Atalanta 0-0 Inter: Nerazzurri's Serie A winning streak comes to a halt

By Sports Desk January 16, 2022

Inter's run of eight straight Serie A wins came to an end on Sunday as the reigning champions were held to a 0-0 draw by Atalanta.

Simone Inzaghi's side won the Supercoppa Italiana in midweek with almost the last kick of the game, but there was no such drama at the Gewiss Stadium as the visitors missed the chance to extend their lead at the top of the table.

Edin Dzeko was guilty of a glaring miss in the second half, with Inter failing to score in a league game for the first time this season. 

The result means Inter remain top – two points clear of bitter rivals Milan – while Atalanta stay fourth, one point ahead of Juventus.

Inter dominated possession in the early stages, but did not threaten the Atalanta goal until the 26th minute when Juan Musso superbly pawed away Alexis Sanchez's powerful strike.

Atalanta had to wait until the 39th minute for their first effort on target, Matteo Pessina's header comfortably kept out by Samir Handanovic.

The Inter goalkeeper denied Pessina again soon after the interval, racing off his line to thwart the forward after an incisive move from the hosts. 

Dzeko's attempt was repelled by Musso at the other end and the 35-year-old inexplicably headed over from four yards with 20 minutes remaining. 

Handanovic superbly denied Luis Muriel in the 80th minute after Alessandro Bastoni had been caught out, while Danilo D'Ambrosio squandered the opportunity to seal all three points for the visitors late on when he fired into the side netting with only Musso to beat

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  • Man City champions 2021-22: Will Haaland improve them? Man City champions 2021-22: Will Haaland improve them?

    Manchester City have been crowned Premier League champions for the fourth time in five seasons, seeing off a spirited challenge from Liverpool.

    Pep Guardiola's men may not have won as many trophies as they would have liked this season, but they have been exceptional in defence of their league title in the face of stiff competition.

    If City were not already intimidating enough, they will be adding one of the best strikers in world football to their ranks next season in the shape of Erling Haaland.

    The lethal Norwegian will surely come in and plunder plenty of goals, just as he has in the Bundesliga at Borussia Dortmund before his £51million (€60m) move to the Etihad Stadium.

    However, will his arrival realistically improve them all that much, or more to the point, can it?

    That may sound like a ridiculous question, but looking at City's output this season, they have left themselves with very little room for improvement such are the levels they have consistently reached.

    Stats Perform has broken down the numbers to try to predict just what kind of impact the impressive 21-year-old is likely to make in Manchester next season.

    What Man City need

    It has been a popular opinion that City have achieved what they have in the league in spite of not having a traditional striker.

    Since Sergio Aguero left at the end of last season, Guardiola has mostly gone with any three of Jack Grealish, Raheem Sterling, Phil Foden, Riyad Mahrez and Gabriel Jesus in attack.

    They did spend a lot of time ahead of this season trying to lure Harry Kane from Tottenham, but failing to do so has arguably allowed them to find another way to break down opposition teams. 

    Playing without a striker, City have still clinched the league title while collecting 93 points, the third-biggest total they have ever achieved, and scored 99 goals.

    By not having an obvious focal point, it has been tricky for the opposition to know who is supposed to be on the end of attacks, and given none of those mentioned has scored more than 11 non-penalty goals in the league, that seems to have been the plan all along.

    The perception might be that Guardiola's team have become less direct without a striker, and while that was true last season when Aguero played just 12 league games (seven starts) and they averaged a shot every 42.82 passes, and a goal every 309.05 passes, that came down to a shot every 36.63 passes this season, and a goal every 263.85.

    Given Aguero's injury issues in his final campaign at City, you could argue the last time they regularly played with a striker was the 2019-20 season, which was the last time they did not win the league and collected only 81 points.

    Since Guardiola arrived at the Etihad until the end of that season, his team averaged a shot every 38.10 passes, and a goal every 271.16, so they have possibly become more direct this term than they were with Aguero in the team.

    By comparison, you may assume Haaland has been playing for a more direct team in Marco Rose's Dortmund, and this season in the Bundesliga, BVB scored once every 230.95 passes.

