Manchester City players have spent their last two games generating 31 shots but have scored zero goals in return. Against Manchester United and against Tottenham Hotspur, City displayed some of their best passing and creation all season, but in those two games, City also displayed a disturbing lack of finishing ability that is a major concern with Real Madrid looming in the Champions League round of 16.
Manchester City Have a Finishing Problem
Chance After Chance
Both games against Manchester United and Tottenham went exactly the same way. City dominated the early possession, they put both teams under heavy pressure and created significant early chances. Raheem Sterling had chances, Sergio Aguero had chances, Riyad Mahrez had chances as well.
None of them went in. City missed chances in every possible way you can imagine. There were wide-open nets missed, Penalties saved, expected goals from shots improbably missing the mark. It almost felt like Man City had been the victim of some ward placed over the goal to keep them from scoring.
Some of the raw numbers are just staggering. In those two games, City posted a combined 4.5 xG (expected goals) but have zero goals to show for it. They had giant chances like Sterling’s missed one-on-one against David De Gea, or when four City players got past Hugo Lloris. Neither of them were even close to the back of the net.
Why is This Happening?
The obvious next question remains; why have Manchester City suddenly become so bad at finishing? The truth is that City as a team have never been great at finishing. It’s not like anyone would mistake Sterling or Gabriel Jesus for clinical finishers on their best form anyway.
The numbers back that up. Both Sterling and Jesus have a higher Premier League xG number than they do actual goals, and Sterling’s shot on target percentage has dropped significantly. He put 48% of his shots on target last season, while this season he is only getting 30% of his shots on target.
Sterling hasn’t been the only Manchester City player who has been missing the mark. Kevin De Bruyne has been one of the City’s most prolific players this season. Yet, despite 16 league assists, the Belgian has attempted the most shots on the team and only kept a measly 25% of them on target.
Some of those shots are simple miss-hits, but some of those shots are mistakes as well. A lot of great moves look bad when the final decision is incorrect or the final touch is miss-hit, and that’s what we are looking at here; a team creating great chances undone by their own misfortune.
The hardest part about this finishing problem is figuring out how to rectify it. City seem to be doing the right things on every other part of the pitch but they are just not finishing their chances.
Pep Guardiola said it best after the game. “What do we have to do? I don’t know. We are there, we are in the box, in the penalty spot, alone with the keeper with two players and we are not able to score a goal. Maybe one day, we make a click and it changes. The team is good, I like the way they play but it’s not enough.”
That’s Football. You can do everything right as a player or coach and still have to answer questions about what went wrong. While Manchester City’s problem is serious, it’s not impossible for it to fix itself.
But, as Sam Lee wrote in The Athletic: “It is hard to know whether to be encouraged by the quality of the chances created or alarmed at the state of the finishing — and impossible to know how soon it will change.”