x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Manchester City defy all expectations

Look at the statistics and you can see why City will not win the league. The main reason is that they do not score enough goals.

Manchester City’s Carlos Tevez, right, shoots at goal past Manchester United’s Rio Ferdinand on Wednesday night.
Manchester City’s Carlos Tevez, right, shoots at goal past Manchester United’s Rio Ferdinand on Wednesday night.

Manchester City cannot win the Premier League if they continue to play like they did against Manchester United on Wednesday night.

I expected City to attack United and go for a win. Instead they played a defensive formation that saw their full-backs rarely cross the halfway line. That would have been fine had they been playing at Old Trafford, where you know that United are going to attack from the first minute, but City were the home team.

I expected them to want revenge for three defeats at the hands of United last season. Instead, I saw a fearful team in awe of their opponents, despite United missing key players.

I expected City's players and manager to be up for the game, to see it as a chance to show the world that City could play and beat their biggest rivals and justify the huge amount of hype surrounding the match.

Instead, City seemed happy with a draw. Roberto Mancini claimed that his side went for a win. I am not having it. When he made a 92nd-minute substitution, it was the act of a man trying to kill time. His players gave United too much respect and they are far too reliant on Carlos Tevez. He was industrious and tried to create openings, but it was almost impossible when his teammates were playing so deep - though I should credit United's defence with making it look so easy.

Yaya Toure tried to be inventive in a more forward role. He is strong and deceptively quick, but he is not a forward. And, as always, City raise more questions than answers.

Look at the statistics and you can see why City will not win the league. The main reason is that they do not score enough goals. City have scored 15 times in 12 league games so far this season. Chelsea, United and Arsenal, the three teams above them, have scored 28, 24 and 24, respectively. That is a huge difference. Even Blackpool, in 14th place, have scored four more goals than City.

And look at the source of those goals. Tevez has got seven. He is a wonderful player, but City's goals need to come from more than one man. Their next-highest scorer is Mario Balotelli with the two goals he got against West Brom last weekend. Not one midfielder has scored more than a single goal. It is simply not good enough for a side with title aspirations.

City's midfield work hard, but they are not creative enough and for that reason I think a top-four finish is more realistic. The players are not playing like a side that want to win the league, but aiming for anything less has dangers and City have to be careful that there is not a repeat of last season, when they finished outside the top four. It would be a big failure if they did not end up in the top four this time, given the huge outlay on players.

Mancini was pleased with the 0-0 draw. He is Italian, he would be, but he also claimed that his team were tired. From what, exactly? They have a huge squad. And wasn't it United who flew to another continent for a game last week, not City?

While City have noticed Tevez's absence, I think United have done well without Wayne Rooney. Dimitar Berbatov may not be scoring but he is playing well. Ji-Sung Park weighed in with a couple of goals last week and always does a job, but if Rooney comes back and plays like he has in the last couple of years, then United will be stronger. They are already in a better position than last season because Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand are back playing together.

Paul Scholes played well against City, although his tackling raises eyebrows. But more than anything he was part of a team, part of a tried, tested and experienced side who are comfortable with each other.

Some United fans have complained that there have not been enough big-name signings, but Sir Alex Ferguson is happy with his squad and I respect that. United will get stronger this season like they do in the second half of every season. They were unlucky not to win against City and, if they keep playing like that, then I honestly think they can win the league.

City? I think they are a few years away from being champions. They're making progress and hold their nerve against the best teams, but they are still well short of being a title-winning side. Will Mancini have a few years to do that job? That is for others to decide.

 

Andrew Cole is the second leading goalscorer in Premier League history. His column is written with the assistance of European football correspondent Andy Mitten.

 

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