Despite beating Liverpool 4-1 in their first Anfield victory since 2003, there is still a big issue that needs solving for Manchester City following last weekend’s game: penalties.
Phil Foden ran the show on Merseyside, popping up as an attacking threat all over the pitch and capping off a remarkable performance with a fine strike to make it 4-1, while Raheem Sterling was a constant menace down the left flank and helped himself to a goal against his former club.
Ilkay Gundogan also continued his recent scoring streak, netting a brace to extend his tally to nine goals in his last 13 games. However, it could have been even sweeter for the Germany international, who missed the chance to open the scoring and potentially set himself up for a hat-trick by blazing a penalty over the bar at the end of the first half.
4 – Four of the last six penalties to have missed the target completely in the Premier League have been by Manchester City players, with three of those coming against Liverpool (Mahrez in October 2018, De Bruyne in November 2020 and Gündoğan today). Blazed. pic.twitter.com/F9xVAf2bde
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) February 7, 2021
That’s now the third penalty City have missed from their six awarded in the Premier League this season, while this particular incident bore similarities to Riyad Mahrez’s miss at the same venue during a 0-0 draw in the 2018/19 campaign. Pep Guardiola joked last year that his side’s record from the spot was so bad that he may even consider Ederson as a potential penalty taker. On Sunday, he revealed that he is now only “half-joking” about taking that measure.
“It’s a problem that we have,” Guardiola said of the Citizens’ penalty record. “In important moments we cannot miss it, and it doesn’t matter the taker.
“Again, I’m going to think about Ederson, he might be the taker next time. When I said it, it was a half-joke! When I commented on this six months ago and it was a joke – now it is a half-joke.”
Of course, should Ederson — who lists penalty-taking goalkeeper Rogerio Ceni as his idol — succumb to the same fate as his teammates and miss a penalty, City could be left wide open to a counter attack with nobody in the net. So, before Guardiola takes radical action, it’s worth comparing his team’s record from the spot with other teams across the continent.
* All stats are compared to teams playing in Europe’s top five leagues to have taken 5+ penalties, with Champions League games included for applicable teams. All data provided by Opta.
Same problem, same outcome
While City’s spot-kick deficiency has been well documented for a while now, it appears little is actually being done to solve the problem. Already this season, the Premier League leaders are halfway toward their total of 14 penalties across league and Champions League play combined in 2019/20. They’ve scored four out of seven this season, compared to eight out of 14 last term, with both coming in at an identical 57% conversion rate.
Of teams from our selected group, only Saint-Etienne, Eibar (both 50%), Marseille (43%), Borussia Dortmund and Fulham (both 40%) have a worse record from the spot than City this season. Furthermore, Guardiola’s men are the only team in this campaign’s bottom 10 penalty-takers to also feature in last season’s bottom 10. In 2019/20, only Valencia (55%), Werder Bremen, Real Valladolid (both 50%), Southampton, Montpellier (both 40%) and Brest (20%) had a worse record, the latter netting just one of their five attempts.
However, it’s only when you take a look across the last two seasons combined that you truly get a sense of how bad City’s penalty record really is. From the selected competitions, only Marseille have a worse penalty conversion rate than the Citizens, with the French club scoring just 54% (seven) of their 13 spot-kicks compared to a record of 12/21 (57%) for Man City. Close in attendance are the likes of Metz (58%), Eibar (63%) and Real Valladolid (64%), but City and Marseille are by far the most high-profile sides with conversion rates worse than 65%.
In fact, so bad is City’s record from the spot that they’re now priced as low as 8/1 with SkyBet to miss a penalty during their upcoming FA Cup match against Swansea City, compared to 17/2 for Chelsea and 16/1 for the likes of Everton and Tottenham.
Are Man City too reliant on injury-prone penalty takers?
An important factor in City’s poor penalty habits might well be the fitness of Kevin De Bruyne and Sergio Aguero. The attacking duo have taken six and five spot-kicks, respectively, over the past two seasons (more than any other player at the club), with each missing just once in the process.
But De Bruyne has missed nine games and counting through injury since the start of last season, while Aguero has sat out a massive 32 games and counting due to various fitness issues. In their absence, Raheem Sterling has missed all three of his penalties across league and Champions League play, Gabriel Jesus has failed with each of his two efforts and Ilkay Gundogan has netted just two of his four. Mahrez has a 100% record during that time period, but has only been allowed to take one penalty.
Perhaps passing on penalty duties to Ederson, who started life as a full-back and has self-professed “shooting skills and good footwork”, might not be a bad idea.
As Ederson himself said back in 2017: “I’m not planning to take the free-kicks, maybe penalties one day!”