Manchester City vs Southampton

Manchester City vs Southampton Preview: Saints Will Need a Miracle

After a scare-free Halloween week, City’s next opponent in the crowded fixture list is Southampton. Though the Saints put in an excellent performance against the Blues last year, City are much improved this season against teams in the lower areas of the table. Given the easy early schedule, I’m not quite ready to declare this team superior than last year’s edition despite the impressive start.

Still, one thing that can’t be denied is that they’ve played much better against teams outside last year’s top six. City last season averaged 13 shots and five shots on target more than such opponents, a pretty high baseline. This season, they’re averaging an incredible 19 and eight in those categories. Read More

Manchester City vs Burnley Premier League Preview

Manchester City vs Burnley Preview: The ultimate clash of styles

In my seemingly never-ending series of “City playing a team they should dominate” previews, the Blues take on Burnley at the weekend. While last week’s good, if ultimately unsatisfying, result at Anfield kept City on course for a repeat title, Burnley by contrast have been decidedly off their pace from last season.

Part of this was likely inevitable, as Burnley over-performed their expected goals (xG) a lot over the last few years. But the fact that it was continued over multiple seasons certainly made it seem as if they were doing it differently, to steal Mark Thompson’s line.

Over the past few years Burnley have been the soccer equivalent of the NBA’s “Grit and Grind” Memphis Grizzlies: zigging into old-school, physical play while everyone else zagged into technical play, while still being good enough with their approach to put a mild scare into top teams. While their method of play still appears basically the same, the results have flat-lined. Read More

Manchester City vs Brighton

Manchester City vs Brighton: How well has Bernardo replaced De Bruyne?

Six weeks in to the Premier League and Manchester City keep chugging along nicely. After the disappointing loss to Lyon in the Champions League, City responded in fine style against Cardiff and Oxford with eight goals scored in total and none conceded.

What’s perhaps been the most impressive element of City’s start to the season is that it comes without Kevin De Bruyne running the entire midfield. Last year, De Bruyne had the highest usage rate (the percentage of a team’s possessions in which a given player has the final action) of any City player by a wide margin, and he also rated as Twelve’s top attacker.

One of the key questions when he went down through injury was who would take on the offensive burden he carried last season. In order to measure that, below is a table showing each player’s usage rate so far this season compared with their record last season (for players with a minimum of 270 minutes in both campaigns): Read More

Manchester City vs. Fulham

Manchester City vs Fulham Preview: Time for Sané to start?

There’s no better way to leave the interminable international break behind than with an incredibly exciting Manchester City fixture. As an American, Fulham have always held a place in my heart as the club of Brian McBride, Clint Dempsey, and (to a much lesser extent) Carlos Bocanegra.

But more than that, the current incarnation of Fulham have a genuine buzz about them. Only Arsenal games feature more shots and shots on target, they have exciting young talents like Ryan Sessegnon, and they picked up a genuine star in Jean-Michel Seri in the transfer window. In short, get ready for some fireworks.

As with Wolves, Fulham aren’t your typical newly promoted side. Rather than playing defensively and seeking to counter-attack, they use possession to get their shot attempts and are even averaging a greater share of the ball than Spurs, United, or Arsenal thus far this season (albeit having endured a light schedule to date). Read More

Wolves vs Manchester City

Wolves vs Manchester City Preview: Will the Wolves bite City?

After sweeping aside Huddersfield, thanks in no small part to Benjamin Mendy, City next face newly promoted Wolverhampton Wanderers at Molineux. Despite playing in the Championship last season, City did face Wolves in the horribly-titled Carabao Cup. With a drastically weakened back line (featuring a pairing of Tosin Adarabioyo and Eliaquim Mangala), City struggled and eventually progressed on penalties. Suffice to say, City will be much better this time around.

It’s hard to read much into Wolves’ first two games, even beyond the tiny sample size. In each match, their opponent was shown a red card, meaning that approximately half their time on the pitch has been 11 against 10. Obviously that drastically affects how the team plays and makes it difficult to draw much in the way of conclusions. Read More

Manchester City vs Huddersfield preview

Manchester City vs Huddersfield Preview: Mended Mendy Can Help Ease De Bruyne Blow

Manchester City’s campaign to be the first repeat champions of the Premier League since their crosstown rivals Manchester United in 2008-09 got off to an auspicious start on Sunday, but then quickly took a big hit with news of Kevin De Bruyne‘s injury.

With Arsenal fairly comfortably dispatched thanks to goals from Sterling and Bernardo Silva, one can be forgiven in thinking that relegation favorites Huddersfield Town will be a much easier task, even without City’s talisman. However, in some ways the Terriers visit is perhaps a truer test of how far City have progressed than an Arsenal side still feeling out what Unai Emery wants from them, and will allow fans to see how City intend to cope with De Bruyne’s absence.

When asked on what new ideas he had for the upcoming season, City manager Pep Guardiola focused his attention on how to attack teams with 10 men behind the ball. Read More