A more clinical finish is needed for Man City to be champions

Manchester City are aiming to take the step from challengers to winners. Ahead of a tough trip to Bolton, we look at five areas they must improve.
Manchester City’s Sergio Aguero, centre, celebrates with Micah Richards after scoring the fourth goal against Swansea last weekend.
Manchester City’s Sergio Aguero, centre, celebrates with Micah Richards after scoring the fourth goal against Swansea last weekend.

Eastlands side are aiming to take the step from challengers to winners. Ahead of a tough trip to Bolton, Richard Jolly looks at five areas they must improve

Score more

It is very basic, but true. Last season Manchester City mustered 60 league goals, with Carlos Tevez responsible for one third of them, and Roberto Mancini has said they will need 10 to 15 more.

In reality, it may be more than that: In the last decade, the average total goals of the champions has been 78, and only in 2009, when Manchester United struck 68 times, has fewer than 70 goals sufficed.

But City only scored four in a game three times in 2010/11 so, together with Sergio Aguero's startling debut against Swansea City, it bodes well that they have already done it once this campaign.

Attack the best

The accusation was unfair at times, but it was levelled nonetheless: City tried to draw 0-0 with their immediate rivals.

Their eight games against England's representatives in the Champions League last season produced only three goals at the right end, including an own goal and a deflection.

While a haul of four points from six against Tottenham was excellent and three against Chelsea proved more than respectable, taking just one apiece against Arsenal and Manchester United could be deemed a result of a lack of ambition.

With one gleaming attacking talent, Aguero, having arrived and another, Samir Nasri, possibly set to join him, there is less reason to be cautious now.

Beat the rest

Obviously a side who excel against their challengers and then defeat their inferiors are formidable. To prosper, City may only need to do one of the two. The chances are that the dropped points that annoyed Mancini the most came from draws at Etihad Stadium, against Blackburn Rovers, Newcastle United, Birmingham City and Fulham, or defeats on their travels, at Sunderland, Wolverhampton Wanderers, Aston Villa and Everton.

Acquiring the ruthlessness to see off the 14 sides who are likely occupy the positions between seventh and 20th is one hallmark of champions.

Rotate

Mancini concedes he has trouble picking his team now, but previously he seemed happiest sticking with the same XI.

In the City manager's defence, injuries to Mario Balotelli, Carlos Tevez and Adam Johnson restricted his ability to rotate last season while the absences of Aleksandar Kolarov, Jerome Boateng, Micah Richards, Kolo Toure and Pablo Zabaleta from the defence had a similar impact, while the long Europa League run was draining.

But some stale performances, such as November's stalemate with Birmingham and February's draw with Fulham, suggested that freshening up the team more often would help.

Finish with a flourish

David Silva's 90th-minute effort at Blackpool last October was a lovely goal. Over the course of the season, however, it would also become apparent it was also unique.

It was the only time City struck in the league after the 81st minute; only they and, coincidentally, Blackpool, did not gain any points courtesy of goals in the last 10 minutes. And in the final 15, City's tally of five goals was a quarter of Manchester United's and Chelsea's.

There is no doubting their neighbours' indelible association with late goals riles, but this is one respect where City would be well advised to copy their rivals.

sports@thenational.ae

Published: August 21, 2011 04:00 AM

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