Unrecognisable Mahrez & Man City Need A Statement Performance Vs Liverpool - 9jaflaver

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Unrecognisable Mahrez & Man City Need A Statement Performance Vs Liverpool

The numbers reveal a sharp decline in the Algerian’s end-product, which doesn’t bode well for the Reds’ visit…and indeed for 20/21

Ask anyone close to Manchester City about recent performances and results, and they are likely to say the same thing: Pep Guardiola’s team are far away from their swashbuckling best in 2017/18 and a year later when they retained their Premier League crown.

Undoubtedly, the malaise that began since the start of last season went on to worsen throughout 2019/20 and ultimately ended in disappointment, with Pep’s side failing to win three league titles on the trot or challenge on the continent.

Of course, both feats were always going to be demanding but what disappointed wasn’t that the Manchester outfit couldn’t retain their crown but how it happened. They finished a staggering 18 points behind Jurgen Klopp’s side after being realistically out of the title race in December, while they exited in the Champions League in exasperating fashion against Olympique Lyonnais.

Key to their top showings last season was Kevin De Bruyne — who eventually matched Thierry Henry’s Prem assist haul — and Riyad Mahrez, who wasn’t as lauded as the Belgium attacking midfielder.

This was surprising to an extent given how decisive the African champion was in many games pre-lockdown — including a dominant UCL first-leg win over Real Madrid despite an absence of goal contributions — before falling off a bit since June.

Mahrez’s drop off can be traced to his exclusion from Guardiola’s line-ups following disappointing showings against Newcastle United and Arsenal in the FA Cup quarter-final and semi-final respectively. The Algerian was tipped to be left out vs Los Blancos but he hasn’t seemed to recover since.

Admittedly, the wide attacker’s preparations were curbed by a positive coronavirus test just before the season started, meaning the former Leicester City man has been playing catch-up since September. Injuries to the team’s key attackers haven’t helped the side’s cause as the games have come in thick and fast with Mahrez starting five of City’s six league matches.

The wideman’s numbers reveal he has scored once and set up as many, both coming in the 5-2 thrashing by old side Leicester at the Etihad in late September. He’s also created one big chance so far this season, also in that defeat by the Foxes.

However, a greater dive into the Algeria star’s numbers emphasise the alarming drop off, albeit taking into account the small sample size of games.

Mahrez has so far failed to create an open-play clear-cut chance — the assist for Nathan Ake’s consolation vs Leicester was from a corner — and he’s significantly down for Expected Assists, shot-creating actions and goal-creating actions per 90.

Last season, the African’s xA per 90 was 0.41 now down to 0.14 after five league starts. Only De Bruyne outdid the winger last year but he ranks joint-sixth this term along with Ilkay Gundogan and just ahead of Aymeric Laporte whose xA per 90 is 0.11.

For shot-creation and goal-creation, the ex-Leicester man’s decline has equally been noticeable. He’s posting fewer shot creation per 90 this year compared to 19/20 — 3.75 and 6.48 respectively — while his goal creation per 90 drop in both seasons has been striking — 0.21 thus far and 1.44 last term.

Indeed, Mahrez ranked highest for Goal-creating actions per 90 last season, whereas he finds himself in seventh after a quintet of Premier League appearances.

Interestingly, however, the 29-year-old’s struggles reflect in the team’s overall chance creation with Man City finding it difficult to consistently fashion out clear opportunities this season.

While this seems odd for a Guardiola side, their failure to unlock stubborn rearguards has been consistent in their opening six league matches.

After 540 minutes of action, City have fashioned out 11 big chances, behind Sunday’s opponents Liverpool (25), early-season high-flyers Aston Villa (18), new boys Leeds United (15) and even lower than Crystal Palace (12).

In fairness, the aforementioned stat doesn’t account for penalties but it’s striking for a Pep team to face questions about their expertise at creating in the final third. For context, at this stage last term, the blue half of Manchester had created 32 clear-cut opportunities and went on to create 141 in total, 32 more than champions Liverpool.If this season’s games are an indication of what’s to come, then City not only have to deal with a creaky backline, an inability to control games effectively as they once did, intermittent issues in their pressing and the current struggles to make chances.

Last term, despite scoring bucket loads, they were frustratingly profligate too. After six outings this term, that has worryingly been replaced by an incapability to even put themselves in those promising situations in front of goal, leading to only nine goals scored for now which is very much unusual for them under Guardiola.

As for Mahrez, a major source of frustration has been in his extreme individualism. This came to a head in last week’s 1-0 win over Sheffield United as KDB appeared frustrated by the Algerian’s decision-making in either holding on to possession for too long or electing to shoot when there were better passing options.

The winger has always backed himself, still, 2.6 shots per game so far is significantly higher than previous seasons at the club and indeed in the Prem.

In each of his two years at the Etihad Stadium, Mahrez attempted 1.5 shots per match, while it was 1.5, 1.3 and 1.6 in 17/18, 16/17 and 15/16 respectively at Leicester.

Without question, a rise to 2.6 efforts at goal per game is remarkable, although the sample size of five games puts it into context.

Indeed, Pep’s City have been underwhelming so far and already find themselves five points behind Liverpool, albeit with a game in hand vs Villa to come.

They risk being eight points adrift of Klopp’s troops if they fall to a defeat on Sunday, instantly making them outsiders to regain the title, especially as their underlying numbers, for now, have been alarming.While the Spanish manager will want a win vs the Merseyside club, you suspect he’ll hammer more on a dominant showing from Mahrez and his teammates as they look to regain the fear factor that’s seemingly been lost at both ends of the pitch in the last 12 to 14 months.

source:- goal

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