Manchester City, the chameleon team that is always one step ahead

Manchester City Could be the ultimate chameleon team.

Jürgen Klopp kept up well behind him Liverpool The side was out Carabao Cup last 16 by City Before Christmas.

“We all know with City,” he said. “Different ideas for different games and you always have to use it during the game. You never know what’s going to happen.”

But while opposition managers are trying to find solutions to tackle City – either by studying what has happened before or adapting to what is happening before their eyes – Guardiola and his staff are also busy finding answers to the problems they face. .

City’s possession game has been tested a lot in the last few weeks, first at Elland Road and then at Stamford Bridge. Leeds UnitedA narrow 4-3-3 approach out of possession made it difficult for City to access their number 10s — Kevin De Bruyne and Ilke Gundogan – in their 3-2-4-1 shape when they had the ball.

The thing about City is that even if you stop them at one stage, they can beat you at the next. Limiting City’s threat in possession did not stop the City train in transition, and Leeds were lucky to concede just once in the first half – surprisingly, from transition.

Then at Stamford Bridge, Graham Potter used a similar approach without the ball City nil in the first half. But in the second, Guardiola adjusted and City became the better side after the introduction Rico Lewis and keeping Rhodri In midfield when they didn’t have the ball.

Luiz’s role was more daring in the double pivot of 3-2-4-1 Bernardo Silva, and the youth’s forward movement provided an overload to the right. That, combined with City’s improved pressing and counter-pressing in the second half, gave Guardiola’s side a crucial win. Everton.

Three days later Chelsea In a league match, they faced each other FA Cup Third Round. Again, City started with the same shape when they had the ball – with a 3-2-4-1 Sergio Gomez Moving in to partner Rodrima in a double pivot.

And Chelsea continued to win the 4-3-3 despite not having the ball. Mason Mount and Hakim Jiyech Marking City’s double pivot in front of the midfield three.

This time too, the city has prepared. After eight minutes, they changed their shape in possession, leaving Bernardo next to Rodri and spreading the play with Gomez and Kyle Walker Acting as a wide full back. They went from a 3-2-4-1 to a 4-2-4/4-2-3-1 when in possession.

It was a great solution against Chelsea’s narrow 4-3-3 — Mount and Ziyech were still marking City’s two deepest midfielders, leaving wide space for City’s full backs. They had time on the ball as Chelsea’s midfield three were unable to stretch for fear of City playing through them.

Accordingly, City were able to switch play from one side to the other without the full-backs under any pressure to perform further action. here, Aymeric Laporte The ball plays towards Walker on the right side and you can spot Mateo KovacicInitial position…

… which allows Walker to comfortably receive the ball under pressure.

Then, when City tried to switch the ball to the other side, it was the same scenario. Because it’s in another possession, Gomez has acres Conor Gallagher Chelsea’s midfield is positioned infield to maintain a compact three. So when? Manuel Akanji plays diagonally…

… Gomez can control the ball comfortably and Gallagher is still crossing the pitch to defend.

The wide positioning of Walker and Gomez proved problematic for Chelsea on more than one occasion. In this instance, Gallagher sticks to his midfield position and largely ignores Gomez…

… so when Cole Palmer (light blue) moves into the empty space Bashir Humphreys – which goes up to the mark Phil FodenTrevoh Chalobah Left in a two versus one situation.

Palmer is running behind him (light blue) and Gomez is running free in front of him (yellow). Chalobah’s body orientation says it all — he doesn’t know whether to adjust his body shape for the ball toward Gomez or toward Palmer. Laporte goes for the latter, playing a pass behind Chalobah…

… and Palmer should score from this position.

In another example, Lewis Hall (No 67) Chelsea’s defensive line is in a narrow position to maintain compactness but Walker runs right to the touchline. Closer to the center circle, Kovacic doesn’t even know what’s going on behind him, even if it is. Riyad Mahrez A walker floating in space or providing width.

Rhodri sees the walker running and goes outside England Right back…

…which controls it comfortably because Hall can’t go up to press him because of Mahrez’s presence. Kovacic, meanwhile, was late to the party.

As a result, Walker has plenty of time and space to pick City players. He chooses to play the ball to the marked foden, instead Julian Alvarez, who made a free run into the box. Picking up the Argentine could be a good opportunity for City.

In the first half, Walker and Gomez were free to receive the ball out wide. Here, Kovacic is nowhere near Walker – who is calling for the switch of play – with the ball at the other end. So, when Rhodri passes the ball back to Akanji…

…The Swiss defender can easily find Walker because Kovacic is away and Hall can’t commit because of the threat of Mahrez behind him.

Once Walker has the ball on this side and Hall moves up, the Chelsea defense has to cross to cover. This creates a gap at the other end of the field, which is magnified by Gallagher dropping in to defend the center of the pitch and Gomez keeping his wide position on the left. After City moved the ball to the right…

…They switch it to the left, and Gallagher is miles away from Gomez.

He received the ball without being pressured by any of the Chelsea players. From this attack down the left, City won the first penalty corner, which Alvarez scored.

City’s third goal, a 17-pass move that ended with a Walker cutback to Foden, also resulted in the game switching from one side to the other.

On the way to goal, City are starting to attack from the right side, while on the other hand, Gomez is maintaining his wide position with Gallagher near the center circle.

So when Walker dribbles past Hall, the game switches on because Ziyech is marking Rodri and Gallagher is in midfield. Both are away from left Gomez.

City retain possession for a few seconds, so Kovacic moves in to defend the center of the pitch. Again, due to this narrow position and Mount’s move to mark Bernardo, Walker is free and signals for City’s switch to play on the right.

Rodri accepts and plays the ball to Mahrez as Walker begins his forward run.

That run puts Hall in a two-on-one scenario as Kovacic can’t track all that distance from his narrow midfield position. Mahrez finds Walker’s run…

…and the City defender pulled the ball back for Foden to score City’s third goal and effectively end the game.

At half time, Potter switched to a back five to limit City’s play to their full backs but it was too late. The game was already over.

Guardiola’s City are famous for their in-game adaptations. Starting with a fixed size, then switching between games. or switching players around to provide different solutions. It gives them an advantage when they need it.

Perhaps Klopp has missed a line. Different ideas for different games, and different ideas within the same game.

He was right about one thing though: with the city, you never know exactly what will happen.

(Top image: BBC Sport)


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