    However, they actually only took a shot at goal once every 43.34 passes, so if anything it seems City are more direct than Dortmund, or maybe German teams are simply better organised defensively to stop shots.

    What Haaland can bring

    When you think of Haaland, you think of those direct and explosive runs into the penalty area, usually followed by emphatic finishes. When you think of City, you, erm, don't.

    His addition could mean a change in style for the English champions, and the thought of Haaland getting on the end of the ridiculous range of passing from Kevin De Bruyne does indeed make the mouth water.

    Do City as a team generally produce more with an orthodox striker, though?

    Their record with and without Aguero makes for interesting reading. In the Premier League, the Argentine made 125 appearances under Guardiola, while City played 65 games without him.

    In that time, they actually had a win percentage of 72.0 with him and 76.9 without, and even had a slightly better goal average (2.4 goals per game with, 2.5 without).

    It is almost just as interesting to see Dortmund's record with and without Haaland. Since signing for the German club in January 2020, he has played 67 games, with Dortmund winning 65.7 per cent and averaging 2.4 goals for. Without him, they won just 61.1 per cent, though averaging only a slightly fewer 2.2 goals for.

    It is questionable therefore whether the addition of Haaland will actually generate many if any more wins than they currently enjoy, but will he suit the way City play and can he add to their already impressive haul of goals?

    Despite scoring more than any other team in the Premier League this season, no side missed more big chances (a chance from which a goal would normally be expected) than City's 65, though only Liverpool (97) created more than their 87.

    City finished fifth in the league for big chance conversion (46.72), and so they will be hoping that part of what Haaland will bring them is putting more of those opportunities away.

    In terms of finishing off big chances in the Bundesliga, nobody who scored at least five goals could match Haaland's incredible rate of 78.26 per cent, with even Bayern Munich great Robert Lewandowski only managing 46.67 per cent.

    It must be noted though that Haaland's big chance conversion went down to 42.86 per cent in the Champions League, which is probably where City will hope he can make the biggest difference.

    The league has not been their issue this season, though, rather the big games in cup competitions.

    Their defeat to Liverpool in the FA Cup semi-final at Wembley was relatively convincing, despite the 3-2 scoreline. With an xG (expected goals) of 1.75, it was more their leakiness at the other end that was their undoing, going in 3-0 down at half-time.

    However, it is the Champions League where their biggest letdown occurred, despite what City fans will tell you about their apparent disdain for the competition.

    Heading into injury time at the Santiago Bernabeu, City were 5-3 up on aggregate, only to somehow concede twice in two minutes, before a Karim Benzema penalty put them out at the semi-final stage.

    Perhaps Haaland could have made a difference, particularly in that second leg where City slightly underperformed their xG of 1.37, though they did score four in the first leg off an xG of 2.70.

    Again, you could argue it was more the defence that let them down, somehow conceding six goals despite largely dominating both legs, but in those key moments where City missed golden opportunities, you would think Haaland would have had more ice in his veins.

    Match made in heaven?

    How could one of the deadliest strikers in Europe not be a good signing? Haaland will almost certainly be a fan favourite and score plenty of goals in the sky blue of his father's former team.

    In the league, it seems likelier he will more or less replace the goals of others rather than add to what they are already producing. It would be surprising to see the likes of Sterling, Mahrez, Foden and even De Bruyne score as many as they have this season if Haaland is already banging them in.

    However, those fine margins in the cups could well be where he comes into his own, with Haaland either scoring important goals himself, or distracting defenders so that others can do the honours.

    It will be interesting to see how City play with a striker, as it of course will mean they line up with one fewer attacking midfielder and will they therefore be able to dominate quite as much as they currently do?

    Either way, it is difficult to see how they can do anything other than continue to be dominant with the big Norwegian around as Premier League defenders await what promises to be a busy season from August onwards.

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    Burnley were relegated from the Premier League after Leeds United dramatically defeated Brentford to leapfrog the Clarets, who fell to a 2-1 loss to Newcastle United on the final day.

