Projections for Tottenham v. Manchester City: Just How Good Are City, Anyway?

Stu Forster

Tottenham Hotspur host Manchester City on Wednesday. I think City are the best team in the Premier League by a wide margin, and I go through a few telling stats which suggest as such. My projection? Pain.

It's not exactly news that Manchester City are amazing. They just won a League Cup semi-final eight to nil over two legs. They've scored 63 goals, ten more than Liverpool and 20 more than any other club in the Premier League. They are clearly favorites tomorrow against Tottenham Hotspur for the simple reason that they're the best attacking club in England. And by a good margin.

Statistically, Manchester City's dominance might not appear immediately in the stats. They do lead the Premier League in shots taken, but this number obscures their excellence more than reveals it. City have only taken 23 more shots than Liverpool, and only 19 more than Spurs. How have City scored 34 more goals than Spurs on only 19 more shots?

Certainly the historic conversion problems that Spurs had early in the year (but which have since dissipated) are part of the problem. But the larger issue is shot quality. The following table lists both total (non-penalty) shots taken and shots taken from the danger zone by all of the leading Premier League sides.

Club Shots DZ S %DZ
Arsenal 323 142 45%
Chelsea 351 134 38%
Everton 342 118 32%
Liverpool 363 131 36%
Manchester City 386 190 49%
Manchester United 288 122 42%
Tottenham Hotspur 357 112 31%

As reference, this season in the Premier League shots from the danger zone have been converted at a rate of about 1-in-6 this season (16%). Shots from outside the danger zone have been converted at a rate of about 1-in-20 (5%). So Manchester City have taken nearly 50 more of these high-quality shots than any other side in the league, and nearly 80 more than Spurs. It's not so surprising, when you account for shot quality, that City have converted so many more of their shots than most of their opponents.

Further, danger zone shots not assisted by crosses are converted at a rate better than 1-in-5 (21%), and City have also taken, by a good margin, the most shots from the danger zone not assisted by crosses.

Club DZ S DZ S N/C % N/C
Arsenal 142 87 61%
Chelsea 134 72 54%
Everton 118 68 58%
Liverpool 131 87 66%
Manchester City 190 112 59%
Manchester United 122 65 53%
Tottenham Hotspur 112 64 57%

This table, while it shows City's dominance, also helps to explain why my numbers rate Arsenal and Liverpool as the next-best two attacking sides in the league. Both clubs focus heavily on working the ball through the middle for high-quality shots, and so they produce better average chances than more cross-happy clubs like Chelsea and Manchester United.

And of course Manchester City have taken as many shots from the danger zone not assisted by crosses as Spurs have taken total shots from the danger zone.

Hopefully it's not too surprising to you at this point that I'm projecting a Manchester City victory.

Outcome MCofA% Bookie% MCI %Top4 MCI %Title TOT %Top4 TOT %Title
MCI W 46% 47% 99.6% 65% 17% 0.1%
D 26% 26% 99% 51% 22% 0.3%
TOT W 28% 27% 97% 43% 34% 1%

Because this is a match that City are generally projected to win, it thus follows that this match provides an opportunity to pick up significant added points. A Spurs victory would vault the club back up to 1-in-3 to finish in the Champions League places. The last time Spurs showed above 33% for the top four places was back in week 15. That is, before the unpleasantness at the Lane. So that would be nice.

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