After a staggering 25 misses, a message to Pep Guardiola’s penalty flops: Watch Ivan Toney! How studying the Brentford star can help stop Man City’s struggles from the spot
- Riyad Mahrez missed his fourth penalty in goalless draw at Borussia Dortmund
- Man City have missed 25 of their 80 spot-kicks since Pep Guardiola took charge
- In contrast, Toney has scored 26 of his 27 penalties and not missed for four years
After the pleasure of winning their Champions League group on Tuesday, Manchester City fans had an all-too familiar question: why can’t our team score penalties?
Indeed, some supporters will have travelled at great expense to both Copenhagen and Dortmund this month only to leave with the same outcome — a 0-0 draw with Riyad Mahrez missing a spot-kick.
It was the fourth penalty the Algerian has missed for City. Remarkably, City have failed to score 25 of their 80 spot-kicks under Pep Guardiola, 10 more misses than the next biggest culprits in the Premier League in that time — Manchester United.
Riyad Mahrez missed another penalty in Manchester City’s 0-0 draw with Borussia Dortmund
Mahrez’s first miss came in a 0-0 draw at Anfield in October 2018, late into a game which would have been a vital win for City in the title race.
Mahrez also fluffed his lines in a 2-2 draw at West Ham in the penultimate game of last season. It would have all-but-mathematically sealed the league for City had he scored.
While neither miss ultimately cost City the title in those seasons, it is a worrying theme. Sergio Aguero missed eight of his 28 penalties for City under Guardiola, while Gabriel Jesus scored just five of his 10.
So why can’t the reigning Premier League champions, and probably the best team in the world, score from 12 yards?
One place to start might be to compare Mahrez’s penalties to those of the man widely regarded as the best penalty-taker in the country, if not the world: Ivan Toney. The England and Brentford striker has scored 26 of his 27 penalties and hasn’t missed for four years. Sportsmail has watched each of his Brentford spot-kicks and noticed a theme which is not evident in Mahrez’s four misses.
First, his Bees team-mates are crucial in helping Toney focus, by not allowing opposition players to get near the striker while he is waiting with the ball in his hand. They are aware of the goalkeeper and other players trying to distract Toney and start mind-games, so stop this happening.
While this is going on, Toney can take a quiet moment to focus and decide where he will place his penalty. Against Brighton earlier this month, after the referee’s whistle Toney took six seconds to take his shot. Mahrez took under two seconds against Dortmund and appeared to rush his run-up.
Mahrez also missed a penalty in City’s 0-0 draw with FC Copenhagen earlier this month
In last year’s Euros, research showed that most missed penalties were rushed — players who scored took more than 2.5 seconds on average between the whistle and starting their run-up; players who missed took less than 0.9 seconds.
Chelsea and Italy midfielder Jorginho follows a similar routine. And it is no coincidence that both Toney and Jorginho tend to shoot hard and low. Three of Mahrez’s misses have been at a height perfect for goalkeepers to save, and another went over the crossbar.
Football psychologist and self-confessed penalty geek Geir Jordet talked to Sportsmail about his extensive research on spot-kicks. ‘Some players are erratic, look away from the keeper and treat the whistle like a race’s starting gun,’ he says. ‘Take your time and be prepared for the goalkeeper trying to put you off. When the referee blows his whistle, relax. Maybe take two or three breaths and wait for three or four seconds.
City have now missed 25 of the 80 penalties they have been awarded under Pep Guardiola
‘Most of the work is done now. All of your preparation will manifest in your shot. If you do the preparation correctly, the probability that you score is very high — as data shows.’
City, of course, do have a world-class penalty-taker — Erling Haaland. He was on the bench when Mahrez missed in Dortmund but has converted 28 of his 30 spot-kicks, including two in two for City.
So for Mahrez, perhaps there’s not much point studying Toney anyway.
‘He will reflect,’ Guardiola said after the Dortmund game. ‘He can take a break now with the penalties.’
Brentford striker Ivan Toney has scored 26 of his 27 penalties and not missed for four years