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The First 10 PL games: 2011City v 2012 City

Ten games have elapsed so far in 2012/13, fans and pundits alike are telling us that this Man City team is not a patch on last years vintage. In some respects, and crucially, in points gained, Man City aren't yet as good as last years vintage, but in quite a few categories this years Man City team are superior. The difference between the two Man City teams is luck.

Scott Heavey

An analysis of Man City in 2011 vs Man City in 2012 will require some imagination from the reader. This is a purely a look at City's Premier League form in the first 10 games of the two respective seasons. I will not get bogged down into direct results in corresponding team fixtures.

City in 2011 started at a rapid and unsustainable pace, a pace that would have earned Man City 107 points if it had been replicated over the course of the season.

City in 2012 have gained 22 points from the first 10 games, 2.2 ppg and that is good for 84 points. That will, in all likelihood be good enough to win the league this year, and if not win it, be very very close to winning it.

Man City aren't struggling in the league this term. We are just being judged against last years god like standards, which at times brushed against the very highest quality of play attainable; 6-1 away at United, 5-1 away at Spurs were the highlights of 9 wins and 1 draw from the first 10 games.

2011 Man City vs 2012 Man City

Quality of opposition

2011 2012

Quality of opposition 10.67 10.56

Let us get the quality of opposition out of the way first. The above number is the average difficulty of each fixture that has been played. 20 is the most difficult fixture (playing the 1st placed team) and a 1 is the easiest fixture.

There exists no discernible difference between the average difficulty of fixture that Man City played in 2011 compared to 2012.


2011 2012

Goals 36 18

Goals against 8 9

Difference 28 9

Goals for in 2011 leaps right out of the page. 36 is a staggering number, and one that was unsustainable, unless you think 137 goals in a 38 game season was a realistic target.

Goals against is pretty even, nobody was talking about goals against last term in the midst of the goal scoring blitz that was taking place. We hoped it would never end, but it did.

The effect of the goals for column was evident on the last day of the season when we were able to clinch the title on that goal difference number. The first 10 games were crucial in running up the goal difference.


2011 2012

possession 53.3 58.8
Man City are a better possession team over the first ten games than they were in 2011, despite that seasons blistering start.

Shots For

2011 2012

Shots 207 190

Shots on Target 79 65

All numbers featured above are extremely high. Man City in 2012 are leading the league in both shots and shots on target. 6.5 shots on target per game is an excellent number, 7.9 shots on target per game in 2011 is, frankly, out of this world.

Note how the shot numbers in 2011 yielded 36 goals and the numbers in 2012 have yielded only 18, despite the numbers being pretty similar. This is all down to finishing prowess of our strikers, and a lot of luck.

Shots Against

2011 2012

Shots 109 90

Shots on Target 38 28

So Man City, despite the pundits criticizing our defense, have outperformed 2011's numbers. Man City are better this term in shots against and more importantly shots on target against.

Pundits will criticize, but the pundits should instead focus on the quality of the shots given up, rather than erroneously just stating that Man City's defense is struggling in the league. How can we judge shot quality? we can't really, we can only speculate. But with Man City playing a more possession based game, we may be seeing signs of the Barca effect.

The Barca effect is what happens to a high volume possession team who spend a lot of time in the oppositions territory, who then leave themselves very open at the back to counters. Those counters tend to bring with them high quality scoring chances due to the defense being isolated, 2 on 2 or 3 on 3. Barca give up very few shots against, but they are of a high quality due to the defense being isolated and I think Man City are edging toward that Barca style setup, where, it may be said, too much tactical currency is spent on pinning the opposition in their half and thus being slightly vulnerable at the back when opposition counters.

Skilled teams, with intelligent and quality attackers punish the Barca effect. Poor teams tend to be unable to exploit this imbalance of tactical currency. Man City have been relatively fine in the PL, bar Southampton, and have been destroyed in the CL by teams with those aforementioned high quality attackers who punish our generally high up the field team shape, especially in wide areas.

