There are many reasons why Manchester City go into this weekend’s fixtures 22 points shy of Liverpool at the top of the Premier League, but one factor could well be penalties.
City have missed four of their last six spot-kicks, with Ilkay Gundogan the latest to err against Spurs at the weekend, while Raheem Sterling failed to convert twice against Wolves and Gabriel Jesus was denied against Sheffield United.
The latter ultimately didn’t cost them, that game ending in a 1-0 win, but had the others been converted, in games City lost, they could be six points better off.
Four different players have taken penalties in normal play for City this season, Pep Guardiola has suggested that the best taker at the club has yet to step up.
“A certain Ederson,” said Duncan Alexander on Thursday’s Totally Football Show. “If Pep is going to come out and say he’s the best penalty taker at the club, this surely has to be the weekend he does it.
“It’s one of those stupid things in football – I saw someone say at the weekend “you can’t do that, it’s disrespectful”. It’s not disrespectful, you’ve got 11 players on the pitch and if your goalkeeper is the best at taking penalties, he takes them. You’re probably putting yourself more at risk, because if it’s saved…
“I don’t think you say that [Ederson could take one] unless there’s at least a possibility of putting it into action,” said Jack Lang.
Former pro Adrian Clarke certainly thinks there is some logic to the idea: “In my experience goalkeepers tend to strike the ball cleaner than anyone else anyway. They have to really spank goal kicks, so they’re used to putting their laces through it, and they’re usually big units so they can get plenty of power behind it.”
But how much of the art is down to technique and how much is mental?
“It is mental, but the primary skill is clearly technique,” said Adrian. “If you hit it hard enough, accurately enough, the goalkeeper won’t save it.”
Duncan added: “Look at the likes of Harry Kane and Alan Shearer – they always put it with power, in the corner, and nearly always scored, because the keeper can’t get there.”
So what about Kevin de Bruyne, arguably the most technically accomplished player at City but who, as Duncan informed us, hasn’t taken a penalty since 2016, which he missed. “Maybe he’s such a purist that he thought “That’s me done.”
“He seems one of them most mentally resolute players in the team,” said Jack. “Gabriel Jesus is a good technician but has a history of missing, Sterling missed twice in the space of about three minutes against Wolves, Gundogan hadn’t missed before the weekend so we can excuse him that.”
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