A Lack Of Away Goals

Man City's achilles, for over a year now, has been a distinct lack of scoring away from home. This, naturally, can make it very difficult to win football games, especially so if we concede at any point in the football game. In this article we shall run through the away numbers, the problems and then some potential solutions.

Away Numbers

2012/13

Games Goals Goals pg Shutout
15 20 1.33 5

The low goals per game total leaps out at me immediately and a quick glance at the Premier league table tells me that 1.33 goals per game is good for a 3 way tie for 6th place.

Quite frankly, it's not good enough for a team who are defending Champions. We can talk about the attacking talent that the squad has, but it's just not presenting itself in tangible, countable results.


Shutout 1 Goal 2 Goals 3+ goals
Games 5 3 5 2
Points per game 0.6 1.33 2.6 3

These are basic goalscoring numbers and naturally they tell a simple story: score more and earn more points. It's said that defense wins titles, but the ability to score your way out of a tie or a one goal deficit may be even more vital, just look at how many times Man United have fallen a goal a behind this year and miraculously managed to win the game.

Failing To Score 2012/13


Shot Ratio
On Target Total Shots Tied Shots
76.32% 64.08% 67.78%

This is the data for the 5 games in 2012/13 in which Man City have failed to score.

Firstly we see the Shots on Target ratio, and that 76.3% number is absolutely suberb. The total shots ratio is impressive, too, as is the ratio for shots recorded when the game is tied (before the opposition scored in Man City games in which they were shutout).

A good way to visualize these ratios is to think of the pitch being level at 50%. Any number higher than 50% and the team is tilting the pitch in it's favour and against the opposition. Man City are certainly tilting the pitch against the opposition in those games in which they failed to score.

What is the issue with Man City failing to score in these away games? City are still generating big numbers of shots and shots on target so that is not the issue.

Potential Causes For Lack Of Away Goals Production

For a start, the lack of away goals isn't a new problem. If we remove Man City's first 5 away games from 2011/12, and examine the form post 1-6 then we see Man City scored just 18 goals in 14 games. Pretty similar levels of poor scoring ability as we have seen this year, no?

Adding the last 14 away games from last season to the 15 away games from this season we can see that Man City have scored 38 goals in 29 games. If we drill down further and remove the purple patches of Norwich x2, qpr and Newcastle (16 goals) we are left with City's away record looking like 22 goals in 25 games.

Now, it's not exactly fair to remove the positive, but rare, high scoring results without removing the poor low scoring results, but I did so to emphasize the point. 22 goals in 25 games is a poor return for a top side. So what are the potential causes of such low scoring?

Problems

  • Lack of talent? You wouldn't like to think so. Aguero, Tevez, Silva and Toure should be combining to score more away goals on a more consistent basis than that 22 in 25 number.
  • Tactics? It has long been pointed out that City and Mancini rely on extending the fullbacks high up the pitch in order to create width. Barcelona do the same, Man City are not Barcelona. Is more variation in who provides the width needed?
  • Pace? Another long mooted point. Take away Aguero, Toure and the departed Balotelli and there isn't too much 'overwhelming' pace in the from six of man City.
  • Variation? Dzeko is often held up as an example of the sort of variation that is needed in the forward corps. Problem is, in my opinion, that attacks tend to die at Dzeko's feet at a higher rate than the rest of his team-mates. He just doesn't have the feet to live with the upper echelon of technicians that Man City possess.
    • Predictability. If we take all of the above points roll them in to one and make the suggestion that Man City have been figured out away from home? Opposition managers may well have found a way to contain the horizontal passing that looks pretty but causes little damage.


Solutions

Lets answer each point that was listed above:

  • Talent We are sure to get upgrades on certain personnel in the summer. Balotelli and Dzeko may be replaced and upgraded with a Cavani type. I wouldn't be upset with a prospect like Icardi from the famous Sampdoria. Nasri looks doomed and a different type of wide player may be bought as his replacement. A midfielder to boot?
  • Tactics A genuine plan b must be created, stress tested and then trusted to be used. I think 3-5-2 was the first choice as a plan B, but at times we look like we lack the personnel to play it effectively, not withstanding the arguments as to wether that formation has too many weak points to be used even with the correct personnel.
  • Pace We have seen players like Isco mentioned in reports. Forgetting the fact that he is very young and still raw, he could be of some use to City. His buyout is high, but it likely wouldn't need to met in order to get him out of Malaga. Pace is needed everywhere and not just in the wide areas in the diminutive form of Isco. Pace upfront, pace on the wing and especially pace in midfield. Skill players are hard to play against, but a lack of pace in those skill players makes them easier to contain.
  • Variation and Predictability One and the same, really. I think we need to develop a plan which works in europe, which involves not passing the ball solely for passings sake, but passing it more vertically between the oppositions lines. But that type of plan may stem from playing a more compact, disciplined shape which is adept at countering. We don't have a counter attacking plan or tactic. Dortmund and Ajax both made hay against City by surrending possession, tightening their shape and countering with fleet footed, quick thinking countering play to which we had few answers. This is on Mancini, or maybe it is on Platt and Kidd too. We need more creativity in tactical variation from the men who are doing the planning on a game by game basis.

It looks to be a busy summer ahead with some changes in personnel and hopefully some changes in tactical setup. The burning issue that needs fixing for next season is away form.

Man City's shot creation and the restriction of the oppositions shots is very very good. For some reason we just cannot seem to score. Some of that scoring may fix itself in terms of regression, but as I showed above in that nigh 30 game sample Man City are just not scoring enough and all things flow from this lack.

You don't score enough away from home, you won't win enough games away from home in order to challenge for the title.

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