Premier League Weekend Review: Time for City’s superstars to do the basics

Manchester City’s season is falling apart as they head to Barcelona this week. Ralph Ellis has been studying the stats to look for reasons why…

It’s one of the most regular team talks you hear. “Match the other team for work, win your battles, and your quality will come out on top. You have to earn the right to play.”

I don’t know if Manuel Pellegrini has ever gone through that little speech. It’s hard to imagine the softly spoken and considered figure that we see on TV interviews ever moving remotely into those sorts of areas of passion and commitment.

But if he hasn’t tried that particular tack with Manchester City’s multi-millionaire group of superstars then it’s probably about time he did. Because otherwise, not only are his club going to fail to defend their Premier League title, they are not even going to be in the top two when Chelsea are picking up the trophy.

City will almost certainly be knocked out of the Champions League this season when they go to Barcelona on Wednesday night trying to claw back the 2-1 deficit from the first leg. They are as long as 13.5n/a to qualify.

Even more worrying is that, unless some of the lessons of Saturday night’s dismal display at Burnley are learned, they will then come home to find themselves dropping into a fight to make sure they even return to the competition again next season.

Now I know that running stats aren’t everything. And I know that lots of the old school players would tell you that sometimes it’s better to stand still in the little pocket of space where you can receive the ball than to scurry around like a headless chicken. But even so the EA performance data from Saturday’s 1-0 defeat at Turf Moor makes alarming reading.

Collectively Burnley’s players covered a total of 74.8miles. Manchester City’s movement added up to a total of 67.4 miles. That’s nearly three quarters of a mile less per outfield player across the 90 minutes.

Anybody who follows these things in the various papers and websites where they are published will know that Burnley’s goalscorer George Boyd is the Forrest Gump of the Premier League. He has six of the top ten distances run this season, and was up there again on Saturday night with a total of 8.4miles.

He’s not the only one of Sean Dyche’s side who puts in the hard yards, though. Seven of them registered more than seven miles – yet of Pellegrini’s team only Jesus Navas got above that mark, and only five even got further than six miles in the 90 minutes.

For a team of so much quality to fall so far down on standards of competing with their immediate opponent raises huge questions about what is happening behind the scenes at The Etihad Stadium. Boyd has admitted in today’s papers that Burnley had studied City’s lack of work rate and willingness to track back and plotted how to take advantage.

After Barcelona comes a home game with West Brom, revitalised under Tony Pulis, and you can be sure that Albion’s dressing room have read the Burnley formula for upsetting City’s superstars and are taking note. City are 1.321/3 to get back to winning ways but, unless they start to remember that basic team talk of earning the right to display their skills, that will be a very tempting bet to lay.