With Manchester City having being knocked off the Premier League top spot after an extended stay and the lack of goals being scored away in recent games (four goals in the last eight games) I thought I'd take a look at how our strikers are performing thus far through the 2011/12 season.
I believe that although having a strong defense, the ability to score (and, perhaps more importantly, score freely) at this stage of the season is what may win us or lose City the title; make no mistake it will be City's to lose.
After the jump we'll take a look at both our strikers' efficiency and a small look at a striking ghost from the past who may well return to the rescue.
Manchester City have scored 67 goals for 66 points in their 28 games so far. I believe that among the most succesful teams, there is a direct correlation between goals scored and points. (Incidentally, Manchester United have 68 goals for 67 points).
Our strikers account for 40 of the 66 goals - some 60% - of total goals scored, but just how have they fared this season? I'll break this down into a number of sections:
Sergio Agüero games 23 sub 3 mins 1903
Edin Dzeko games 14 sub 10 mins 1305
Mario Balotelli games 10 sub 8 mins 868
Now, Aguero is clearly the number one striker. Balotelli, although moreso of late, has been rarely trusted and Dzeko appears to be out of form and sliding down the pecking order. It is also very rare in this day and age for a leading side to only field three forwards and this is where Tevez fits in. More on him later.
Sergio Agüero goals 16 assists 5 gls pm 118
Edin Dzeko goals 13 assists 3 gls pm 100
Mario Balotelli goals 11 assists 0 gls pm 79
It is always a useful stat to look at strikers efficiency. Balotelli, the most sparingly used striker, is often coming off the bench to score and that is giving him a low goals per minute ratio. Incidentally the best goals per minute ratio among full time starters is Robin van Persie at 79 minutes per goal: an outstanding ratio and check back in the next few days for my post on a potential transfer chase of Van Persie.
Sergio Agüero shots 90 sg 38 scoring % .42 goals 16
Edin Dzeko shots 77 sg 30 scoring % .42 goals 13
Mario Balotelli shots 65 sg 26 scoring % .44 goals 11
I believe that shot totals as a positive stat is useless. It can be a negative stat and I tire of watching games where a commentator will roll out a stat that a team has had 20 shots attempts at goal and use it in a positive manner, but with only three on target. It tells us more about a teams wastefulness in front of goal and I posted the shots totals here to give us an idea of the strikers wastefulness.
The important stats here are the shots on goal and the scoring %. The league leader in scoring % is again van Persie at 0.46. City strikers by that measure are fine but the issue is they aren't getting enough shots on target. van Persie has 58 on target and Rooney 51. Aguero's number of 38 shots on target is too low and if City's strikers increase their shots on target and maintain those high shooting percentages then they score more. If they score more that means more points which is a critical need with this title run in being so close.
Shots to shot on target %
Sergio Agüero shots 90 sot 38 % of all shots on target .42
Edin Dzeko shots 77 sot 30 % of all shots on target .39
Mario Balotelli shots 65 sot 26 % of all shots on target .40
These numbers are just here to give an idea if we are looking at a striker who may have a poor shot, or be wasteful with the opportunities given to them. But these numbers hold up with the best in the Premier League.
As an example, before looking into these numbers, I always believed that Dzeko was the wasteful one of the trio. His failure to hit the target had, at times, led me to believe he was wasteful and a touch below the caliber necessary in this new age for Man City.
Shots On Goal Per Minute
Sergio Agüero mins per shot on goal 50 % chance of shot being a goal .42
Edin Dzeko mins per shot on goal 43 % chance of shot being a goal .42
Mario Balotelli mins per shot on goal 33 % chance of shot being a goal .42
Clearly from the above data we should say that Balotelli should feature more, but there is context to these numbers.
What Does It All Mean?
To start with, goals scored correlate with points totals. City's strikers account for 60% of all goals therefore the strikers need to score more is the bottom line.
