Chances have come and gone for Manchester City in recent weeks and they need to rediscover a ruthless edge in front of goal to close the gap in the title race
It seems a strange thing to say about a team who have scored 160 goals in their last 48 Premier League games, but putting their chances away is becoming an area of mild concern for Manchester City.
There is plenty of work on finishing going on at the Etihad Campus, as Leroy Sane has explained, but in recent weeks practice hasn’t made perfect during matches.
It was a point highlighted by Pep Guardiola in the bowels of St Mary’s Stadium on Sunday after his side had beaten Southampton 3-1 to get their title defence back on track.
Victory closed the gap on Liverpool to seven points but there was a brief spell after Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg’s equaliser where you feared City were going to be punished for their profligacy in front of goal.
Chances had come and gone in a fine opening salvo from City, with only David Silva’s goal to show for it. The Spaniard had missed a glorious chance of his own, denied by Alex McCarthy, while Riyad Mahrez and Sergio Aguero also passed up good opportunities.
n the end City weren’t made to pay this time, with Sterling’s cross diverted into his own net by James Ward-Prowse and Aguero heading in a third.
Guardiola raised the issue of missed chances after the game though and he knows City have to be more ruthless in front of goal, making the point he felt his side could have had netted more than the record-breaking tally of 106 they managed last season.
“We missed a lot of chances. The game could’ve been six or seven,” Guardiola said after the Southampton win.
“We have to score (more). Liverpool are not going to give us this amount of chances. I’ve always had this feeling. We scored 106 goals last season – the best ever – but I thought we had to score more.”
There’s not a great deal Guardiola and his coaching staff can do to rectify this. City created good chances on Sunday, but despite the work on the training ground they aren’t taking them.
The encouragement for City will be that if they can rediscover that ruthless edge and go on a hot streak, the results will soon follow.
City will also be buoyed by the number of chances they did create on the south coast, with their shots tally noticeably down in recent weeks.
Of course it’s the quality of shots that is just as key as the quantity, but the Blues’ last seven Premier League games have seen them take 91 shots, at an average of 13 a game, producing two goals a game.
That’s a marked contrast to the first 13 Premier League games of the season, up to and including the 4-0 thrashing of West Ham, when Guardiola’s side had 235 shots at an average of over 18 a game, producing 3.15 goals a game.
The absence of Aguero has hurt City in front of goal, with Gabriel Jesus off colour aside from his double against Everton, but the Argentine has been guilty of missing some chances recently.
Guardiola will be hoping City’s record goalscorer can find his own scoring touch to inspire an improvement in the rest of his side in front of goal. As the Blues boss pointed out, the wastefulness can’t extend into Thursday’s night.