Manuel Pellegrini scratching their heads in collective confusion. Manchester City, a side imperious at home, can't seem to hit the same performance level on the road. There has been some improvement in recent weeks, but the inability to win with anywhere near the same consistency away from home as they have done at home has been logic-defying and baffling.

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To make things even more bizarre, this is exclusively a Premier League problem. A 100 percent away record in their Champions League group and two away wins in the Capital One Cup have been secured. It's completely unfathomable.

So what is their Premier League record in 2013-14?

At home, they've managed 10 wins from 10 (30 points), scoring a remarkable 38 goals and conceding just six. It's an immaculate record that has been the bedrock of their title challenge during the first half of the season.

Away from home, they've won three, drawn two and lost four, taking 11 points from a possible 27, scoring 16 and conceding 15.

But what exactly is the problem?

Certainly, individual errors have played a significant role, with Joe Hart culpable on more than one occasion earlier in the season.

At Cardiff in the opening weeks, he flapped at Peter Whittingham's corner, allowing Fraizer Campbell to score the first of his two goals in a 3-2 defeat.

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At Villa, he charged out of his goal to meet a long ball but failed to get there as the home side wrapped up three points in a match City had dominated. And then at Chelsea, his last appearance before his extended break from the first team, he repeated the trick as Fernando Torres hit the winner in the dying seconds of a match City deserved to win.

Hart was quite rightly criticised for his costly errors, but it can't, of course, all come down to the failings of one player. In fact, City are statistically less impressive in almost every area on the road. According to data provided by Squawka, their shot accuracy is reduced (40-36 percent), they create fewer chances (156-111) and they win fewer individual duels (50-47 percent).

However, it is perhaps the absence of Vincent Kompany which has affected City the most on their travels.

He missed three league games after sustaining an injury in the opening match against Newcastle, and that run saw City take just one point from the two away matches at Cardiff and Stoke—matches they were expected to win comfortably.

He then missed six league games after his injury against Everton, and despite a good win at Upton Park against West Ham, City lost away at Chelsea and Sunderland during that period.

In total, he has missed five away games, with City taking just four points in his absence.

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His leadership and defensive qualities are essential to City, especially away from home, where they are more likely to come under attack from teams. He organises the defence, and his presence seems to give confidence to the rest of the side. It's no surprise that since his return, he has been involved in four away games (including the Capital One Cup quarter-final), and City have won three (West Brom, Fulham and Leicester) and drawn one (Southampton).

Since the defeat to Sunderland in November, City have gone on a remarkable run of 10 wins and a draw in all competitions. It's clear that Kompany's return has coincided with an upturn in fortunes away from home, and that run has seen them move up the table. They now sit just one point behind leaders Arsenal in second.

The fitness of City's captain is likely to determine their title chances.

 

Rob Pollard is Bleacher Report's lead Manchester City correspondent and will be following the club from a Manchester base throughout the 2013-14 season. Follow him on Twitter here @TypicalCity.

 

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