Pep Guardiola v Manuel Pellegrini: A Statistical Analysis of Manchester City in August 2015 v August 2016

Pep Guardiola has revitalised Manchester City, but by taking a look at statistics, we can draw a few inferences from Manchester City in August 2015 v August 2016.

Before Pep Guardiola’s era got underway, apprehensions were aplenty and none of us knew whether Manchester City will hit the ground running, under a demanding manager whose tactics and style of play, in particular, were expected to take time to reach the quality players in the City ranks. We cannot forget that Guardiola’s arrival infused a great deal of excitement too, amid the Manchester City fans, an element which probably dwarfed the apprehensions and one that was missing for a majority of Manuel Pellegrini’s final season at the Etihad Stadium.

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The 2013/14 English champions, in their season opener against Sunderland, provided a glimpse of the style of football Guardiola had instilled in just over five weeks after being unveiled as the new Manchester City manager and one they were going to play. City’s opponents on August 13th, 2016, seemed confounded by the positioning of City players, particularly the full-backs, Bacary Sagna and Gael Clichy, who were tucked inside and gave City the look of a 2-3-4-1 formation in possession. City started well against the Black Cats but fizzled out as the game progressed. At the end of 90 minutes, however, they had made a winning start under Guardiola, beating Sunderland 2-1 at home.

Now, City’s playing style gradually improved after the home clash against David Moyes’ men. And, barring the return-leg of their UEFA Champions League playoff tie against Steaua Bucuresti, City have been rather intriguing to watch and we can even go to the extent of saying that Guardiola’s City were a sight to behold, in the three other games they played during August 2016: Steaua Bucharest (away), Stoke City (away) and West Ham United (home). The signs are good for City, who have major tests coming up and will consequently have to transcend their game.

And, on that note, here’s an article you might want to read: Manchester City Have Plenty of Scope for Improvement, Despite Solid Start

Focussing on Manchester City’s performances during the month of August, however, let us take a statistical look at Manchester City in August 2015 v August 2016, under two different managers who demand contrasting playing styles. Continue reading.

Manchester City in August 2015 v August 2016

Some would have seen Manchester City’s first three Premier League fixtures of the 2016/17 season, against Sunderland (home), Stoke City (away) and West Ham (home), and said: Guardiola and Manchester City have a tough, tricky start. But, in retrospect, none of the fixtures mentioned above was challenging for City as such. Yes, Guardiola’s Manchester City were dominant and played an attractive brand of football, but were they tested? No, at least not as much as City would have expected to themselves.

Also, the Potters and Hammers had stronger starting line-ups for their respective clashes against City last season than the ones which faced the Etihad outfit on 20th August 2016 and 28th August 2016, respectively. Xherdan Shaqiri’s absence due to a calf injury and Dimitri Payet, also out due to an injury, in particular, blunted their teams’ attacks. The creativity and match-winning abilities of Shaqiri and Payet will have given their respective teams more of a cutting edge than what a Shaqiri-less Stoke and Payet-less West Ham exuded against City.

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The sequence of West Bromwich Albion (away), Chelsea (home), Everton (away), and Watford (home) was also a tough one, to start the 2015/16 season. But the difference was the City players had played under Pellegrini for two full seasons and knew the former manager’s philosophy inside out. This season, though, a lot of the players—Sergio Aguero, David Silva, Pablo Zabaleta, Aleksandar Kolarov, Clichy, etc.—who were coached by Roberto Mancini and Pellegrini, have had to adapt, quite drastically, to Guardiola’s philosophy and the change in City’s playing style so far this season, has been the marquee feature.

In terms of results, most importantly, City have a 100% win record so far in Guardiola’s first season, just as they had 12 months ago, when Pellegrini’s men did not have to play the UEFA Champions League playoff tie either, during August. City scored 10 goals from their first four league fixtures, against West Brom (0-3), Chelsea (3-0), Everton (0-2), and Watford (2-0) and as you can see, had kept four clean sheets too, as their defence, led by a resurgent Vincent Kompany, stood strong and was impenetrable.

Delving further, Pellegrini’s men had a whopping 72 attempts on goal and created 58 goal scoring chances, as well, proving their dominance against good Premier League opposition. City’s average ball possession in the quartet league fixtures in August 2015 was 52.5%.

If we stack those stats up against Manchester City in August 2016, a month in which the Cityzens have played a league game less than they had 12 months ago but had to play in the two-legged UEFA Champions League playoff tie against Steaua Bucuresti, we have some interesting observations.

Guardiola’s men have scored a goal (nine) more than Pellegrini’s men had done (eight) in their first three league fixtures of the 15/16 season and with their 6-0 aggregate win over Steaua Bucharest, Manchester City’s 2016/17 season goal tally stands at 15, an average of three goals/game. But, the former Barcelona manager’s troops have faltered in other areas: City have conceded a goal in each of their three league fixtures so far and created five chances less (38) than they had (43), under Pellegrini, in their opening three league fixtures in August 2015. If Manchester City want to win the upcoming Manchester Derby and also play well in Europe, they ought to become defensively solid and not look vulnerable to concede a goal every time their opponents attack.

City’s current playing style is such that they will hold on to the ball for long periods during a game and, unsurprisingly, City’s average possession of 60% in their first three league fixtures is 7.5% more than what Pellegrini’s City had achieved 12 months back. Manchester City’s average pass accuracy is 85% this season and that is one percent less than Pellegrini’s side had managed (86%) against West Brom, Chelsea and Everton in August 2015. Coming to attempts on goal, Guardiola’s Manchester City have had four goal attempts (50) less than Pellegrini’s Manchester City had made (54) in their first three league fixtures in August 2015.

Summary

Guardiola’s Manchester City promise to be a fascinating watch for the rest of this season and in the seasons to come too, as they attempt to rewrite the way the English game has been played over the years. They have made a reasonably good start to the 2016/17 season and the Guardiola era, having qualified for the Group stage of the 2016/17 UEFA Champions League, as well, by beating Steaua Bucharest. However, in comparison, Pellegrini’s Manchester City, exactly 12 months ago, were a lot more dominant and fluid, justified by the statistics, although the brand of football favoured by the Chilean manager was a lot simplistic.

What have you made of Guardiola’s Manchester City? Have these statistics given you a different perspective than what you had felt about either Manchester City before reading it?

Have your say in the comments section below.

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