Manchester City held on to secure a narrow victory over Brighton on Wednesday night. But it could easily have been a more comfortable win for the Blues. Raheem Sterling blasted a stoppage-time penalty over the bar to keep the score at just 1-0.
As a result, the winger created an unwanted record of being the first player to miss three successive Premier League penalties since Saido Berahino did so between April 2016 and September 2017.
It is a record that unveils a Manchester City problem that has persisted for the last few seasons.
Overall, City have missed seven penalties in the Premier League since the start of last season. That is more than any other team in the division and it is worrying.
Some of the misses in the last three years have been quite painful. Sergio Aguero’s miss away at Tottenham ultimately denied City a place in the semi-finals of the Champions League. Expected to face Ajax next, it is very likely the Blues would have graced the final in 2019. Against Liverpool in the final, anything was possible.
Speaking of the Reds, Riyad Mahrez missed a stoppage-time spot-kick against Jurgen Klopp’s side in October 2018. With the game tied at 0-0 Mahrez’s goal would have handed City their first league win at Anfield since 2003.
But as if that was not bad enough, Kevin De Bruyne dragged his shot wide when given another opportunity to beat Klopp’s team at the Etihad Stadium last November. This time the game was tied at 1-1 and De Bruyne could have secured all three points for City with a simple finish.
In the last two campaigns, all of Sergio Aguero, Ilkay Gundogan, Gabriel Jesus, De Bruyne and Sterling have missed from the spot. At this rate, maybe Phil Foden will soon be called upon to try his luck. But what about Ederson who has publicly stated he is the best penalty taker in the team? Should Pep Guardiola hand him the responsibility then?
Or this chopping and changing could be the problem?
A look at some of City’s rivals will show just two players saddled with the responsibility. There is usually one designated penalty taker in any good team. And then, there is a backup. With few exceptions, it is only when the two are not on the pitch that anyone else will be allowed to step up to the plate.
For Chelsea, it is Timo Werner and Jorginho. Harry Kane and Son Heung-min do the honours for Tottenham. Bruno Fernandes reigns supreme at Manchester United supported by Marcos Rashford. Jamie Verdy shines for Leicester City, ably assisted by James Maddison. James Milner is preferred at Liverpool with backup coming from Mohamed Salah. The results for this system speak for themselves with these players enjoying a high conversion rate.
James Milner, for example, has missed just two of his last 19 kicks. His last miss came in November 2017 while Salah has buried all of his last six takes into the back of the net.
City and Guardiola may need to copy the winning strategy. If De Bruyne and Aguero are the designated penalty takers, then so be it. Others can be considered occasionally when both players are not on the pitch or for any other reason. That should solve this growing problem once and for all.