90min

Man City's Blunt Attack Has Been Their Downfall This Season

Vayam Lahoti
It's criminal to suggest that City's forwards haven't been fed enough this season
It's criminal to suggest that City's forwards haven't been fed enough this season / Clive Brunskill/Getty Images
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"They aren't creating enough chances."

"They're missing David Silva, someone who can slow the game down and control the tempo of play."

"They need more creativity in midfield - Kevin De Bruyne looks fatigued and not up to the mark."

Manchester City have failed to hit the heights of previous campaigns and much has been made of their lack of goals this term.

While it was inevitable City would lose the cutting edge provided by David Silva and Leroy Sané following their exits, what has transpired just covers up an issue that has been hiding in plain sight ever since Pep Guardiola took charge of City back in 2016.

In a period where City's midfield has come under fire for supposedly not being creative enough, the forwards have luckily avoided criticism. Riyad Mahrez, Raheem Sterling and Gabriel Jesus, though world class on their day, have been below-par for a large part of the campaign.

In 13 league outings this season, City have drawn five and lost two. The draws have been against West Ham, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester United and most recently West Brom. City's strikers missed a host of gilt-edged chances in all of those fixtures, but not one of those games was drawn because they weren't potent enough in the middle of the park.

The word 'almost' sums up Gabriel Jesus at City - the Brazilian is just not at it, when asked to be the main man
The word 'almost' sums up Gabriel Jesus at City - the Brazilian is just not at it, when asked to be the main man / Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

Ilkay Gundogan and Phil Foden, when given the opportunities, have tried their best to supplement De Bruyne and take some of the burden off the Belgian's shoulders, and they deserve credit. They've been the silver lining during this period, consistently delivering whenever called upon.

On to the losses, then.

The 5-2 drubbing at the hands of Leicester was a defensive horror-show but City seem to have put those issues behind them. This is where it gets interesting - the 2-0 defeat away at Tottenham. A José Mourinho masterclass? Typical Guardiola? We don't have to put a label on it, but City were summed up in a nutshell in north London that afternoon.

Mourinho got one over Guardiola in November
Mourinho got one over Guardiola in November / Pool/Getty Images

Limited, toothless, and rubbish up front. Injuries haven't been kind to City but that excuse can't be bought when it comes to a squad as blessed as City's.

Sergio Aguero has been a big miss for Guardiola - his return to action will be welcome as the festive period gets underway, with squad management as crucial as ever. Jesus is nowhere near as reliable as Aguero and while Guardiola may cart him off with the 'he gives us so much off the ball' agenda, it's not enough. He's a number nine and his main job is to find the back of the net. Jesus doesn't do it as often as required.

He is one of the main reasons for De Bruyne's frustrations as he doesn't seem to have that know-how when asked to put a chance away. He's not ruthless or cold in front of goal. But Jesus gets let off because he's still young and, apparently, finding his feet in Manchester. Just don't mention that he's won two Premier Leagues and a host of cups to go with already.

Sterling and Mahrez are difficult to judge - they can be unbelievably good in one game and incredibly frustrating in the next. Though they have notched a few goals each this season, it's imperative they raise the bar and be the best version of themselves that they can be. They have the best midfielder in the world putting the ball on a plate for them - converting the chances given to them isn't an outrageous demand.

Bernardo Silva has had a pretty eventless year - his only highlight being the ultimate tribute to Liverpool during City's guard of honour to the champions back in July. He has shown positive signs of late, but it's not likely he'll be on Guardiola's mind anytime soon.

He was supposed to be the natural successor to namesake David, but instead remains a mere squad player for a side struggling to score goals.

Raheem's Sterling lack of goals has been a root cause for City's gradual decline this campaign.
Raheem's Sterling lack of goals has been a root cause for City's gradual decline this campaign. / Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

But what about the gaffer? Guardiola can be accused of settling for draws in recent weeks but the number of chances that City fail to put away is staggering. It went under the radar during the title-winning campaigns of 2017/18 and 2018/19, but the sins of their past have finally been unearthed.

Do City need to freshen up personnel if they are serious about mounting a title-challenge? Guardiola has confirmed City won't bring in any players in the January window, so that's out of the window.

This is Guardiola's biggest managerial challenge. He's taught his side how to pass, he's brought players in and shown them what he expects. Now he just needs to teach them how to shoot.

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