Tactics Journal

by Kyle Boas

Analyzing football tactics


Manchester City is like quicksand. The more Brighton struggles and forces things, the easier it is to sink. If you take your time, they’ll allow you to advance into their end and create chances.

Pep Guardiola, before the match, on the lineup to face Brighton:

“Jeremy Doku can play on the right perfectly. On the left, he is not used to. Years ago, it was a left player on the left and a right on the right side. Now it’s difficult to find. Jack Grealish is more controlled. He doesn’t have the 1v1 speed.

Today I doubt a lot about the lineup because the game would have more transitions. They are man-to-man and aggressive, so we will lose more than usual to make more transitions. I thought Phil Foden and Jeremy [Doku] with their pace could help us.

I thought a lot about whether Mateo Kovacic and Matheus [Nunes] could help us, but Bernardo Silva, with the way we want to press, is so important.”

Pep doesn’t want control (Grealish); he wants runners (Doku and Foden). Kovacic is another controller, and Nunes is a runner, but Bernardo is too important.

Credit to Stefan Ortega of Manchester City for coming in cold and having such a solid game on the ball. He was asked to step out and pass when John Stones inverted into the midfield from center-back. Ortega stepped forward to the right of Ruben Dias, acting like a center-back. He made a few errant passes, but overall, it was a solid performance.

Brighton continues to rotate goalkeepers from Jason Steele to Bert Verbruggen. A practice that I despise. I can’t think of a team that rotates goalkeepers in one competition and wins silverware.

Brighton has March and Milner as full-backs. Anything less than 3 goals is a failure for Manchester City. James Milner versus Jérémy Doku is a massive mismatch.

You can see why Pep Guardiola wants Phil Foden to become a holding midfielder because he’s so good at turning in the 2nd phase to transition the team into the final third. He draws two or more players to him, and the game opens up once he plays the pass through to the next man.

Manchester City isn’t jumping when Brighton does the “we’ll wait for you to move before passing the ball” charade, which is forcing Brighton to play the ball long to no one, and Manchester City collects.

The main man-to-man matchups are Rodri following Pascal Gross and Bernardo Silva following Carlos Baleba. The rest cover the players on the edges, with Kyle Walker key at right-back in stopping the pacy left-wing outlet Kaoru Mitoma.

Pep Guardiola on controlling Brighton:

“Against Brighton for 95 minutes, controlling them is impossible. No team in the world can do that. I am surprised we did it for 55/60 minutes.”

Manchester City fell off in the 2nd half against Arsenal when they became more relaxed in counter-pressing, and they did the same against Brighton. Part of that might have to do with Brighton slowing things down in build-up, which might have helped coax City into a false sense of security.

Rodri, in particular, was not following his man as closely, allowing Brighton to play wide, central, and then into Manchester City’s half. That slower pace to start created the separation for those in the center so that when Brighton went, Rodri and Bernardo were far out of reach of the receiver. You really have to stay on top of assignments at all times to stop a team like Brighton, who are so good at finding the gaps to pass between the lines. The moment you sleep, they kick it to a free man, which activates an automation, play two one-touch passes, and they’re into your end.

Roberto De Zerbi’s thoughts on the changes in the 2nd half after commenting they were too “shy” in the 1st half:

“We played with more energy, courage, personality. We kept order on the pitch without the ball.”

Figure 1.1 - Roberto De Zerbi instructed Brighton to slow it down and "pass the ball."

Brighton was rushing in the 2nd half at times to get out of their own half. Manchester City’s long and drawn-out patterns of possession can lull you into a sense of panic when you win the ball. They make you feel like you need to rush to their end to beat them. This is not the case.

Remain confident and play slowly, and City will allow you to create chances. They will wait for mistakes. They rarely ever lunge into tackles.

Match: Manchester City vs Brighton, October 21, 2023

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