Ottawa Citizen

Man City’s ‘soft’ strike force told to get in gear

Man­ager be­rates pair of sub-par per­for­mances

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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.

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