Some of the topics discussed in the blog recently have been fairly heavyweight – City’s recent financial statements and the implications for FFP and so on. This one is utterly self-indulgent: it is me wallowing in the quality, quantity and diversity of the goals we are currently blessed with. Blues, I hope you enjoy. Dippers, with your 17 goals in 13 games and rags (all those one-nils - are you Arsenal in disguise?) read on and weep.
First the stats. In the Premier League, in 14 games so far we have scored 48 goals, 24 at home, 24 away. In our seven trips away from home, won by a margin of four goals or more three times and we have scored three or more goals on five occasions away from home. In total, we have scored three or more goals 11 times in our first 14 games, and scored four or more on six occasions. Only once (Liverpool away) have we failed to score more than one goal. Thirteen different players have scored in the league, the top scorers being Aguero on 11 (without actually playing a full 90 minutes for us yet) Dzeko 10 (you will have seen the stat on the OS the other week clocking him at a goal every 58 minutes he was on the pitch) Balotelli 7 (if you don’t want to do any work today, just go to www.mariobalotelli.com and enjoy) Silva and AJ 4 each, and then Milner (2), Nasri (2) Kompany (2) Yaya (2) and Barry, Savic, Richards and Kolarov with one each. In the premier league alone, we average 3.43 goals per game. At the other end, we have let in 4 goals at home, kept 4 clean sheets in total (slightly worrying that only one clean sheet has been kept away from Eastlands) and conceded 13 goals in total, at an average of 0.93 goals per game.
Statistically, a 3-1 win is basically an average City result in the league this season.
In the other competitions, in a further 9 games (inc. Community Shield) we have scored 17 more goals – Balotelli and Dzeko 3 each, Yaya and Aguero on 2, and a goal each from Lescott, Kolarov, AJ, Nasri, Scapuzzi and Hargreaves and one own goal (arguably two). Our average in the Champions League is not so good, with just 7 goals in our 5 games to date, but even so we have scored more than we have conceded. In the Carling Cup our three games so far have provided eight goals.
In all competitions, then, we have scored 65 goals at an average of 2.83 per game whilst conceding 24 goals in 23 games. In all competitions, our top scorers to date are Dzeko and Aguero on 13 goals, then Balotelli (10) and then AJ on 5. Yaya and Silva have 4 each, Nasri 3. In total, 16 different City players have scored for us this season in one competition or another.
That number of different goal scorers is striking (sorry for the pun). How’s this for a team: Hart, Richards, Kompany, Savic, Kolarov, Barry, Yaya, Silva, Milner, Aguero, Dzeko. That team is a pretty strong line-up, but has been selected purely on the basis of outfield players who have scored a league goal for us – and it doesn’t even feature Mario! And only the centre-backs have scored their goals from set pieces (2 headers for Komps, one for Savic). All the others have scored at least once from open play - even the full backs. So we have got three main strikers who are looking like they will (injuries permitting) end up with 20+ goals in the league this season, plus three or four more who look like they will enter double figures. And when your full backs pop up with real poacher’s goal in the opposition penalty area (Micah vs Newcastle, Kolarov vs Wolves) you know you must be doing something right. 100+ league goals is not just within our grasp, but IMO it would be a major disappointment not to achieve from here on in.
Even more striking has been the sheer quality of some of the finishing. You can use hyperbole like ‘clinical’ and 'surgical’ and it scarcely does it justice. I can barely count the number of times our goals have been precise finishes right into the bottom corner – Balo vs Rags and Birmingham in CC, Aguero against Wigan and Fulham, AJ against Norwich and Villa, Dzeko and Merlin at QPR, Nasri at Wolves, Yaya against Norwich and away at Villareal. As technique goes, it’s brilliant: if a shot is on course to clip the post on its way in and the opposing ‘keeper saves it, fair play to him. But by getting the shot right in the bottom corner you give yourself the best possible chance of scoring, and this season so far it is being done to perfection. We seem pretty hot shooting from distance too. Last season, I can scarcely remember a single City goal scored from distance . This season, they are coming in spades: Aguero against Swansea, Barry vs Bolton, AJ at Blackburn, Dzeko at Spurs and at Wembley vs Rags, Hargreaves, Milner… the list goes on.
Some of my personal favourites have been five- or six-yard tap ins, because the move that preceded them has often been just fantastic. Again I’m spoiled for choice in picking them out, but Dzeko’s first and third at Spuds, Mario’s second and Aguero’s at the swamp (preceded by some gorgeous one-touch passing), Aguero again against Villareal, Dzeko’s against Swansea and Wolves in the CC. Each one has been the result of ‘another flowing City move’ (as Alan Parry said of Aguero’s goal during the 6-1). In a similar vein it has been nice to see poachers on hand to pick up the pieces from goalkeeper parries – Dzeko v Swansea, Mario at Napoli, even Kolarov v Wolves.
