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Football | Barclays Premier League

Mancini seeks striking improvement

Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini is demanding a return to the ruthless accuracy from his strikers that fired the club to their first league title since 1968 in May.

City travel to the DW Stadium to face Wigan Athletic on Wednesday night after a goalless draw at European champions Chelsea on Sunday left them a point behind leaders Manchester United in the Premier League.

In itself a point from Stamford Bridge is no disgrace, but the alarm bells have begun to ring for the City manager.

No rivals possess a stronger strike force than City's attacking roster of Sergio Aguero, Edin Dzeko, Carlos Tevez and Mario Balotelli, all of whom were given a chance to break the Chelsea deadlock.

But while only neighbours United have scored more than City's 25 goals, a comparison with last season reveals why Mancini is anxious.

City had scored 43 goals by this stage a year ago, winning 6-1 at Old Trafford and 5-1 at Tottenham Hotspur, while Aguero and Dzeko each had 10 goals to their name.

Dzeko currently has six, the same number as Tevez, while Aguero has scored five times.

With Champions League ambitions dashed for this season at least, Mancini wants an end to the misfiring as he readjusts his sights on retaining the Premier League title; a feat so far achieved by only United and Chelsea.

Nor has he forgotten that only goal difference separated City and United after both finished on 89 points last season on one of the most exciting final days of modern times.

"I don't know how many times we crossed (at Chelsea) and didn't have any players in the box. This can't happen," said Mancini.

"We have four good strikers, but I want them to work harder and to score when they have a chance – they are strikers, and this is what they are there for, not to defend.

"They have to defend as well, of course, but they need to put chances away. They are top strikers.

"Sometimes it can happen, especially when you play a team like Chelsea, but we lost two points. We are in second position, and we don't like that."

Wigan was the scene of one of City's 10 away wins last season, thanks to a solitary goal from Dzeko, and the Latics' 3-2 victory over Reading on Saturday was only the second in seven home games for Roberto Martinez's side.

Jordi Gomez scored a 'perfect' hat-trick – right foot, left foot, header – to spare the blushes of goalkeeper Ali Al Habsi.

The 30-year-old Oman goalkeeper scored a comical own goal to allow Reading to make it 2-2 with 10 minutes to play, but Martinez retains full confidence in him.

"I'm quite happy for him to make a mistake. For every mistake, there are 20 good saves. I'll take that ratio any time," said Martinez.

"Ali didn't have to say anything after the game. If anything, we had to thank him for the save he had previously made to keep us in the game.

"You need to judge a keeper over their achievements, to look back and compare. But I wouldn't take any other keeper to replace Ali – that's how much we rate him.

"He's the perfect goalkeeper for us. He fits in in the way we want to play. And he's someone who's still developing, growing and getting better.

"I still feel he's got another step to make and once he gets there, he's a keeper who can compete to win a title, a Champions League, a World Cup."

Martinez is certain that Al Habsi, who was signed from Bolton Wanderers reserves three years ago, will be unfazed by his error.

"It won't affect his confidence," said the Spaniard.

"If anything he's a more focused character. He will want to be perfect."


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