Pep Guardiola will hopefully get a day or two to sit down and assess his Manchester City’s team performance this season, before the next one begins.
When he does, his analysis teams will furnish him with the figures, which can be married to the evidence of his own eyes, and those of his coaching staff, to gain a full picture.
And when that happens, the suspicion that City HAVE dropped their standards this season, after two exhaustingly brilliant, record-breaking campaigns, will be confirmed.
That is no surprise. The trouble with setting incredible standards is that even a marginal lessening is a downward turn.
The stat that truly matters is that City have lost nine league games this season, three more than they suffered in the previous two campaigns put together.
But Guardiola’s job is to work out WHY they lost their title, rather than how.
The obvious answer is that the Blues made more individual errors which directly led to goals – that is undeniable, and difficult to change without a change of personnel. Which is why a new centre back is top priority this summer.
But the details of the statistics tell a story of how the things City did magnificently in 2018-18 and 2018-19 have slid, ever so slightly.
The figures show that the Blues are still among the best in the world when it comes to the number-crunching. But they have fallen from magnificent to simply brilliant, and this season that was stacked against a Liverpool team which maintained its magnificence.
The number of goals scored was always going to be a problem, as City set a new English record last season, racking up an improbable 157 in all competitions.
They are again the highest scorers in the country, but the average has dropped. That is not an issue.
But when you look at the facets of the game which have made City such a great team, the detail of what they do so well, Guardiola might have cause for concern at the trend.
The Blues are all about passing, quickly and often, keeping the ball, and recovering it smartly when they do lose it.
Their passing accuracy has dropped in successive years, if only by the tiniest of margins. They completed 89.7 per cent of their passes in 2018-18, down to 89.3 last season and currently stands at 89.2.
That is not cause for much concern, unless it continues as a trend, but allied to other stats it speaks of an overall lessening of the level.
The possession stats might alarm Guardiola most. From an astonishing average of 67 per cent, that dropped to 65 last season and now stands at 63. Small margins, big differences.
The number of times City lose the ball has increased by two per cent from last season, and the number of times they win it back has dropped from 80 per cent, to 78 last season and now stands at 76.
Another figure that might engage Guardiola is that of “expected goals”, which effectively measures how many chances a team creates, and how clear those chances are.
That figure is on the up – in 2017-18 on chances created they should have scored 2.01 goals a game, and last season that increased to 2.23. This season it has improved again, to 2.45.
While that is encouraging, as it shows City are opening up opposition defences better than ever, it also shows that they have been missing more of those chances.
And they have also been handing the opposition better chances – up from 0.69 expected goals last season to 0.92 this – which explains why they are conceding more goals.
Guardiola says buying new players won’t solve the problem, although he knows that a top centre back would certainly help.
Getting back to basics, by improving finishing, allowing less chances against and keeping the ball better, is the key.