Saturday, March 25, 2023

The Dark Side Of The Blue Moon: Where Do Manchester City Need to Get Things Right ?

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Prasoon Sur
Prasoon is a law student who lives in the North East of India. Wildly innovative, football is more than a passion for him.

Mauricio Pochettino was rightly an elated man after the final whistle against Manchester City at the White Hart Lane as he became the first manager to nick all 3 points off Pep Guardiola this season. An own goal from Aleksandar Kolarov followed by a neat finish from Dele Alli ended Guardiola’s perfect start in England, and quite comprehensively so.

Though the match was far from being a one-sided affair, one expected better from Manchester City. Although, considering the complexity of fixtures and competitiveness of the league, a slight tremor wasn’t unanticipated but this should not turn their form into a downward trajectory. The pre-conceived notion that Guardiola would brandish his magic wand and change English football in the blink of an eye is a bit archaic to even consider but he looks determined to cover the loopholes in the blue half of Manchester and steer them to continental glory.

Every revolution takes some time to overhaul the pre-existing customs and norms, and the tactical master is indeed miles away from implementing all of his ideas to his players who have plied their trade on the pitch so far this season. It would not be totally harsh on Guardiola or Manchester City for that matter to underline the notion that they have not been anything ‘extraordinary’ so far, but have however been bagging the points. Spurs gave them a run for their money and sadly, Guardiola’s men failed to save his blushes.

The anecdote of the Spaniard’s tactical nous is something unfamiliar to English football, although thoroughly known to those who have seen the genius at work time and again at Barcelona or Bayern Munich. The ploy of devising the full-backs as midfielders when Manchester City accelerated was a common parlance which is evident when Pablo Zabaleta moves to the centre and Gaël Clichy runs inside. This that was very usual during his tenure at Spain and Germany, and guess what, even Willy Caballero was used as a ‘sweeper keeper’ during the saga that persisted over the employability of Joe Hart.

Manchester City FC v VfL Borussia Moenchengladbach - UEFA Champions League

The tactically sound football’s devotee, despite all his perfections and monumental stature, does suffer from his own set of identifiable demerits and amendable imperfections. In his new habitat, Guardiola’s tactics sometimes look quite one-dimensional. A detailed scrutiny by opposition manager would urge them to employ speedy wingers to embarrass or nullify the new boss’s tactics of basically having three defenders sitting behind.

To unsettle the City players, putting them out of possession and then frustrating them to an extent which forces them to move out of position would be another point Guardiola’s rivals would vehemently put to use against his side. This was evident against the Lilywhites who devised their severe pressing methods which allowed no space whatsoever to City players and the latter eventually succumbed.

As many as five fielders are generally chalked high up the pitch offensively by Guardiola, which includes Kevin De Bruyne and David Silva, as a result of which it becomes very tough on the part of the players to track back and fill in the back line. A counter attack by the opponents amidst such chaos would put his defence under severe jeopardy, particularly against the other shrewd tacticians and fast-moving sides of the game.

The troubles Manchester City have had with set pieces is yet another story to envisage upon. Defensive zonal marking isn’t something that lies in the good books of the tacticians from England, given the physical edge the league has over the rest and this can complicate the things further at the Manchester City.

Frankly, Manchester City are far from complete refinement under the new regime but do have a bunch of very talented personnel to envisage upon the manager’s thought process. The Citizens have started to scratch the surface by plucking out nine out of nine. To accomplish their full potential, they do need to make necessary ramifications very quickly before the tides of time create an upheaval against them.

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