EPL

Man City can cope without a number nine, says Dickov

By Sports Desk October 06, 2021

Manchester City can solely rely on goals from their wingers and midfielders in the absence of a true number nine in the Premier League this season, according to former striker Paul Dickov.

City regained their domestic crown last term, finishing 12 points clear of second-placed Manchester United in the Premier League, while scoring 83 goals along the way, though just 13 of those came from recognised centre-forwards.

Gabriel Jesus scored nine goals, while Sergio Aguero – who has since joined Barcelona – contributed with just four having missed much of the campaign through injury.

Ilkay Gundogan top-scored with 13 goals in midfield, with winger Raheem Sterling notching 10 and Phil Foden and Riyad Mahrez each netting on nine occasions as Ferran Torres added seven of his own.

Similarly this term, just two of City's 14 Premier League strikes have come courtesy of Brazil international Jesus – Torres has played in a forward role and scored twice but the Spaniard is not a true centre-forward.

Following Aguero's departure to Camp Nou, Tottenham striker Harry Kane was heavily linked with a move to City but a transfer did not materialise, while the likes of Fiorentina's Dusan Vlahovic and Borussia Dortmund sensation Erling Haaland have been linked.

Nevertheless, Scotsman Dickov is confident his former club have the credentials to cope without a main marksman once more.

"The answer at the minute is yes because we've seen that last season," Dickov, who spent two spells with City between 1996-2002 and 2006-2008, told Stats Perform. "I know Sergio Aguero was still at the club, but he missed the majority of it. 

"But Manchester City went on to win [the Premier League title] really quite easily playing without an actual number nine, and they've shown again this season that they can do it. 

"If Manchester City don't win the league this season, everybody's going to be saying it's because they've not got that number nine and the reliance has been on the midfielders and the false number nine to score the goals. But at the minute, you've got to say that they're not missing one.

"I think if Manchester City comes to January and they're still fighting for the top of league and still in the Champions League, people can say that Pep's been right again."

Dickov believes City's decision not to continue their pursuit of Kane demonstrates their own belief in the current quality of the squad.

"Knowing Manchester City as I do – as a club and as a board and how they do their transfers – they will identify players or a player and they will do what they can to get them," the 48-year-old added.

"They will not – especially over recent seasons – be held to ransom and pay over the odds. 

"I think when the new owners first came in, to get Manchester City onto a level they had to pay more money to get the players.

"But over the last few years, they now feel as though they don't have to. I think with the Harry Kane one, he was obviously the player that they wanted.

"If they didn't get him, they weren't going to settle for second best because they believe that the players within the squad – after what happened last season and the addition of Jack Grealish – were good enough to take them to the next level, and for them to retain the title this year."

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    Having seen their team go into half-time 4-0 down for the first time in a Premier League game, United's fans let their feelings known as the players and Solskjaer walked off, and the atmosphere hardly improved after the final whistle.

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    If including shoot-out victories, which Opta do not, Klopp has in fact already hit that mark.

    He has also overtaken Rafael Benitez and Gerard Houllier (including matches as co-manager with Roy Evans) as the manager to have taken charge of the most games for the club in the top flight.

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    In English top-flight history only two sides have scored more after five away games – Manchester City in 2011-12 (20) and United in 1907-08 (20).

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    He is the first away player to net a hat-trick at Old Trafford since Ronaldo Nazario did so for Real Madrid in April 2003, while he is only the second player to do so for Liverpool, after Fred Howe in 1936.

    Salah's goal tally in the Premier League now stands at 107, three clear of Didier Drogba as the highest-scoring African player in the competition's history.

    The 29-year-old has scored in 10 consecutive appearances for the Reds in all competitions. Since he joined the club prior to the 2017-18 campaign, he is the only Premier League player to score in 10 successive matches.

     

    Solemn times for Solskjaer

    United were 2-0 down inside 15 minutes for the first time, and 4-0 down at half-time for the first time in any Premier League game.

    The Red Devils have only lost by a larger margin in this fixture in October 1895 when Liverpool beat them 7-1 at Anfield. It is their largest margin of defeat in this fixture when playing at home.

    Liverpool are only the second team in English top-flight history to win consecutive away games by a margin of five or more goals without conceding themselves, after United in February-March 1960.

    It is the first time United have lost by a margin of at least five goals at Old Trafford without scoring since they slumped to a 5-0 defeat to Man City in 1955.

    Pogba's calamitous cameo 

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    He had 20 touches, made 16 passes and was robbed of possession in the build-up to Salah's hat-trick goal. It was one of five occasions he gave the ball away.

    The France midfielder's red card was the 17th in Premier League matches between Manchester United and Liverpool – the only fixture with more red cards in the competition is Everton vs Liverpool (22).

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