Tactics Journal

by Kyle Boas

Analyzing football tactics

Manchester City's creative space ahead of Real Madrid's midfield

John Stones inverted from center-back into the midfield, occupying space in the pocket between Real Madrid’s midfield and forwards. Manchester City lacked runners and a creator to distribute the ball quickly into the channels ahead.

Figure 1.1 - John Stones in a pocket between Real Madrid's second and front line.
Figure 2.1 - Rodri carrying the ball forward in the pocket ahead of Real Madrid's midfield. Lack of runners ahead.
Figure 3.1 - John Stones in the pocket.
Figure 4.1 - Ball is wide, space central in front of Real Madrid's second line, but Manchester City lack runners into the box.

Real Madrid offered that space in front of Camavinga and Kroos. I suppose that was to limit the effectiveness of Haaland but it’s risky. One coordinated attack with enough numbers and it’s an easy goal.

It’s one thing to get in to that space, it’s another thing to try to get into the penalty area. Without runners in the channels once Rodri or Stones receive in that pocket, Real Madrid might be happy to allow them to enter that space.

Rodri is capable of playing that pass through but Stones is a little more clumsy and slow to turn to pass. Both were slow to release the ball once they received in that space.

Figure 5.1 - Vinicius Junior plays a through ball to Rodrygo.
Figure 5.2 - Rodrygo in on goal past Manuel Akanji.

The main threat is the counter from Real Madrid, which should have deterred John Stones from inverting into the midfield, but it didn’t in the first half. Stones persisted and City left Akanji, Dias, and Gvardiol back to defend against Real Madrid’s potent counter down the left-hand side.

Figure 6.1 - John Stones running beyond Real Madrid's back line and Rodri attempts to play him in.
Figure 1.1 - Illustration of possible passing patterns with a player like Kevin De Bruyne in the pocket ahead of Real Madrid's midfield.

Kevin De Bruyne was ill and unable to start, but someone like him, a creator, and another like Doku to inject some pace into the midfield, some variance, would have allowed Manchester City to create more meaningful chances. Those runs in the half-space, or long through balls over the top could have been used to distract Rudiger and Tchouameni from marking Haaland.

Play the ball through into the half-space, and then look for Haaland in the box once the center-backs dis-mark.

Match: Real Madrid 3-3 Manchester City, 9 April 2024

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