Man City win Premier League: What Pep Guardiola's side's goals tell us about the champions

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Sergio Aguero is Manchester City's top scorer this season with 21 goalsIt begins with an innocuous-looking free-kick on the right touchline, far from Arsenal's goal. Kyle Walker takes it and shares a couple of passes with Vincent Kompany as Danny Welbeck charges with intent after the rapidly shifting ball, content that if he and his team-mates do their job there is no immediate threat. Twenty-six seconds later, Manchester City have the ball in the net again.The third goal in City's 3-0 win at Arsenal in March is just one of 93 goals Pep Guardiola's side have scored on their way to being crowned Premier League champions with five games to spare this season. However, in its creation and execution, use of the ball, space and energetic, willing runners, it is symbolic of a side as lauded for its artistry as its efficiency.From Walker's initiating pass to Leroy Sane's decisive finish, six City players touch the ball, none more than three times in a single instance of possession, as the Gunners chase shadows around them.
Walker, Kompany, Kevin de Bruyne, David Silva and Sergio Aguero share 15 patient but precise passes between them to set the trap, before the latter's turn and acceleration away from Laurent Koscielny on halfway begins a rapid execution that is a masterclass of one-touch play: Aguero in-field to De Bruyne, out wide to Walker, into the middle for the arriving Sane. Thank you and goodnight.Its fluidity makes it appear simple. But this, and the majority of the 92 other league goals scored by City, represent many, many hours of disciplined, focused training, millions of pounds of expenditure and an unflinching tactical vision - "Juego de posicion" (positional play) - seeded last season and bearing fruit this term.
Click to see content: man_city_scorers_assists
Click to see content: Avg_passes_leading_to_goal
Guardiola's first high-profile move to this end last summer was to ruthlessly ditch goalkeeper Joe Hart and bring in Claudio Bravo to operate as a "playmaker keeper" (a term used by ex-England international Rachel Finnis-Brown in a BBC Sport column in October 2016). However, the Chilean keeper got steadily worse, in both his distribution and ability to stop a shot, until he was ditched in favour of Willy Caballero in February.Cue this summer's signing of Brazilian Ederson, who has been a significant upgrade in every way.
bbc.comThe speed, accuracy and vision of Ederson's distribution plays a key role in this City side, as the goal graphics below show.
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Ederson (31) used his long throw to good effect against Newcastle in January, releasing Kevin de Bruyne (17) down the right in a move that ended with Sergio Aguero (10) scoring from Leroy Sane's (19) cross to complete a 3-1 win

City's second goal in a 3-1 win at Everton comes from a pinpoint goal-kick from Ederson (31), who picks out Leroy Sane near the centre-spot to launch the moveThe Brazilian's comfort with the ball at his feet means he also plays a key supplementary role in City's build-up play, as shown below in his inter-play with Nicolas Otamendi (30) in his side's second goal in the 3-0 win at Arsenal in March (top) and the 3-2 victory at West Brom in the same month (bottom)...


City's determination to play out from the back also places a greater onus on the defence to use the ball well. Guardiola was rewarded for resisting the temptation to buy new centre-backs in the summer through much-improved displays this season from Otamendi and John Stones, now more attuned to the demands placed on them.They have also benefited from the switch from an initial 3-1-4-2 to 4-3-3 formation, giving them better passing opportunities to the wing-backs, making Fernandinho a less isolated and more attractive option directly in front of them, and creating a more dynamic and threatening attacking unit for lateral movement of the ball, especially into the "half-spaces" (more on those later).Otamendi has made significantly more passes than any other player in the division, while Stones has the highest pass accuracy (96.26%) of any player to have made more than 1,000 passes in total.
Click to see content: Top_Premier_League_Passers
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Every great team needs great players. Guardiola was fortunate to inherit many when he took over at City, and he has also undoubtedly improved several of his squad during his time in charge.However, by focusing on recruitment at the back in the summer he has markedly improved his side going forward. And he now has a title to show for it.
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