Some of the individual skill and inventiveness involved in a goal has been quite brilliant. Aguero against Norwich was a good example – a real goal out of nothing. Then there has been Mario’s overhead against Villa, Dzeko’s sublime header at Spuds, Merlin at QPR, Yaya’s footwork for his second at Villareal. And the quality of some of the assists has been incredible – Silva’s inch perfect pass for Milner vs Everton, Aguero hooking the ball back with an inch to spare for Silva vs Swansea, Nasri’s delivery on a plate for Dzeko at Spurs and for Aguero vs Wigan, AJ’s sublime flick for Aguero at Arsenal, Silva’s reverse passes which led to Mario’s second at the swamp and the Richards penalty v Newcastle, skipping away from 3 for Aguero’s second at Wigan and of course (saving the best till last) THAT pass at the swamp.
One of the interesting things about our goal haul is that some areas which are really productive for other teams – set pieces, headers, direct free kicks – barely register for us. In all competitions (inc Comm Shield) we have scored only two direct free kicks (Kolarov v Napoli and Nasri on Saturday), and we have scored with headers direct from free kicks or corners only four times (Lescott v rags at Wembley, Komps v Villa and at Dippers, Savic at Blackburn). Only two headers from open play – Yaya at QPR and Dzeko at spuds – and three penalties. We have only missed one penalty all season, that from a player whose name I prefer not to mention. We have worked a number of goals from short corners – Yaya v Norwich, Barry at Bolton, and have scored following corners (Mario v Villa, Dzeko’s first at the swamp) . In the league, I make it 41 of our 48 goals have come from open play including short corner routines. Only one of our goals has been really gifted by the opposition – Dzeko’s v Wolves. AJ had some help from a Villa defender but still had a lot to do with the finish, and the one OG we have benefited from was a tap in for Dzeko if Macheno (?) hadn’t beaten him to it. Summing it all up, in open play - especially in the league - we are pretty darn lethal.
It is interesting to compare these stats with last season. Overall, last season we scored 60 league goals, 34 at home, 26 away. We won by 3 goals or more on five occasions, scoring 3 or more ten times in total. In terms of matching these stats this season we are pretty much there or thereabouts already. If that comparison doesn’t leave you satisfied, consider this: according to F365 “in the whole of 2005/06 City only scored 43 goals and in the entirety of 2006/07 they only scored three times in a match on three occasions”. Moreover, of our 60 league goals in season 2010-11, 19 were scored by the Player Who Formerly Wore The No 32 Shirt and 8 were penalties. (Our top scorers otherwise were Mario (6), Yaya (5) AJ and Merlin with 4 each.) Not difficult to conclude that we are actually doing far better without him than we did with him.
A lot of us have been frustrated by the number of goals we have been conceding. It’s interesting to look at the pattern of goals we have conceded, especially in the league. Again, first the stats. In 1260 minutes of play in the league this season, we have been behind for less than 20, in the first half at QPR. We have conceded goals in 10 games. In 8 of those games we were leading by two clear goals when we conceded, and in 6 of them the opposition’s goal came when we were winning 3-0 or more and there were fewer than 25 minutes remaining on the clock (Spuds, rags, Wolves, Barcodes, Villa, Norwich). Each one of the goals we have conceded at home has been when we were 3-0 up and cruising. To put it another way, when the outcome of the game has been truly in the balance, we have conceded only 7 goals in our 14 games. You could say that lack of concentration when we should be home and hosed has been our chief problem in the league this season. Fortunately, so far it has only cost us points once, away at Fulham, when a narrow offside call denied Sergio a hattrick (and from that, surely Fulham would not have found a way back). We could have worse problems.
Finally, there have been some goals which have just had the X factor about them – I can’t do it any more justice than that, but they were just goals that made you smile more than usual, and not just because of the skill involved. Mario’s overhead against Villa had it, so did his off-the-shoulder number against Norwich, and so did his opener at the swamp (if only for the T shirt). Merlin’s nutmeg of De Gea at the swamp (following Dzeko’s nutmeg of Camelface for the assist) is another. Aguero’s second vs Swansea for the sheer ‘wow’ factor, and Dzeko’s second at the swamp - in which he developed the novel technique of smacking it straight at their keeper and watching him jump out of the way - also make the shortlist.
But my personal favourite X factor goal is Aguero’s winner at Arsenal – at the Emirates where we had never won previously. Let’s face it, we had been pretty ordinary all evening: a lot of stuff didn’t come off, Dzeko should have buried a header a few minutes earlier, their 'keeper hadnt made a save all night and Arse looked in all honesty more likely to score than us. Then, a piece of magic on the edge of his own area from Dzeko, a great run and pass to AJ, his wonderful control and flick to set it up for Sergio, and a precision match winning finish. As someone said in one of the post match threads, 14 seconds after Arsenal take a corner, City are ahead. Pretty much the only piece of real quality play from us all evening, but enough to give us the win.
Cometh the hour, cometh the man.