The Julian Alvarez Domino Effect
December 01, 2023
Manchester City has a plethora of players who dribble at defenders to draw them out, but Julian Alvarez is unique to their attack because he creates space for others with his movement off-the-ball.
Alvarez was subbed on in the 54th minute, and seconds later, Manchester City scored their first goal.
Julian Alvarez’s movement back, before receiving the ball, opens up the space ahead of him to take his first touch into.
Four passes and they are in on goal. That movement draws the defender behind Alvarez towards him, and a space opens in the right half-space for Rico Lewis to attack. Then because he moves away from Foden, Foden then has space ahead of him to take his first touch into.
It’s a domino effect.
Julian Alvarez again creates space for his teammates. That movement back creates space on the opposite side of the pitch for Phil Foden to operate in, isolating him 1v1. It shifts RB Leipzig to the ball-side, leaving more space free on the far-side.
That space for Phil Foden is created by Julian Alvarez. They are already marking Erling Haaland, but he stays wide to drag defenders away from Foden.
Foden doesn’t need a lot of space, but if you give him a ton he can beat his man 1v1. Without that space, there’s a good chance he wouldn’t sit in that pocket at the top of the box, or attempt to dribble past his marker.
Of note; when Alvarez came on, Manchester City was using a 3-4-3 diamond formation that is new this season and more fluid, but they switched to a rigid box midfield to maintain the 2-2 draw once they equalized.
The box midfield, once an exotic and new formation last season, has now turned into their conservative approach to maintain the scoreline or stem the tide of a desperate opposition’s attack. They only needed a draw to top the group, so going safe is smart, but it’s interesting that is now their defensive go-to.
Three goals scored from the time Alvarez is subbed on, and the 3-2 win is secured. The entire team elevated their play but that movement to create space for others is key.
Your whole team can’t just be progressive dribblers. You need someone whose sole job is to create space for others, and that is Julian Alvarez’s job. He might not be as good on the turn or as creative a passer as Phil Foden, but his high intelligence to know when and where to move is vital to creating that space.
Match: Manchester City 3-2 RB Leipzig, 28 November 2023