Friday, November 23, 2007

Season Summaries--3. Manchester City

3. Manchester City (My preseason prediction: 15th)

Before I get to my summary, I have to try and cover my backside here. When I made my preseason prediction for City, it was before they had even signed Elano or Geovanni or Vedran Corluka, so when you all want to say "I told you so, I said City would be a top-10 team", at least take that into account.

I've said in previous posts that goal differential usually is a stat that doesn't mean much; I think it's a misleading and often meaningless figure. Bolton's top-8 success over the last few years wasn't exactly a masterpiece and their goal differential was usually lower than that of the teams directly above and even below them in the table but they still got the job done. However, when you're talking about the top teams in any given league, their goal differential is usually going to be relatively high simply because they win more games than they lose, and more often than not their margin of victory is at least a couple of goals.

Manchester City's goal differential is +3 right now, which isn't even comparable to those of Manchester United and Arsenal (+17), Chelsea and Portsmouth (+10), or Liverpool (+13), or the top teams City are either above or below in the table. That +3, in fact, is the least goal differential out of anyone in the top 10. That statistic alone tells me that Manchester City won't keep up the current form that's propelled them to 3rd place a third of the way through the season; I believe they are closer to a UEFA Cup spot finisher than a Champions League place finisher and I still think Portsmouth, Blackburn, Aston Villa, and maybe even Everton will finish ahead of the Citizens when all is said and done.

City's perfect home record (7-0-0) is offset by their poor road record (1-2-3; their only win came at West Ham). I know that they're not conceding many goals (13), but they're also not scoring at a high enough rate to compete with the high-flying teams in the Premiership, like Portsmouth, United, Aston Villa, and Arsenal. You simply can't win every game 1-0 like City has done throughout the year; eventually the magic runs out and 1-0 victories become 0-0 or 1-1 draws or even 1-0 losses. Let's also face the fact that aside from a victory over a much-weakened (due to injuries and suspensions) Manchester United side in mid-August and a solid home victory over Aston Villa, City hasn't really even beaten anyone good (West Ham, Derby, Newcastle, Middlesbrough, Birmingham, Bolton, and Sunderland). They've played 3 games against teams I would consider to be equal competition (Blackburn, Villa, and Pompey; they haven't played Everton yet) and taken just four of a possible nine points. We won't even go into their 6-0 hammering at the hands of Chelsea or a 1-0 loss to Arsenal that easily could've been 3-0 or 4-0. Look, I'm not sold on City and they need to start playing better away from home and against teams comparable to them. They also have to figure out a way to score more goals because Elano can't score on a free kick every time, the strikers need to chip in as well. Two goals from Emile Mpenza and just one from big summer signing Rolando Bianchi isn't going to cut it.

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