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Manchester City: Pep Guardiola’s side score five – but do attacking issues run deeper?


Manchester City players celebrate
Manchester City are only the second side in Football League history to win four successive home games by five or more goals against a single opponent in all competitions

It says something about Manchester City’s scoring problems that despite netting five against Burnley for the fourth consecutive home meeting with the Clarets, their tally of 15 from their first nine Premier League games is their worst at this stage since 2010.

For a team that has found scoring so easy under Pep Guardiola – 102, 95 and 106 goals in the past three Premier League seasons – some of the statistics around City’s victory over Sean Dyche’s side are startling.

It was the first time they had scored three times in a Premier League game since the opening day of the season, a stark contrast to 2019-20 when they did it on five occasions in the same number of matches.

It was the first time they had scored three in the first half of a game – and the first time they had scored five in a game – since July.

But perhaps most significantly it was the first time in seven Premier League matches they scored more than once.

Remarkably, going into this weekend City were 12th in the expected goals table, behind the likes of Fulham, West Ham and Brighton, meaning 11 sides have been creating better quality chances than them this season.

Little wonder Guardiola was somewhat dismissive when asked to put into context what the result – and specifically the size of the 5-0 victory – meant.

“It’s one game,” he said. “We have had chances in every game. Today we took them.”

The Aguero factor

In some senses, working out why City have – until Burnley’s arrival – struggled to find the net relative to past years is quite easy.

Sergio Aguero is the club’s record scorer. His longest run without a goal in four seasons under Guardiola is six games. Prior to the start of this campaign, he had scored 118 goals in 162 appearances under the former Barcelona boss.

So far this term, the 32-year-old has made only three starts in all competitions, scoring once, and wasn’t available this weekend.

As BBC Radio Five Live summariser Pat Nevin explained at the end of the game, the theory is once Aguero comes back, City’s scoring problems will be over.

“A lot of people have been saying there’s a bit of a crisis at Manchester City but I’m not quite seeing that,” said the former Scotland international. “With Aguero there they’ll be absolutely fine. Yes they’re not where they were before but they’re not very far away.”

The long-term problem

Few would argue with Nevin’s analysis. However, there is undoubtedly a problem.

Firstly, Aguero has struggled to overcome the knee injury he sustained against Burnley in June.

Guardiola has never revealed the precise nature of the injury but he has described it as “complicated”.

The Argentine returned to action last month after a spell out. But in his third game back, at West Ham, he aggravated the problem and had to be replaced at half-time.

Aguero played the final 12 minutes of the Champions League win at Olympiakos on 25 November but three days later was unavailable and, when asked when Aguero would be fit again, Guardiola answered in the vague manner that was reminiscent of his handling of Vincent Kompany in the Belgian’s final season at the club.

“With Sergio it depends how he wakes up,” said Guardiola. “He had a good training session but after that he had some niggles in his knee.

“It is day by day. Yesterday I decided he wasn’t going to be selected because he needs more training. This morning he woke up with a problem in his knee and he could not train.

“We know the injury he had is not easy. We have to handle it as best as possible. When he is ready he will start to train with us.”

This uncertainty is bound to be focusing minds for both club and player when it comes to Aguero’s contract situation.

His deal ends in June, the same month as he celebrates his 33rd birthday. Guardiola has previously said that, after the service he has given the club, the striker has earned the right to decide whether he stays or goes.

But without him, City have struggled. Until Riyad Mahrez’s hat-trick against Burnley, no-one had scored more than twice in the league this season.

Evidently, it is not enough.

PlayerGoalsAssistsPlayed
Raheem Sterling5414
Ferran Torres 5212
Phil Foden4313
Riyad Mahrez4113
Gabriel Jesus 316

“Gabriel [Jesus] has to score goals, [Raheem] Sterling when he plays has to score goals,” said Guardiola. “They haven’t scored much. They have to score goals. That is the reason why they are here and play up front.”

The implication is clear. If they don’t start scoring, he will find someone who will.

After extending his contract by an extra two years, this should come as no surprise, certainly not to Karen Carney, who feels the purse strings will be opened to help Guardiola make City English football’s dominant force again.

“Pep signed a new contract because he’s going to have a war chest,” the former England international told BBC Sport’s Final Score. “He knows he has to bring someone else in other than Aguero. He knows he needs someone who’s going to put the ball in the back of the net and relieve the pressure on the other City players.

“When they won the title back to back they spent £250m net. I think they’ve only spent £50m net in the past couple of seasons. That’s still a lot, but with the money they haven’t really added, all they’ve done is replaced. I think they need to freshen that squad up.”

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