Sergio Aguero had xG bandits on string against Chelsea when he scored from way downtown just six minutes after missing an open goal.
The Argentinian’s glaring miss was abnormal not just for Aguero, who moved to 17 league goals for the season with his record-equalling hat-trick, but for the entire City attack.
This season, Pep Guardiola’s players have mastered the art of scoring open goals. That’s harder than it sounds when you’re up against the best defences England has to offer.
True, your grandma would’ve scored some of the goals City have tucked in this season. But to get your grandma in the position to score them in the first place is where the magic happens.
Twenty-one of City’s 74 Premier League goals have been scored from inside the six-yard box. That’s five more than Liverpool, the league’s second-most prolific side from that range, and works out at 28.4%.
Only Burnley (44.8%), Cardiff City (33.3%) and Brighton (28.6%) have scored a higher percentage of goals from inside the six-yard box, although that can be attributed to the aerial prowess of Ashley Barnes, Callum Paterson, Glenn Murray and co.
If you stacked City’s attacking option on top of each other they’d still struggle to beat Ryan Fraser in the air. Good job everyone is equal when the ball’s being pulled back on the floor following a rapid exchange of passes.
The difficulty with playing against Guardiola’s City outfit is that you’re never sure who, or where, to mark.
In midfield, Kevin De Bruyne is comfortable both dropping deep to pick you off with passes and dribbling the ball into the final third. David Silva floats around the pitch like a silent assassin, while Ilkay Gundogan combines the role of a no.6, no.8 and no.10 without missing a beat.
Raheem Sterling, Bernardo Silva and Leroy Sane can be found getting chalk on their boots one moment and overloading the middle the next. As soon as the opposition full-back goes inside with them, you invite Kyle Walker to gallop forward. If the defender stays out wide, the ball gets slipped inside.
You’re relying on famously unreliable wingers to have their wits about them at all times in understanding how to help their full-back out. As Eden Hazard and Marcos Alonso so expertly highlighted, that’s a recipe for disaster.
Pep asks a lot of his wingers when they don’t have the ball. Hitting the penalty spot at just the right moment is a must if you play in a Guardiola side, which is another trait that doesn’t always come naturally for wide players.
He’s been rewarded with thirty league goals and 26 assists from the quartet of Sterling, Sane, Bernardo and Riyad Mahrez. Sterling in particular has shone as an inside forward. The 24-year-old has been involved in 50 Premier League goals since the beginning of last season; truly world-class numbers.
Scoring goals in the Premier League shouldn’t be easy. And it isn’t. But City under Pep have worked hard to perfect the deception. Don’t tell your grandma to lace up her boots just yet.
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