We return to Premier League action at Manchester City on Sunday, and ahead of the game tactical expert Michael Cox analyses our opponents.
Arsenal need little introduction to Pep Guardiola, having faced him four times as Barcelona manager and four times as Bayern Munich boss. With six league titles from seven seasons as a coach, not to mention the Champions League twice too, Guardiola has attempted to implement a proactive possession-based side at Manchester City, with mixed results so far. Going forward City are occasionally enthralling, but defensively there have been serious problems – last weekend’s 4-2 defeat at Leicester City was an example of the disconnect between the centre-backs.
Who knows? Guardiola was renowned as a 4-3-3 man for the majority of this time at Barcelona, but increasingly became experimental with his formations at Bayern Munich and has taken things to the next level at Manchester City.
Although he started the season with a rough 4-1-4-1 shape, Guardiola has increasingly experimented with a three-man defence, fielding systems that have appeared as 3-2-2-3 against Everton and 3-2-4-1 against Chelsea. However, after that Leicester thrashing and questions about the three-man defence in general, we may see a more traditional 4-1-4-1 system here.
At their best, City play quite wonderful passing combinations in midfield, thanks to the use of both Kevin De Bruyne and David Silva in a midfield trio, probably just ahead of Fernando this weekend.
With two outright wide players – two of Nolito, Raheem Sterling and Nolito – stretching the play on both flanks, City open up the opposition and allow De Bruyne and Silva to cut through quickly and incisively. The absence of the suspended Sergio Aguero, however, means they’re less potent in front of goal.
De Bruyne has been sensational this season. Capable of dribbling, assisting, scoring and roaring forward on the counter-attack, there are periods where it feels like the Belgian is impossible to stop. In the recent home defeat to Chelsea, he repeatedly drifted to the right from his central starting position before whipping devilish crosses into the box, giving another dimension to City’s play.
AREAS TO TARGET
The defence has looked particularly nervous in recent weeks, regardless of whether Guardiola has used three or four at the back. John Stones has made repeated mistakes in possession, Aleksandar Kolarov still hasn’t convinced in a central role, Nicolas Otamendi can be very impetuous, and with defensive midfielder Fernandinho suspended the defenders also lack protection.
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