Pep Guardiola and fourth placed Manchester City’s season, especially what has already been identified as a decisive December has just got a whole lot harder following a harrowing 96 minute slog with a Chelsea side now beginning to pull clear at the top on merit. For a combination of reasons it could have and should have all been so different. For starters, nobody in football outside of the delighted Chelsea camp will this weekend be affording Wythenshawe’s very own suspect device, referee Anthony Taylor much credibility this weekend, that’s for sure.
With the three pivotal occasions upon which Taylor chose to do nothing and preserve Chelsea’s participation in this game, Taylor not only ultimately helped strengthen the league leaders overall position, he gave the watching world another reminder of the pisspoor standard of English football refereeing, most notably a rabbit frozen in the headlight’s reaction toward big decisions. The inconsistencies in arbitration blighting the top flight are myriad. Note how Mike Dean back in August chose to enforce the new shirt tugging in the penalty area rule twice at Stoke only to never do so again. Rest assured that rule will resurrect itself again at key moments in the months to come. Don’t bet on it not being against City my fellow agenda conspiracy theorists.
Ok, that’s another story but Mr. Conte, the Italian touchline Keith Moon and his Chelsea team really should be considering chocolates or flowers for the alleged one time junior Stretford. Nevermind the type of penalty decisions we’ve seen given historically that he turned down, the blatant whistle to lips then bottling of dismissing Barbra Streisand for a classic Luiz dark arts manoeuvre was appalling.
Taylor has statistical form in favouring opposition sides against The Blues since he first took charge of us in a 1-1 draw at Southampton almost 3 years ago to the day. Since then, in 10 fixtures he has whistled his way to booking 20 City players to the opposition’s 10, sending off 2 today with a results record of 4 City wins to 4 losses and 2 draws. Factual food for thought.
In the meantime, one thing Manchester City supporters don’t go into after a defeat is hiding so let’s strip it all down and get to the heart of City’s fourth defeat in 23 games across all competitions. Finishing.
Despite out-passing and out-shooting the resurgent Laandaarn Taarn aristocrats, 541 to 366 passes being of particular note, as has been reflected in what is now a rubbish 9 points dropped in 4 consecutive home league games City are simply not hitting the back of the net enough and are increasingly unable to kill games.
I am going to hit you with some more stats here to underline the fact.
In those four ordeals against Everton, Southampton, Middlesbrough and Chelsea, City have registered a staggering 86 shots to our opponents 33. Chelsea provided 14 of those efforts today. City’s goal to shots ratio being 1 in 22. The most galling aspect of these painful numbers being that infrequently Pep’s men have played some wonderful football but it is patently not delivering title winning results. It would be interesting to expand that ratio out across all 23 games to date. As VMC’s resident statistician I fear the cow’s arse-banjo scenario would be further emphasised.
I still think this is a cause for alarm bells. To his credit, Pep is opting to publicly and stoically defend his players to the hilt in their performances but surely he above all of us will know that his men have got to start taking their chances and taking on the responsibility required because right now an awful lot of hard work is in danger of becoming completely unravelled. Worse still, the squad has been rotated thoroughly to the tune of a pretty good bill of health throughout the season’s opening third but throughout this run we have not been seeing teams off consistently. Furthermore, our record against the top eight teams last season was catastrophic.
To date inside 14 games we have played 7 of the current top ten and beaten 3 of them.
This weekend’s report is self evidently downbeat and I maintain that communication within our defence, let alone an increasing mental indiscipline and lack of focus are also destabilising the cause.
Our goalkeeper, offering up nothing special is still showing way too much of his goal against a one on one breakaway whilst events towards the final whistle, though born of frustration and obvious injustice were thoroughly unprofessional. They played into the hands of Trembling Taylor and present Pep with a selection dilemma throughout December. We are now embarked upon a heavy run of fixtures shorn of key personnel through suspension. This is going to be the month when I believe we will ultimately see whether or not some of our players are actually capable of playing in a Cruyffian system. The jury is out.
All that off my chest, I still expect City to have a strong second half of the season. We have too much quality and meticulous preparation not to. I know it is asking an awful lot of young Gabriel Jesus who is in town this weekend to shoulder the responsibilty of re-energising City’s forward line but his brilliance and enthusiasm could yet prove to be a tonic for the troops.
For the time being we must make sure we are still in the title mix on New Year’s day. Let’s hope this weekend’s chastening lessons have been learned.
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