Man City are conceding less shots, less shots on target, and currently hold the 2nd best PL defensive record, but at times we have appeared fragile. Our eyes tell us defenders have been isolated, this leads to high quality chances and hence why we form the opinion that Man City have struggled at the back.

The numbers tell us a different story, and we also can never account for individual errors in-game. Joleon has been the main culprit this term, read Danny's excellent Scoring Chance Index for further info on individual mistakes.

Shot +/-

2011 2012

Shots +98 +100

Shots on Target +41 +37

All sets of numbers here look pretty darn good, their exists little difference between the two seasons despite 2011 bringing double the amount of goals. Why did 2011 bring twice the amount of goals when the shots numbers are fairly even?


2011 2012

Scoring % 45.5 27.6

This is why. Man City's scoring in the first 10 games of 2011 was extremely high. That high scoring % was never going to be sustainable and so it proved.

The scoring % is the sole reason why Man City recorded so many more goals in 2011 than they have in 2012, where they have recorded a 27.6% number. league average is 30%. We know Man City aren't a below average offensive team in this league. So watch this number rise, and more goals scored in the coming weeks and months.

Save %

2011 2012

Save % 79.00% 67.90%

Save % is also down year on year. Man City have conceded less shots on target in 2012 in comparison to 2011, but have conceded more goals. This leads us to conclude that the problems lie not in restricting volume of chances but quality of chances. See the Barca effect above.

Quality of chances is a little to do with midfield assistance and the back fours shape. If isolated and penetrated, the defensive team will concede a high quality chance. I think this is what has happened to Man City this season. Expect that save % to have risen by around 7-9% come seasons end.


Man City's pdo, which is save % and scoring % added together, was 128.4 in 2011 and stands at 91.9 in 2012. Once we know that 100 is par, we can say that this season Man City are far off last seasons number.


The above graph illustrates just how far off Man City in 2012 are from 2011's version of Man City. PDO has an average of 100. Last term Man City finished with a pdo of 116.2 so we know that over the remainder of the 2011/12 season that Man City's pdo regressed toward the mean as every team's pdo does.

Knowing that pdo regresses toward the mean, we can expect Man City's pdo to nudge toward 100 and eventually surpass 100, my guess is the pdo will end up around the 110/115 figure.

My thoughts on the pdo are thus; it's almost a miracle that Man City in 2012 have accrued as many points as they currently have. Chelsea's pdo is 116.7 and Man Utd's is 117.3 and Man City are miraculously only 2 points off the lead in the PL.

With Man City's pdo continuing to improve, with the expected rise in the scoring % and save %, Man City should convert more of their chances, and prevent the opposition from converting their chances at a better rate. A team who sees a rise in their scoring % and save % would expect to gain points at an increasingly high clip.


Man City in 2011 were a team that was on fire, and looked unbeatable. Of course this wasn't true, we regressed both statistically and in terms of the quality of our football. There was little to no chance Man City in 2012 could have matched that opening 10 game spell. It was unreasonable to expect that they would.

But, it's another thing criticizing Man City in 2012 for generally poor play. Yes, at times we have looked vulnerable and devoid of attacking penetration, this is what our eyes tell us. The numbers tend not to agree with those assertions, but numbers aren't the be all and end all, and should only be used to flesh out the opinions and arguments we form. Numbers give us greater context.

That context tells us Man City, by the numbers, are pretty close to last years vintage. Except in points gained. Why haven't we the same number of points? Well, despite not quite touching last terms heights, City have been registering shots at a near equal number to last season, and conceding less shots than last season, but the scoring % and save %'s have been undermining the team. Some of these %'s are luck driven and thus we expect what has been our bad luck up to now, will be evened out with a fair portion of good luck.

Once we have some good luck we shall see more goals scored, more points gained. The plaudits will return, Mancini will be credited with a barely perceptible tactical or personnel change which brought about that upswing in form, and the fans will be happy.

The fans should be happy now, luck exempted, this Man City team isn't that far off last years team.