Now the numbers tell us a few things:
Aguero - 10 home starts 12 away starts 7 starts on the run
Aguero is the number one striker with the most minutes played. He is being asked to do the heavy lifting against the best teams in most physically demanding league in the world, home and away. He is the go to guy, and this is no mean feat in his first EPL season. It is also a big ask of a 24-year old rookie. I believe it may be too much of a burden on him as we have seen in recent(ish) goal droughts.
He is the leading goal scorer, with highest % chance to get his shot on goal and 0.42 chance of that said shot scoring. These are all top five numbers in the Premier League. I do have concerns going forward about number of games played and I think we will see a dip in his form in the last eight games or so, with evidence of this already.
Aguero has played 1903 mins in 23 starts and three substitute appearanes. Compare that to our undisputed number one striker from last season, Carlos Tevez, who last year played 1974 minutes in 30 starts.
Aguero perhaps needs more rest but when he does play he still needs to shoot more. He is fifth in the league in this category. If he shoots more and maintains his shooting % he will be the top scorer in this league in the coming seasons.
Dzeko - 7 home starts 7 away starts 6 starts on the run
Dzeko is our number two striker, who seemed to be more trusted earlier in the season when a blistering start coupled with the apparent eradication of his inconsistency led to more minutes.
That start has cooled, that trust has weakened and although by the numbers we are still seeing an elite striker, more was and is expected of him. He came with a big price tag, was given time to adjust and he seemed to be over those issues.
13 goals at this point in the season from a number two striker is still a strong return but ten appearances from the bench tell us a story about form and consistency. I believe he should of been our number one striker by now, starting more games than he has and facing the tough competition in important away games. This would of allowed a slightly more gradual easing in of Aguero.
His numbers are strong and in comparison to Aguero he is holding his own. Needs to win back the trust of the coach and improve his agility over the first five yards which would enable him to get more shots away. Quality is there, as we saw in flashes at Spurs away and numerous other games. But is the mental toughness and application just as prevalent? The jury is out on that question but there is still plenty of time to fulfill his potential.
Balotelli 5 home starts 5 away starts 3 starts on the run
Everyone knows him, everyone loves him. Except maybe for me. By the numbers, Balotelli is highly efficient, his goals per minute is the lowest in the Premier League at 79 minutes per goal. His scoring % is high at 0.42 and he has 11 goals in 10 starts. He is the striker earning the most free kicks on the team with 34 but I believe there should be more.
He is a £20m + striker who either through suspension, lack of fitness and lack of trust has only started 10 games in the league. City are only running with three strikers where it is normal to carry four, so his number is particularly low and disappointing.
I just don't buy the talk of him being one of the best strikers in the world; not yet anyhow. Balotelli has undoubted physical gifts, pace, positioning, finishing and cleverness but this is the first season in his career where he has hit double figures in goals. He has potential, no doubt. But this is only a number three striker who is yet to be trusted fully. He has to become more robust physically and avoid the small injuries that prevent us seeing a run of five starts or so. He needs to add maturity and mental strength to go alongside the physical talents, whilst his work rate needs to be improved.
We need to talk about Carlos Tevez. The Argentinian has his well documented problems; we know this. Manchester City have problems now, having slipped to second in the table and failing to score in recent away games.
Manchester City need four strikers during the title run in: even more so with the fragility of Balotelli, the indifferent form of Dzeko and the potential burnout of Aguero. Tevez is the only answer. He is a number one striker on every team in this league. He has value despite the manager not believing so. I think it's time, if fitness permits, to bring him back in from the cold.
Tevez 2010/2011 stats - games 30 mins 1974 gls 20 shots on goal 45 scoring % 0.44 mins per goal 98
These are outstanding numbers from last year. Scoring % and minutes per goal would be near top in any recent season we could care to look at. This is an elite striker. Can he be brought onside? maybe. If so he would ease the burden on Aguero, and cover for the trust and fitness issues plaguing Dzeko and Balotelli.
Carlos Tevez has had a strange career with more downs than ups. He may, if brought back into the team, just pull off the strangest of them all and win the Premier League title for Man city.