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Tuesday, 22 December 2009

Mark Hughes was unlucky and Man City now look less likely top 4 finishers


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Roberto Mancini's appointment as the new Manchester City manager demonstrates the acceleration in the demands of the 'project' at Eastlands. Mark Hughes pointed out on a number of occasions since the summer that his target was a top six finish. This was fleshed out as also including a 70 point finish to this season in his post-sacking statement.

A quick glance at the points required for finishing fourth or fifth over the last decade suggests that 70 points has guaranteed fourth place for the last ten years - so if Hughes had achieved 70 points it would have accompanied Champions' League football.

Getting 70 points in a 38 game season means averaging 1.84 points per game; City currently have 29 points from 17 games, an average of 1.71 points per game. If City had 2 or 3 more points at this stage of the season they would be hitting what is required for a 70 point season. So on that basis Mark Hughes is unlucky as the team is almost getting the points demanded of him. And given how many players have been brought in over 2009 there was always going to be some time needed for them to settle in.

The second half of the season was always likely to yield more points than the first because the players would be more used to each others positioning and the runs they make, their strengths and weaknesses. With games against Stoke and Wolves to take City to halfway through the programme it would only have taken a gentle upturn in form to easily exceed 70 points.

But now Mancini has replaced Hughes and the players that seem the most angry are the ones who have been in the best form this season - the likes of Barry, Given and Bellamy. If their performance dips then City could well fall short of 70 points this season - unless they are replaced in January by yet more expensive recruits. From a dispassionate viewpoint if City ship a few points in the next few weeks due to friction over the change then the club would have been more likely to hit 70 points under Hughes than without him.

Mancini's new stated targets are top four this season with a title challenge next season and given the money invested so far (and likely to be released next month) this is not an unreasonable demand. If the investment in City is maintained then the club will almost certainly be champions early in the new decade - but that may well have happened with Hughes anyway.

Last 10 seasons, Premier League 4th place

2008/9 Arsenal 72 points
2007/8 Liverpool 76 points
2006/7 Arsenal 68 points
2005/6 Arsenal 67 points
2004/5 Everton 61 points
2003/4 Liverpool 60 points
2002/3 Chelsea 67 points
2001/2 Newcastle 71 points
2000/1 Leeds 68 points
1999/2000 Liverpool 67 points

Average 67.7 points, 1.78 points per game

Last 10 seasons, Premier League 5th place

2008/9 Everton 63 points
2007/8 Everton 65 points
2006/7 Tottenham 60 points
2005/6 Tottenham 65 points
2004/5 Liverpool 58 points
2003/4 Newcastle 56 points
2002/3 Liverpool 64 points
2001/2 Leeds 66 points
2000/1 Ipswich 66 points
1999/2000 Chelsea 65 points

Average 63.2 points, 1.66 points per game

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Antony Melvin

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