Tactics Journal

by Kyle Boas

Analyzing football tactics

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Control

Control. That is the name of the game for Manchester City. That is why you introduce a player like Rico Lewis into the starting lineup.

You need control because Lois Openda is terrifying. So quick, even Kim Min Jae couldn’t keep up on the weekend when RB Leipzig took on Bayern Munich.

Figure 1.1 - Lois Openda and Manuel Akanji race for the ball on the breakaway.
Figure 1.2 - Lois Openda pushes his body into Manuel Akanji to create separation.
Figure 1.3 - Lois Openda shoots and scores.

You saw that with RB Leipzig’s first goal when Openda used his pace to get ahead of Akanji, he used his body to get a bit of separation, and then slotted it home across goal.

RB Leipzig is dangerous on the break, but I never feel the same threat when Manchester City is on the counter.

Manuel Akanji was used in that inverted center-back role, advancing into a double pivot with Rodri. Akanji looks slimmer and more nimble this season. His movements are much more responsive today. Maybe he might be tried out as a 6 instead of Mateo Kovacic or Matheus Nunes in upcoming matches. I think one of the center-backs will be trialed as a 6.

Figure 2.1 - Bernardo Silva curves his press to cut off the pass to the left-back.
Figure 2.2 - Two Manchester City midfielders push forward, allowing Kyle Walker to challenge the ball when it's played to the left-back.
Figure 2.3 - Kyle Walker picks off the ball.

My favorite counter-pressing move is that curved press by Bernardo Silva that cuts off the pass from the goalkeeper to the left-back. It will be useful against Arsenal on the weekend, who like to use David Raya as a left center-back in the first phase build-up.

Rico Lewis has entered the school of Phil Foden with that turn, and he returns the favor by providing an assist for Foden’s goal. Julian Alvarez as well has benefited from the smoothness of this turn.

Figure 3.1 - Manuel Akanji passes to Rico Lewis.
Figure 3.2 - Rico Lewis receives the ball and immediately begins his turn.
Figure 3.3 - Rico Lewis passes to Bernardo Silva.
Figure 3.4 - Rico Lewis immediately attacks the space, in the half-space.
Figure 3.5 - Rico Lewis cuts it back to Phil Foden.
Figure 3.6 - Phil Foden scores, shoots first time into the top right hand corner on the volley.
Figure 3.7 - Goal.

Pep Guardiola on Rico Lewis after the match:

“What a player, what a player. 18 years old, has a huge personality, can play in four or five positions, he’s not scared, his defending is really good. I’ve been a manager for 14, 15 years, training unbelievable players, to find a player like him in the pockets, how he has to move, moving into the spaces, he’s one of the best I ever trained, by far. […] He’s a fantastic player.”

Rico Lewis after the match:

“That’s my favorite position I think, even [more than] coming inside from full back. I think playing a bit higher up, then defending as a two with Rodri is my favorite [role]. I think it’s just all about patience for myself. There are so many world-class players in that Man City dressing room so all I can do is my best and learn. The opportunities will come and when they do, I’ve got to take them.”

Phil Foden on Rico Lewis:

“He’s one of the best young players I’ve seen. He seems to up our tempo when he’s dead sharp in the pockets and makes us play a bit quicker. Normally when you’re 18, you’re a bit shy in these big games. He’s the total opposite. He wants the ball, wants to impress. I like his determination. He’s going to be a quality player; he just needs the game time.”

Manchester City didn’t look particularly threatening, but it only takes one chance. They only need an inch.

Figure 4.1 - Erling Haaland's finishing in the Premier League. Visual made by FPL_Chase

You can see Erling Haaland becoming more and more frustrated as each chance comes and goes. The robot only has 1 goal in 4 games. Eventually that frustration will be taken out on one of Manchester City’s future opponents. He’s not getting the same crisp through passes when he worked with Ilkay Gündoğan and Kevin De Bruyne. Jack Grealish’s and Kyle Walker’s crosses haven’t been head-able: they are either off the mark or at an angle where Haaland can’t redirect the ball with enough power.

Manchester City had a lot of control but they had no bite, and who can Pep Guardiola sub on to change the game? Julian Alvarez, who is on Argentina World Cup champion form.

You have the control of a Rico Lewis, but you need that clinical edge in the final pass from a Julian Alvarez to convert high possession into goals.

Featured image credit Isaac Parkin - MCFC/Manchester City FC via Getty Images

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