It is hardly a secret that Manchester City have been the best team in the Premier League this season, but their statistics after 11 games paint an incredible picture of just how superior to their rivals they appear.
City have left a mangled, twisted trail of opponents who have tried every match strategy possible, from bus-parking defences to actually having the temerity to push up and actively attack the Blues’ back line – the only element of their squad that has any semblance of vulnerability attributed to it.
But nothing has worked. Nothing. It’s been a disaster each and every time for everyone who has come up against Pep Guardiola’s side.
How much better have City been than everyone else? Well, even just comparing them to the remaining clubs that typically finish in the top six – Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester United and Tottenham – the differences in statistics are remarkable.
To show just how far above their peers City have been performing, here we examine some key metrics taken from WhoScored.com in four essential categories: passing, attacking, defending and possession.
The sheer volume of passes completed by City combined with their accuracy illustrates not only quantity but also the quality of their dominance.
Their overall passing accuracy of 89.2% is significantly superior to the other five clubs in this comparison. Arsenal with 84.1% are the next best but still over five per cent lower, while Chelsea are a full seven per cent lower (82.2%).
City have averaged 643 completed passes per game so far. That’s completed passes. Arsenal, again, are the next most prolific in this category but with almost 130 fewer completions per game (128).
Chelsea, again at the other end of the spectrum, complete 230 less passes per game (413). City are creating astronomical numbers, which if they are maintained, are likely to lead to new Premier League records.
City have scored an incredible 38 goals in just 11 games, an average of nearly three and a half per game. What makes that figure even more impressive is the economical way in which they accumulate goals, needing barely five shots per goal.
This is so superior to all other clubs that for every 100 shots attempted, Arsenal, Liverpool and Tottenham would score between 10 and 11 goals, Chelsea 12-13, Manchester United just under 15, and City 20.
Of course, the ability to create shooting opportunities is paramount to scoring – the more shots, the more goals. But when a team can score so much more efficiently than their opponents – when you need fewer shots per goal – you know you are on to a winner.
Not that City are struggling to get shots off – they are impressing in terms of both quality and quantity. They have had the second highest number of shots per match (17.6) of the six clubs and the highest percentage of on-target shots (43.2%) so far.
Man City maintain possession like no other club in the Premier League. The ability to make surgically-precise passes in tight spaces and to stay in disciplined, attacking zones is essential to a Guardiola team.
One of the first things the Catalan did when he came to Manchester City was to replace Joe Hart because he was uncomfortable with the ball at his feet. Not acceptable. Pep expects his keeper, when needed, to play as a sweeper. Goodbye Joe.
The end result of the Guardiola approach is that City now have players capable of controlling the ball for almost two-thirds of every match – 65.4% (seven per cent more than the next best club). This keeps the opponents chasing the ball and ultimately grinds them down, vulnerable to the relentless, lightning-fast City attack guaranteed to occur repeatedly.
When City lose possession, they are better than any other club in the Premier League at regaining it. They react with an organised, ferocious attack that overwhelms the surprised opponent with an orchestrated swarm to quickly win back the ball.
And at this moment, with the dispossessed opponent most vulnerable, City can begin one of the deadly counterattacks that Guardiola teams are renowned for.
In their first 11 matches, City have allowed their opponents only 69 shots, comfortably the lowest of these six clubs, and have conceded only seven goals, the joint second least after United.
It is Manchester City’s attacking prowess that has been praised most this season. And for good reason. They have scored more than three goals on four occasions in the Premier League already, putting six past Watford and seven past Stoke City. A three-goal haul seems almost anemic these days.
But equally impressive has been City’s defence. In fact, the paucity of opponent shots they have allowed might be considered even more noteworthy.
However, what really sets City apart from their rivals is that they’re producing prodigious performances on both sides of the ball. It is extremely rare for a team to be so outstanding at both ends of the pitch, so much so that it already seems unthinkable they will not win the title this season.
After all, it is the quality in squad depth that Guardiola has at his disposal that raises City above everyone else.
With Sergio Agüero, Gabriel Jesus, Kevin De Bruyne, David Silva, Leroy Sané and Raheem Sterling in their squad, they are the only club so deep in star personnel that they can afford to lose a key attacking player and barely have to worry. The City machine will continue to grind up whatever is the next unfortunate victim in its path.
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