Tactical Breakdown of the Demolition
Manchester City’s dominant 7-0 victory of Norwich City was our chance, as supporters, to see what Manuel Pellegrini really intends to do with our club. The 4-1 drubbing of United made everyone feel amazing, but it didn’t showcase the style that Pellegrini was known for when he was the manager of the Yellow Submarine. Now we’ll break down what “the Engineer” is planning to do with the sky blues.
Pellegrini has always been partial to a modified 4-4-2, which is usually called a 4-2-2-2. This formation requires two dedicated holding midfielders, two creative midfielders, and two strikers. Also, Pellegrini historically has not been a fan of natural wide men and prefers to have his fullbacks bomb on to provide width in attack, and with this group he has a wealth of options. In this match we saw Zaba and Clichy in the attacking third more than in any other match. Sitting in front of the back four, we have Yaya Toure and Fernandinho. This difference here, from what he has been known for, is that the gaffer allows Yaya to rush into attack much more than he has allowed other midfielders in the past. The reason for this is the magnificent positional play of Fernandinho, and the Brazilian’s ability to recycle possession and play short, safe passes. ‘Dinho’s ability to sit deep and keep possession allows Yaya to bomb on and join attack. This is a dynamic relationship that can switched throughout the match in order to give one or the other a rest. Ahead of these players are the two creators. In the past, Pellegrini has placed his most creative player on the left, regardless of the player’s favored foot (Riquelme at Villarreal). In this match we saw Silva on the left and Nasri on the right. This personnel choice prevents the opposing team from shifting the defense to one side. Although they were nominally on the wings, both players drifted centrally, or sometimes to the other side of the pitch. Up front we had Negredo/Dzeko and Agüero, who acted as an old school striker duo. Negredo was a battering ram that spent most of his time right down the center, while Agüero had a freer role.
With the line-up out of the way, we can now look at the masterpiece that was carved into the pitch. The play and movement was worthy of the Louvre, simply stupendous. As supporters, we got a heavy dose of the “corner triangles” that Pellegrini loves. He pushes his fullback forward and his creator towards the middle, at the same time he drags on striker to that side of the pitch and forces the defense to over commit. In order to create these triangles you must set the defense up for failure. This is not done through route 1 football, but throw a varied speed of build up play. After a sequence of short passing, City break forward with quick, medium range passes on the floor that force the defense to get their shape back in a hurry. Next the ball is moved the corners, and then towards the box where chances are created. Get used to this sort of build up play as the season goes on.
A few take-aways from this match: David Silva is back to his magisterial best. The man is simply made from different parts than the rest of us. That being said, he and Nasri have a tendency to move into central positions, which tend to create a lot of congestion in the middle of the pitch. Hopefully this can be remedied with a bit of communication and the team can tick on. Lastly, Jesus is faster than sin. The man made a run late in the second half that was mind numbing. Look for him to get more minutes again as the season moves on and we start finding out which clubs have weak fullbacks.
So, there you have it, the Pellegrini Plan. Creative players, overlap from the fullbacks, and tricky passing. Hopefully this will be the way to glory. Not a bad option after missing out on football genius David Moyes. Until next time Blues…
A Citizen Abroad
WTFI Joey McCune (@jtmccune on the twitter machine)