When the men from Barcelona go through the video of Manchester City’s latest home win, it will not be the four goals that they scored against Cardiff or the 103 they have amassed this season that will interest them most. They will study the goals Manuel Pellegrini’s side conceded in the 4-2 win.
Pellegrini discounted Cardiff’s second because, well, Manchester City were 4-1 up and it was the 92nd minute. It was, however, the 28th they had conceded, around 30 per cent more than Arsenal and Chelsea, their two chief rivals for the championship.
That, however, is likely to be only a thin chink of light for Arsène Wenger and Jose Mourinho. Both of Mourinho’s titles were won by Chelsea sides that were not the Premier League’s leading scorers. However, since then only one team, Liverpool in 2009, have been the Premier League’s leading scorers and not lifted the trophy.
Europe, however, is different. The Villarreal side Pellegrini took to the European Cup semi-finals in 2006 topped their group by conceding one goal and scoring three. The Arsenal side that beat them conceded twice in the dozen matches leading to the final. In City’s Champions League group this year only once did they keep a clean sheet.
“That is something we need to improve. At this stage of the season it is crucial,” said the City full-back, Pablo Zabaleta. “If you concede two you will be disappointed. We have to defend much better than that but sometimes when you play an offensive game, you leave yourself exposed at the back.”
Cardiff’s opening goal would concern Pellegrini. Martin Demichelis left the rest of the back four exposed and Craig Noone twice turned Vincent Kompany before shooting home. Of the £86m City spent in the summer, just £3.5m (Demichelis’ fee) was employed in shoring up the defence. That may yet be a fatal omission.