Tactics Journal

by Kyle Boas

Analyzing football tactics

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Kyle Walker jumping in transition nearly cost Manchester City against Liverpool

From minute one, Manchester City were challenging the first man receiving the pass from Liverpool’s half once it crossed the half-way line, but too often the player attempting the tackle was Kyle Walker. This left City vulnerable — you’d prefer it to be a midfielder attempting this tackle.

Figure 1.1 - Kyle Walker jumps forward to challenge the ball carrier as they are receiving at the half-way line.

To stop transitions, you need tackles like this one. Once the ball gets near or past the half-way line, someone needs to be there to challenge the ball. The first pass.

That someone was often right-back Kyle Walker.

I would have preferred a midfielder, like Bernardo Silva, to be the one to make those types of tackles at the half-way line to allow Kyle Walker to stay back and mark Luis Diaz.

Figure 2.1 - Manchester City's man-to-man counter-press with Bernardo Silva man marking Alexis Mac Allister.

The reasoning for why Bernardo was not the one to make that tackle was that he was on the other side of the pitch man-marking Alexis Mac Allister.

They wanted him higher up the pitch to apply pressure when the ball was in Liverpool’s half. Then when Liverpool settled, he was used to hound Mac Allister and right-wing Harvey Elliot.

Figure 3.1 - Illustration of Manchester City's in possession shape and their shape defending in transition.

Something to note: John Stones inverted from left center-back instead of the right center-back. He normally inverts from the right. There were a lot of little tweaks for matchups on each side of the pitch to try to slow Liverpool down.

It was a very offensive attacking strategy from Manchester City. John Stones inverting into the pivot left Ake, Akanji, and Walker back to defend against four Liverpool forwards most times.

Figure 4.1 - Kyle Walker begins to jump as Alexis Mac Allister plays the ball to Dominik Szoboszlai.
Figure 4.2 - Luis Diaz in massive amounts of space as Kyle Walker attempts the tackle.

When you commit that many forward with only three back, Kyle Walker gets a little too over-eager and he jumps, now Luis Diaz has about 40 yards of space on the left-hand side.

They would have been less defensively vulnerable if the back-line stayed in line, stayed back, didn’t jump. Let the midfield chase and apply pressure.

Figure 5.1 - Illustration of what Manchester City could have instead used in possession and when defending in transition.

The safer approach would have been to have Bernardo Silva in the pivot with Rodri. Then they’d have the option to push Kyle Walker forward to right-wing so Phil Foden could invert. Kyle Walker stayed back to defend against Luis Diaz in transition with his pace. He wasn’t able to get forward to right-wing. John Stones could invert from right center-back to allow Bernardo Silva to push wide left.

Then when City defend in transition, they could fall back to that 4-2 shape and always have one man marking each Liverpool forward, while still always having the ability to challenge the ball at the half-way line with Rodri or Bernardo.

Manchester City were begging to be scored on on the counter the way they were set up, and nearly were on several occasions. Had Liverpool’s passing and finishing been more succinct, this game would have ended 2-1, 3-1, maybe 4-1.

Match: Liverpool 1-1 Manchester City, 10 March 2024

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