With Pep Guardiola at the helm, a reputed £250m transfer budget to be invested this summer and an abundance of talent already at the Etihad, it’s widely acknowledged that City could – even should – corner the market in domestic trophies next season.
As Pep heeds the lessons of his debut Premier League season, and his players – existing and incoming – become ever more familiar with his playing philosophy and high intensity demands, City will spring from the traps as the main challengers to Chelsea’s supremacy.
But Pep’s life, and City’s quest, would be a darn sight easier if only they could master performing in – and from – the small quarter segments on the field of play.
The topic in question is City’s constant failings when it comes to the ‘c’ word – corners.
It’ll come as little or no surprise to City supporters that their beloved Blues have THE WORST conversion rate of corner kicks leading to goals in the Premier League.
Most City fans tend not to get over excited when the team wins a corner, and now there’s proof – if proof were needed – that the instincts of the City faithful are bang on – unlike the corner kicks of the players.
New analysis of the percentage of corner kicks converted into goals in top flight English football places City firmly at the bottom of the table.
A meagre 1.5% of City's 259 corners this season have resulted in a goal – a sum total of four.
Contrast that with corner kick table-toppers WBA – who’ve scored 15 times from 149 corners at a rate of 10.1% - and you have a perverse football conundrum – do you take Baggies boss Tony Pulis over Pep?
The answer is obviously a resounding ‘no’ but, if City could match Albion’s scoring prowess at corners, Guardiola’s team would be 22 goals better off and God knows how many points to the good?
Bloody hell, even Sunderland, equipped with David ‘Football Genius’ Moyes, have a better strike rate at 2% with three goals from 147 corners.
Of course there’s lies, damned lies and statistics, but every City fan will bear witness to the all too often insipid delivery as the City corner fails to beat the first man, is headed away with consummate ease by a defender or glides effortlessly into the arms of the opposing keeper.
It’s even more alarming and perplexing when City have the likes of Kevin De Bruyne, Yaya Toure, Aleks Kolarov and others who can strike a dead ball so sweetly.
Align that to players who are regarded as great headers of a ball – Vincent Kompany, Nicolas Otamendi even John Stones – and you find yourself asking why are City so poor at corners?
Admittedly, corner kicks are but one facet of play, but it’s one which is generally regarded as a distinct advantage for the attacking team. You only have to hear the ripple, sometimes crescendo, of anticipation from fans of opposing teams as they get Willy Caballero or Claudio Bravo’s goal in their crosshairs.
City fans are somewhat more restrained, and with good reason.
City’s relative impotence when it comes to corners isn't some strange phenomenon under Guardiola.
Cast your minds back to when Martin Demichelis headed in an 83rd minute equaliser at the Emirates direct from a corner, in a 2-2 draw with Arsenal on 13th September 2014.
Incredibly it took more than six months before City scored again as a result of a corner kick when Fernando bundled in a scrappy 40th minute goal, ironically against of all teams, WBA on 21st March 2015. There was even a bespoke Twitter account - by a City fan - dedicated to the months, weeks, days, minutes, seconds and failed attempts during that period.
It appears City have been fully paid up members of the CCKC (Crappy Corner Kick Club) for far too long – it’s time to get it sorted – and another item to put on Pep’s ‘To Do’ List this summer.
By David Walker
Statistics and percentages courtesy of The Times. Manchester City embellishments by RNBR.