Unless you have been living under a rock for the past few months, it has become pretty obvious that the current Manchester City side are one of the most dominant teams in the history of football.
Not just dominant in terms of silverware – they are on track to win a fourth Premier League trophy in five seasons – but in how they play the game.
Thanks in part to the lack of an elite striker in Pep Guardiola’s squad, the Catalan coach has been able to create the most ‘Pep’ side ever seen.
Without an orthodox front man to accommodate he has filled his line-up with technical ball-players, fully capable of executing his positional play approach of seamlessly swapping positions mid-game. Because of this, City have the most well-drilled and ball-hungry attack in the league.
This week The Athletic published a couple of interesting graphs – that bare an uncanny resemblance to Wordle puzzles – that highlighted City’s unique playing style; it’s fair to say that they divided opinion.
The first showed in which areas of the pitch each Premier League team tends to have more touches of the ball than their opponent, thus controlling territory. City average more touches than their opponents in every area of the pitch bar the opposition’s penalty area and their own corner flags. No other team is close to this level of dominance.
Another graph showed the areas of the pitch where teams tended to control possession. This season, Guardiola’s side have averaged 67.6% possession, the most in the division. On average City have more than 55% possession in most zones, again except in the opponents’ penalty area.
In contrast, the only area of the pitch in which Burnley have more than 55% possession is their own goal mouth.
Another piece of fascinating data – although upon reflection, perhaps predictable – was published by The Analyst. Of all 20 Premier League clubs, City’s matches see the ball in play for an average of 60 minutes and 44 seconds (just shy of 63%), the most in the league.
By comparison, Liverpool games (the team with the next highest average) see the ball in play for an average of roughly 58% of the 90 minutes.
City keep the ball in play more than any other side. That, combined with the fact that they enjoy the most possession in the league, means that they play more football than anyone else. How can they be criticized for playing the game?
That is the (not so) secret of how City are capable of brushing aside even the best of opponents. The Blues are simply exhausting to play against, as running around a pitch when your team cannot get the ball is both mentally and physically draining.
When defenses are exhausted gaps start to appear and City have some of the best in the business waiting to exploit them – if they haven’t already racked up a healthy lead.
City’s games can often resemble lunchtime scenes on a school playground. The year eights turn up wanting to play, but the cocky year 11s won’t let them join in. The younger students hang around for a while before they get bored and leave. Given the circumstances, is it any surprise opposition fans find City’s style of playing boring?
Just like you, we can’t get enough of Manchester City! That’s why we’ve decided to supplement our expansive City coverage on the Manchester Evening News with a more fan-oriented platform catered specifically to City fans – City Is Ours.
Writers and presenters who share your passion for the blue side of Manchester will be producing written, visual and audio content to reflect the mood in the stands as well as the press box.
Regardless, City fans don’t care. It’s for us, not for them.
There is a particular beauty in utterly dominating proceedings, crafting beautiful goals and passing opponents into submission. If it’s a beauty only we can see, so be it.
As these graphs show, there has never been a more complete Premier League team than the current incarnation of Guardiola’s reigning champions.
What do you make of City’s style of play? Follow our City Is Ours writer Alex Brotherton on Twitter to get involved in the discussion and give us your thoughts in the comments section below.
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.