Man City’s ‘soft’ strike force told to get in gear
Manager berates pair of sub-par performances
LONDON • Criticized for being “soft” by manager Roberto Mancini, Manchester City’s expensively assembled strike force needs to rediscover its scoring form against Norwich Saturday if the champions aren’t to risk falling further behind Manchester United in the Premier League title race.
City has scored just one goal — via defensive midfielder Gareth Barry — in two disappointing performances over the Christmas period against two relegation candidates.
Barry’s late winner beat Reading — at that time the league’s bottom club — 1-0 last weekend but there was no rescue act in a 1-0 loss at Sunderland Wednesday, a result that left City seven points behind United after 19 games.
That was the first time this season that City had failed to win a league game that Argentina strikers Carlos Tevez and Sergio Aguero both started. Mario Balotelli has meanwhile fallen back out of favour with Mancini and Edin Dzeko has been unable to reproduce the exploits that marked him out as a “supersub” earlier this campaign.
“Last year, we scored one, two or three goals every game but now when we have chances we are too soft,” Mancini said. “Too soft in attack, too soft when we shoot. Sometimes we don’t shoot. We want to do one touch more and that’s not good.”
With 34 goals so far, City has scored 14 fewer than United and only 12 have come from the champion’s nine away games.
United, which inflicted City’s only other loss this season, hosts West Bromwich Albion on Saturday buoyed by Wednesday’s 4-3 win over Newcastle — a game in which Alex Ferguson’s side came from behind three times.
Ferguson labelled it a “championship performance” but City — and West Brom — will take heart from United’s continued fallibility in defence. They have already conceded more goals (28) in this campaign that they did throughout their title-winning seasons in 2007, ’ 08 and ’09, and have gone behind 16 times in all competitions.