    Leeds headed into Sunday needing to better Burnley's result due to an inferior goal difference and they were celebrating as news filtered through of Callum Wilson's first-half penalty for Newcastle.

    Raphinha converted from the penalty spot at Brentford in the second half to further aid Leeds' cause, with Wilson doubling Newcastle's lead on the hour at Turf Moor after a pass from Allan Saint-Maximin.

    However, Maxwel Cornet reduced the deficit for Burnley when he finished past Martin Dubravka and matters worsened significantly for Leeds when substitute Sergi Canos headed to level for Brentford.

    But Canos was cautioned for celebrating by taking his shirt off and then dismissed soon after for a foul on Raphinha, with Brentford reduced to nine men after making all their substitutes when they lost Kristoffer Ajer to injury.

    And Jack Harrison confirmed Leeds' Premier League status for next season as he smashed in after 94 minutes. It was the Whites' fourth stoppage-time winner in the Premier League, no team this season has scored more.

    It meant Leeds became the first side since Wigan in the 2010-11 Premier League season to head into the final day in the bottom three and survive, as Burnley join Norwich City and Watford in the Championship next term.

  • Guardiola reigns again and a set-piece masterclass – Man City's Premier League title triumph in numbers Guardiola reigns again and a set-piece masterclass – Man City's Premier League title triumph in numbers

    Manchester City are Premier League champions for a fourth time in five seasons, and a sixth time overall, after beating Aston Villa 3-2 in remarkable fashion on Sunday to hold off Liverpool.

    City are now in front of Chelsea (five titles) as the competition's outright second most successful side and behind only Manchester United, who have lifted the title 13 times.

    Indeed, only United (20), Liverpool (19), Arsenal (13) and Everton (nine) have won more titles in the history of the English top flight, dating back to 1888, than eight-time winners City.

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    PEP PREVAILS ONCE MORE

    City have won four of the past five Premier League titles, which is a level of dominance not seen in the competition since United lifted the trophy in 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2011.

    Pep Guardiola has been at the helm for those four most recent triumphs, making him the fourth coach in English top-flight history to win four titles over a five-season period.

    He is in quite some company, too, with Alex Ferguson (United), Bob Paisley (Liverpool) and George Ramsey (Villa) the other names on that list. 

    The Catalan is only the eighth man to win as many as four English top-flight titles, while only Ferguson (13) has ever lifted the Premier League more times.

    Following equally successful stints with Barcelona and Bayern Munich, Guardiola has now won the title in 10 of his 13 seasons as a top-flight manager.

    To put that into some context, Massimiliano Allegri (6) is the sole other coach to have won more than five league crowns in that period across Europe's top five leagues.

    CATCH US IF YOU CAN

    City may have been pushed all the way in the end, but they spent 168 days at the summit – 98 more than any other team, and 157 more than valiant runners-up Liverpool.

    The 2021-22 campaign did not get off to the best of starts for City, though, as they lost 1-0 at Tottenham on the opening weekend, with that one of only three losses all season.

    That makes the Citizens only the fourth side in the Premier League era to lose their opening match yet still go on to win the title, and the 15th overall in English top-flight history.

    CITY FALL JUST SHORT OF OWN RECORD

    City had to do it the hard way. They were 2-0 down to Villa and matters looked bleak, but Ilkay Gundogan inspired a comeback for the ages.

    It means City end the season with a positive goal difference of 73.

    That is the second-highest goal difference in Premier League history, behind only their own mark of +79 in 2017-18 when scoring a record 106 goals and conceding 27.

    The 26 goals conceded by City this term is an impressive return, though it is well short of the 15 let in by Chelsea in 2004-05.

    GOALS GALORE

    City may not have had a player who seriously challenged for the Golden Boot award, but the workload was shared with 16 different players registering a goal.

    Set-pieces proved an important source of goals for the champions, who netted 22 times from corners and free-kicks, while conceding just once in this manner.

    Their positive differential of 21 goals between set-piece goals scored and conceded is the largest on record in the Premier League since such data was first collected in 2008-09.

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