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Evolution Or Revolution – Manchester City


Evolution or Revolution is a new series from Stats Perform looking at which teams need only a few tweaks ahead of the 2020/21 season and which require a fundamental reboot. Here, Jamie Kemp looks at the areas Manchester City must address to wrestle the Premier League crown back from Liverpool.

By: Jamie Kemp

Reduce Vulnerability To Big Chances

Given the quality of teams led by Pep Guardiola and Jürgen Klopp, the margins at the top of the Premier League have become incredibly fine in recent seasons

Despite being among the top defensive sides again, Manchester City fell short of denying their opponents to the same extent they had in their previous two title-winning seasons.

The Citizens surrendered their highest Expected Goals against total (37.6) in a Premier League season under Pep Guardiola, a key factor in pegging them back in the title race, and one which not even a return of 102 goals scored could overcome.

Man City xG against Premier League

Manchester City struggled to find continuity in their defensive line, most specifically in the centre back position. While Fernandinho vacated his typical defensive midfield role to act as a centre back in 2019/20, John Stones and Nicolás Otamendi both started fewer than half of their league games last season. Aymeric Laporte – City’s clear first choice centre back – missed a large portion of the season through injury.

Further to Manchester City’s struggles in defensive terms, they also saw an increase in ‘Big Chances’ conceded last season. These are defined as situations where a player should reasonably be expected to score, usually in a one-on-one scenario or from very close range when the ball has a clear path to goal and there is low to moderate pressure on the shooter.

Man City Big Chances Conceded

Stats Perform Verdict: Evolution Required

Stopping Goals From Range

Another area in which Manchester City will look to improve next season is the number of goals conceded from range. Guardiola’s side conceded nine goals from outside the box in the Premier League last season; a total surpassed by only three other teams. By comparison, eventual title winners Liverpool conceded just two in this fashion.

Since the Spaniard took charge of the club ahead of the 2016/17 season, 45% of the goals they have conceded from outside the box in the Premier League were scored last season (9/20).

City’s total in 2019/20 was more than in their previous two title-winning seasons combined – a period which overlaps with Fernandinho transitioning from playing in a protective midfield role to that of a centre back.

Man City goals against 2019/20 Premier League

The most notable aspect of Manchester City conceding so frequently from outside the box was the number of shots they actually allowed. They were the only team to concede fewer than 100 shots from outside the box in the Premier League last season, yet more than 10% of these efforts found the back of the net – a league-high rate.

Goals Conceded From Outside The Box 2019/20

Team  Goals Conceded (Outside The box)Shots Conceded (Outside The Box)%
Manchester City98011.3%
Aston Villa112095.3%
Brighton and Hove Albion71534.6%
Stats Perform Verdict: Evolution Required

Preserve Continuity In The Starting XI

One of the more peculiar parts of Manchester City’s Premier League campaign was the frequency with which starting XI’s were altered. In total, Pep Guardiola’s side made 144 line-up changes last season; the joint-most by a team in a single campaign in the competition’s history, along with Manchester United in the first season following Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement.

Of course, not all of these were influenced by managerial decisions. Injuries and suspensions played their part, yet their workload in terms of games played across all competitions was not unique. Manchester City and Wolves both played 59 games in total last season, yet the Citizens made 86 more changes than the Midlanders to starting XI’s.

Man City total starting XI changes

Although they rotated their starting line-up much more than any other side, only two teams actually used fewer players than Manchester City last season. With the luxury of owning a squad full of high-level performers, it’s also an inevitable reality that they have to balance providing opportunities with preserving the continuity of the team.

Premier League 2019/20 - Total Players Used

TeamTotal Players Used
Wolverhampton Wanderers21
Manchester City24

Man City Squad Matrix: Age vs. Mins

Since Manchester City won their last Premier League title prior to Pep Guardiola’s arrival – under Manuel Pellegrini in 2013/14 – the average for starting XI changes made by title winners in the competition has been 81.

Total Starting XI Changes - Title Winners

SeasonTitle WinnerTotal Starting XI Changes
Season 2019/2020Liverpool82
Season 2018/2019Manchester City109
Season 2017/2018Manchester City99
Season 2016/2017Chelsea53
Season 2015/2016Leicester City33
Season 2014/2015Chelsea86
Season 2013/2014Manchester City106
Stats Perform Verdict: Evolution Required

As the club look to return to title contention next season, their attacking strength has never been in question. Now, though Manchester City are reportedly eyeing up the ultimate transfer, the one move to rule them all: Lionel Messi. The potential availability of the best player in the world would be the most frightening addition to the league’s already most potent attack.

With the hopes of pushing Liverpool much closer than they managed in 2019/20, Manchester City may well look to the improved stability of their starting line-ups, as well as shoring up the defence, as key factors in their success.

Review other pieces in this series:
Manchester United
Tottenham Hotspur
Leicester City
Leeds United
West Brom

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