EPL

Talking Point: Along come Burnley as Guardiola's Man City eye goals flurry

By Sports Desk November 26, 2020

Pep Guardiola is convinced the floodgates are about to open for his Manchester City team and Saturday's opponents Burnley may already be fearing the worst.

On their last three visits to the Etihad Stadium, Burnley have lost 5-0 on each occasion, with a pair of Premier League thrashings coming either side of an FA Cup trouncing.

Speaking this week, Guardiola said he would need to "find a solution" to his City team's scoring problem, which has seen them net a modest 10 goals in their opening eight Premier League fixtures this season.

He mentioned the importance of fixing "little details", adding: "In one or two games, this kind of thing will get better. The season is still so young and I'm fully optimistic we're going to do a good season."

Given he recently signed a contract extension until the end of the 2022-23 season, City will hope Guardiola's hunch proves correct and the good times return for City.

 

Shots fired, but little damage done

Burnley must look back misty-eyed at the 1-1 draw they secured against City at Turf Moor in February 2018, given that is the most change they have got out of a Guardiola team.

Raheem Sterling missed a sitter in that game before Johann Berg Gudmundsson scored a late equaliser for Burnley, who were one of just six teams to take points off City in their 100-point season.

Since then, City have won by three or more goals in five of the six meetings between the sides, having to settle for a 1-0 victory in the game that was the odd one out.

Phil Foden and Riyad Mahrez both scored twice and David Silva was also on the mark in the most recent 5-0 trouncing, in June, and City's overall Premier League record against Burnley during the Guardiola era shows they have taken 22 points from a possible 24, scoring 23 goals and conceding just four.

City have taken 155 shots in those eight games against the Clarets, of which 57 were on target, while Burnley have returned fire with just 47 attempts, with only 13 of those not going astray.

The Eastlands outfit have taken 125 shots so far this term, which is more than early leaders Tottenham (115) have managed, but their quota of opportunities defined by Opta as 'big chances' is low compared to Jose Mourinho's side.

City have had just 15 big chances so far, to 29 for Tottenham and 33 for Liverpool, and exacerbating their problem at that end of the pitch has been their wastefulness.

Their record is chronically bad when it comes to putting away the big chances, with City converting just 26.67 per cent.

Stand that figure against Tottenham's 62.07 per cent, Liverpool's 48.48 per cent, Chelsea's 60 per cent and Leicester City's 63.64 per cent, and it is easy to see why City are some distance behind the top four.

Indeed, since the 2012-13 season, only three teams have finished a campaign with a lower big-chance conversion rate than City's current mark (Norwich City in 2013-14, Aston Villa in 2014-15, Brighton in 2019-20).

 

Banishing the 'big' problem is City's mission

City's dominance of the rivalry with Burnley does not mean it stands to be repeated in Saturday's game, but Guardiola may have justifiable cause to expect an upturn in the goals return.

It was a matter of months ago that City were polishing off a season in which they had 141 big chances in 38 games (3.7 per game, compared to 1.9 this season), and in which they put away a healthier 41.13 per cent of those opportunities.

That league campaign was considered by some a failure given Liverpool won the title by 18 points, but City's haul of 102 goals was 17 higher than the champions achieved, so scoring was not the area where they were falling down.

City have been without Sergio Aguero for much of the campaign so far due to knee trouble, and with the Argentine striker in their ranks many see them posing a greater goal threat.

What Opta data shows is that City's expected goals per game rises to 2.38 when Aguero plays, compared to 2.14 without him, based on Premier League matches since the start of the 2019-20 campaign.

They have 3.6 big chances per game when Aguero plays, and 3.1 when he does not, but the actual goals per game only inflates slightly, from 2.4 goals to 2.5, when the 32-year-old features.

Others must take responsibility for this malaise. City have missed their last seven big chances - spanning their last four Premier League games - and against Tottenham last time out they had 22 shots at goal.

Sooner or later, the dam will break and City goals will come all at a rush - or at least that is what Guardiola hopes, and must believe, will happen.

The trouble is, City cannot afford to be chasing Liverpool again, or Spurs, Chelsea or Leicester for that matter, in the title race.

If the dam holds against Burnley, and City cannot comfortably beat Sean Dyche's side, who have one win, five points, and a mere four goals this season, then there will be real cause for concern.

Another 5-0 or similar, however, could be the turning-point result that Guardiola senses is coming City's way.

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