Tactics Journal

by Kyle Boas

Analyzing football tactics

Manchester City dragging Newcastle wide changed the game

Manchester City were unable to take advantage of the space Newcastle left behind their second line because they didn’t drag Gordon, Almiron, Trippier, and Burn wide. An adjustment to drag those defenders opened space in the second half.

They tried to deny the pass into Phil Foden central, behind their second line, by marking Rodri with three midfielders. That left Almiron and Gordon to mark Kovacic and Bernardo Silva.

Kovacic and Bernardo Silva liked staying tight to Rodri to try to create a numerical advantage in the middle. That in turn made the center of the pitch fairly congested.

Figure 1.1 - Rodri carries the ball forward.

When Newcastle denied the pass through the middle, that forced City back. When City went back, they tried to force Ruben Dias to pass through Kyle Walker.

When Jéremy Doku would invert, Newcastle left Josko Gvardiol free on the far-side. City avoided passing to Gvardiol because the pass into him was a fairly obvious pressing trigger for Kiernan Trippier.

Figure 1.2 - Newcastle press Ruben Dias to pass to Kyle Walker.
Figure 1.3 - Ruben Dias switches to Josko Gvardiol.

The moment the pass is played, Kiernan Trippier goes to intercept the ball. It’s always going to be a slower moving pass from Ruben Dias as he passes to the left with his right foot.

Figure 1.4 - Kiernan Trippier intercepts the pass.
Figure 1.5 - Newcastle are on the break.

Newcastle block off the middle while they surround Jérémy Doku central. They block off the pass to Phil Foden and effectively take Julian Alvarez out of the game by double teaming him. City can’t chip a ball over to Foden because it’s too easily intercepted.

Kyle Walker and Josko Gvardiol are not a threat one-v-one up against Dan Burn and Kiernan Trippier.

Kovacic and Bernardo Silva have no room because Almiron and Gordon are right on top of them.

To get the ball behind Newcastle’s second line more effectively, City need to drag Gordon and Almiron wide. When they drag them wide, that then forces Trippier to mark Doku, and then later Oscar Bobb. Gordon has to stay close to Kyle Walker. Dan Burn is forced to mark Phil Foden, who moved to the right-wing when Kevin De Bruyne came on in the 69th minute.

Figure 2.1 - Illustration of the change when Kevin De Bruyne came on in the 69th minute.

The second line is now split into three separate sections and space opens in the half-spaces as the space persists behind the second line. Rodri and Kovacic now only have to navigate past three midfielders instead of five. Newcastle become stretched.

Kyle Walker is pinning Gordon back so Kevin De Bruyne is allowed to act as a deep-lying playmaker, drift out wide to the right to cross, help out on the left, and sit behind Alvarez as the #10.

Figure 3.1 - Rodri dribbles forward and passes to Kevin De Bruyne behind Newcastle's second line.
Figure 3.2 - Kevin De Bruyne is in uncontested.
Figure 3.3 - Kevin De Bruyne shoots and scores through the legs of the defender.
Figure 4.1 - Kevin De Bruyne pass to Oscar Bobb for the equalizing goal.

The rest of the team were all playing at a high level, they just needed more room to get behind the second line. When they have enough room it’s easier to play that pass in the channels behind or through Newcastle’s back-line.

Forcing Newcastle to adjust their man-marking assignments, opening space in the half-spaces, stretching Newcastle’s middle three in front of Rodri, mixed with individual brilliance from Kevin De Bruyne and Oscar Bobb is the reason why City came back from 2-1 down to win the game 2-3.

Match: Newcastle 2-3 Manchester City, 13 January 2024

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