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The Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) is about to make perhaps the best move ever in its history after the house of football… UEFA Champions League football is back! Manchester City won 6–3 against Jesse Marsh’s RB Leipzig at the Etihad Stadium. This tactical analysis breaks down the strategy of both sides, and links it to an interesting situation caught on camera. Manchester City head coach Pep Guardiola was furious with Riyad Mahrez in the second half. Why did this happen? You will find the answers in the analysis.
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City came up with a new line-up as Pep rotated some players. Ilkay Gundogan and Kyle Walker started on the bench, as did Kevin De Bruyne and Oleksandr Zinchenko. City were also missing Aymeric Laporte and John Stones, so Nathan Ake joined Ruben Dias as the main back-up.
Although Marsch could be flexible in terms of formation, his early days as head coach of RB Leipzig followed a 4–2–3–1 formation. After a big loss to Bayern, he made some changes, taking out Dominik Szoboszlai, Kevin Kampl and Mohamed Simcan. As replacements arrived, Emil Forsberg, Lukas Klostermann and Tyler Adams were back.
City started well in the beginning of the game. He had a clear positional strategy to lead the opposition with the ball, and the build-up and second level were effortless. Leipzig could not defend them.
City gained a 7v6 numerical advantage in the center with the correct “Guardiola method”. Generally, the forward three were a bit high to give the opposition back four, although Jack Grealish would occasionally empty into the deep when Zinchenko was rotated. The positioning and pace of City’s players was superb as they picked apart Leipzig’s players both vertically and horizontally.
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According to Dani Olmo’s position, Leipzig defended between a 4–2–3–1 formation and a 4–4–2 formation. However, they did not bring enough pressure and intensity to allow City to set the pace easily.
In the first image, we wanted to focus on City’s midfield position three. Rodrigo Hernandez was a bit off the main defenders that night when he tried to take Olmo away from Dias. Meanwhile, Bernardo Silva and Kevin De Bruyne will lurk down the halves to spread out the defensive midfielder. Then, they could play straight down the middle to find Rodri.
Let’s look at more examples. City played with a pair of deep and long-legged defenders to counter the opposition. The second image shows Leipzig’s 4-4-2 defence. Since Rodri was high at the start, Olmo did not get a chance on the die in the press as the distance was too great to travel. This laid the groundwork for City to move the ball around in the second half.
Just seconds after the previous image, City passed the ball to AK and then to Zinchenko. Now, you can see that the Leipzig Bloc was also moving towards closed spaces on the other side. And with City’s narrow full-backs pulling up the narrow right-back, the German side will have to commit to a right-back for Grealish to close down the flank.
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But it was a very difficult task for Nordy Mukele because B. Silva was constantly going half-way. The Portugal international kept the defense busy throughout the game to create more space for Grealish.
Another game plan here. Dias and João Cancelo combined with a wall pass, which caught the pressure to free the other side immediately. Leipzig went with their 4-4-2 block and used Forsberg to press, but going right-back was just an illusion for City.
Because City’s real intention is to play diagonally to beat the other side. He had more passes (48) than his season average (38.67), and those diagonals were a factor in that. Just five seconds later, Leipzig’s center block directed itself to the right of the city, so the left was free.
Furthermore, B. Silva always stayed in the half and moved deftly to keep the defenders confused. In this situation, Grealish was completely free at right back on the touchline, as Bea Silva’s forward run tripped Mukille. From there, a left and left midfielder would combine to reach advanced areas.
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On the right, City would have another player as Cancelo had the offensive talent to pierce the attack. Portugal’s right-back could turn around with Mahrez and De Bruyne scoring their own goal for Muquelle.
It was another move from B Silva, but we still want to show how important it is to City’s offensive design. In this situation, Zinchenko moved into a wide position, with a left wing pressing. Initially, Adamas and Mukille were close to each other in Leipzig, with the space around Grelish closed. To generate this blank space b. Silva’s move was about to happen.
Silva quickly used a double move to move back into Zinchenko’s flank position. This sudden change in direction and pace invited Adams to press, leaving Zinchenko room to cross. As a result, Grealish was able to move to these spaces with his body covering the widest part of the field.
City also attempted to use Ferran Torres as a “false-9” between the lines. In this profile, he broke down Leipzig’s 4-2-3-1 down the middle while De Bruyne and Zinchenko extended the defensive midfield. The Spaniard was gradually improving his movements, integrating more into the game, but his ability to operate behind the midfield was still not good enough. We look forward to seeing his progress and how City can play along this route in the months to come.
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Pep brought on Fernandinho and Gundogan to gain more control. Both offered other qualities in the attacking build-up and allowed City to move the ball forward. Firstly, Gundogan always dropped cleverly from advanced positions to offer passing lanes directly to the central defenders, then released the third man to break into spaces at the back of the midfield.
In addition, Fernandinho excelled in moving to the position behind the first line. Leipzig’s Yusuf Poulsen was too quick to allow the Brazilian midfielder to cross his blind side in the last minute of the game. The city will enter advanced areas of the park from there. Our picture above shows this situation.
But City’s long shots and transition were also a significant part of their threats. They outplayed Leipzig and hit the counter, scoring some fancy goals.
Grealish and Mahrez each had two goals and one assist each in the game. From an offensive point of view, they may have been good but the cameras caught Pep “fighting” with the two on the touchline. City’s head coach was unhappy with his defence, especially when the players did not do what he was told on the break.
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Against Leipzig, as Pep said, the German team played with four deep players, and quickly moved back to reach the advanced zones. The original city plan was 4-4-2 and was squeezed by wide corridors. Then, forcing the opposition to play long balls or get into City’s midfield trap.
The first image of the segment provided views on the pressure of the city. When pressing, wings must first turn lanes to cover the fullback, then go for the center player. You could see it from the way Mahrez put the Angeleno in his shadow. The same should be done from Grealish’s side.
What was missing? We believed that City’s climbers were too passive and static in high media, not giving their intensity in the right positions, leaving room for Leipzig to escape.
In the opening minutes, Leipzig could get a little nervous in tight spaces, giving the ball away at times. They usually pushed the backs in the second row, and stayed wide to give more space to the central defenders and midfielders, you can tell from the Angelino position above.
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For the city, they did
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