Guardiola is a coach that is always thinking about his team’s playing style, as he makes sure to keep his identity but also looks for the tactical perfection. We already know this. He has the required tools at Manchester City to develop his best, as the entity is willing to invest as much as needed in their roster and with total freedom to impregnate the club with his idea.
Erling Haaland has been the biggest signing this summer. Not even to finish the puzzle, as it was already completed, but instead to take another turn to the perfect machine that Manchester City are. A machine that Guardiola perfects like a watchmaker.
Haaland – De Bruyne‘s connection:
Haaland’s physical allows him to sink the opponent’s defenses, as they must pay attention to the Norwegian’s diagonal runs. A run from Haaland without the ball opens up spaces for the interiors to get rid of their marks. If you decided to give Kevin De Bruyne time, you are dead. If you rather press him up, he will find the pass to a teammate that can take advantage of that space.
Two different examples: against West Ham, Gündogan makes a pass to Haaland and the striker ends up getting a penalty that he scores himself. The opposite roles against Bournemouth, with the Norwegian protecting the ball facing backwards towards the goal, provides Gündogan with the chance to score the first goal of the game. Top quality interiors that now add a born scorer.
Even when the rival display a sunken defense, like in their Premier League debut against West Ham, the ‘Citizens’ look for that space in their backs constantly. It is about finding the advantage situation, the player without mark.
The role of the full backs:
One of the most important aspects of Guardiola’s playing style is the full backs. Walker and Cancelo are very versatile and they can add different roles depending on the rival. In their game against Liverpool at the Community Shield, with Klopp’s squad carrying out an intense pressing, Guardiola opts to keep his full backs right by their sides to open up the field. In this case, the midfield must support the ball exit from backwards in order to be in a position where they can get to the opponent’s half more easily.
We already saw this approach last season in the games against Liverpool, even though Klopp is also a referent at reading the game. It is the best duel in football currently.
With rivals that are more sunken defensively like West Ham or Bournemouth, Guardiola opts for putting his full backs as midfielders. this allows the interiors to be closer to the opponent’s box and creates doubts in the rival’s defensive marks.
Even against Newcastle, when they are 3-1 behind at the 54th minute, Manchester City stick to their original plan and Haaland manages to score the 3-2 all by himself. The draw would come through an impossible pass by Kevin De Bruyne that Bernardo Silva finished in. They just run out of time to complete the comeback.
That is how the defense of the title from Manchester City has started so far, with the big aspirations that we can expect from such a talented team. The Champions League is still a must for Guardiola, but his biggest worry is still to make his team work, to keep reinventing the game.
Main image: @ManCityES.
Translated by Guillermo Bermejo.