The cynical side to Manchester City’s game

Pep the Purist

Manchester City have been nothing short of dominant so far this season in the Premier League. The Blues have dropped just two points from a possible 30.

City owner Sheikh Mansour likely expects nothing short of dominance after investing heavily once again in the summer 2017 transfer window with a net spend of approximately £140 million. Only their Manchester neighbours came close to matching their spending as United indulged themselves with an approximate £135 million net spend in the same time frame.

Pep Guardiola’s men have rightly been praised for the lavish, free-flowing football they have produced in the first quarter of the season. City have also enjoyed a successful campaign in the Champions League so far as they lie top of Group F having just pulled off an impressive 4-2 win at Napoli in mid-week.

Pep has instilled his purist football philosophy at City as he did with his previous clubs Bayern Munich and Barcelona. Man City have enjoyed over 60% possession in every Premier League game so far this season, which most impressively includes clashes with Liverpool and Chelsea.

City’s Cynical Side

There is no questioning Man City have been playing scintillating football this season, but has their high possession style been masking the more cynical side to their philosophy?

The Blues have enjoyed an average of 72% possession in their first ten Premier League games this season and have been ripping teams apart, averaging a goal every 27 minutes. Manchester United have been the second most prolific team as they average a goal every 41 minutes.

It would be natural to expect a team who spend 28% of their time without the ball to commit less fouls than other sides. Players nearly always commit fouls whilst they have not got possession of the ball as they seek to try and win it back.

Only Bournemouth have committed less fouls than Man City in the Premier League to date. But given that teams commit fouls without the ball, it is more telling to look at how often teams commit fouls whilst not in possession of the ball.

Minutes per Foul – Premier League Teams (17/18 Season)


The table above shows City commit a foul every 3.1 minutes when they don’t have the ball, which is more frequent than any other team in the Premier League. Bournemouth on the other hand, have not only committed the fewest fouls this season, they also commit fouls without the ball less regularly than other teams.

Dirty or Tenacious?

Pep Guardiola’s teams don’t tend to carry round the reputation of being particularly physical or dirty, and it’s fair to say the same of his Manchester City team so far this season.

Pep’s teams always work incredibly hard to win back possession when they lose it. Since his days at Barcelona, Pep has drilled his team to pressure the opposition high up the field when his side don’t have the ball. City’s desire to win the ball back quickly is likely to explain why they give fouls away so often when they don’t have possession.

Pep demands his team win the ball back as soon as possible, which leads City’s players to put constant pressure on the opposition causing them to commit to challenges more frequently than other teams who adopt a less risky stand-off-ish approach to defence.

So contrary to popular belief, Pep’s boys are no stranger to a tackle. But City fans shouldn’t panic, as it doesn’t look like Pep will be losing his footballing purist reputation anytime soon.

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