Following the return to the 2019/20 season under Project Restart, Chelsea Football Club have started this part of the campaign with a 2-1 win against Aston Villa, after conceding a goal in the first half.
Now Chelsea will take on Manchester City at Stamford Bridge. Both sides are in the Top Four, with the Blues in 4th place on 51 out of 90 points in 30 matches (15W, 6D, 9L) and City in 2nd place on 63 out of 90 points in 30 matches (20W, 3D, 7L). Also, Chelsea’s goal difference of 13 is staggeringly lower than Manchester City’s 45.
Having lost the away fixture in November, what should we expect from the Cityzens tomorrow?
Let’s start of by looking at Manchester City’s history since 2008, then their style of play under Guardiola and their key players, before making a prediction on their line-up.
MANCHESTER CITY’S MANAGERIAL HISTORY SINCE 2008
Following Sheikh Mansour’s takeover of Manchester City in August 2008, football was introduced to its first group of trillionaires, and it led to the signing of high-profile players at the club. They even broke the British transfer record a few hours later, by signing Robinho from Real Madrid for £32.5m. Despite finishing 10th that season, they spent over £100m the following summer (2009) and brought in the likes of Vincent Kompany and Carlos Tevez.
December 2009 saw the first managerial change of the new era, with Mark Hughes being sacked and replaced with Roberto Mancini, who installed a winning culture at City. He finished 5th in his first season, then 3rd in his second season with an FA Cup trophy. In his third season, he won the league title for the Cityzens (after 44 years of wait) in the most enthralling fashion: an injury-time winner from Sergio Aguero on the final game of the season (a 3-2 win against QPR). In his final season, City failed to win the Premier League, and Mancini was sacked two days after losing the 2013 FA Cup Final (a 1-0 loss to Wigan). In over his three-and-a-half-seasons at the club, over £300m were spent on transfer fees alone, which included Sergio Aguero (£36m), David Silva (£25.88m) and Jerome Boateng (£11.25m).
The summer of 2013 saw the appointment of Manuel Pellegrini on a three-year contract. Despite a shaky start and a hectic Christmas period, City managed to get 156 goals in all competitions (surpassing Man United’s 143 goals in 1957/58) and won the League Cup and Premier League in his first season. He wasn’t as fortunate in his second season, as the club finished 2nd (despite being 1st on New Year’s Day) and failed to obtain any silverware. On the 1st February 2016, midway through his third season, the club confirmed that the Chilean would be leaving at the end of his contract, and Pep Guardiola, the former Barcelona manager and (at the time) current Bayern Munich manager, would be replacing him. Pellegrini ended the season with a League Cup win and reached the Champions League Semi-Finals, but ended up 4th in the Premier League (their lowest position since 2010). The club also spent around £385m on transfer fees during his three-year contract, which included Kevin de Bruyne (£68.4m), Raheem Sterling (£57.33m) and Fernandinho (£36m).
MANCHESTER CITY UNDER PEP GUARDIOLA
Following his official appointment on the 1st July 2016, Pep Guardiola went on a huge spending spree of £171.5m in 2016/17, bringing in the likes of Gundogan, Sané, Stones, Bravo and Jesus. There was a lot of controversy that summer, with reports suggesting that Guardiola told Joe Hart that he was no longer needed at the club, and that Guardiola brawled with Yaya Touré’s agent. Unfortunately, the season didn’t go as Guardiola would have hoped: he finished 3rd in the Premier League and was knocked out in the FA Cup Semi-Final (to Arsenal), the League Cup Fourth Round (to Man United) and the Champions League Round of 16 (to Monaco). He even described the 2016/17 season as a failure for not winning any silverware and recognised that improvements were necessary and was labelled by many rival fans as “Fraudiola” (making the point that his success was based on quality players, not the training methodology).
The following season (2017/18) saw City spent around £270m to improve the squad: they signed a new goalkeeper in Ederson because Claudio Bravo underperformed; three new full-backs in Kyle Walker, Benjamin Mendy and Danilo because they had ageing full-backs (Bacary Sagna, Pablo Zabaleta, Aleksander Kolarov, Gael Clichy) that struggled to play as inverted full-backs; a new winger in Bernardo Silva for his ability to play as both a winger and central attacking midfielder, as well as to suit the style of play; and a new centre-back in Aymeric Laporte in the winter. This recruitment led to the team winning the Premier League with a record-breaking 100 points (19 pints ahead of 2nd placed Manchester United), as well as winning the League Cup (against Arsenal); but failed to get past the FA Cup Fifth Round (against Wigan) and the Champions League Quarter-Finals (against Liverpool).
The 2018/19 season saw much less spending (£63.3m on transfer fees, most of which was spent on signing Riyad Mahrez), even netting a net income of £6.33m. They started of the season with a win in the FA Community Shield against the FA Cup winners (Chelsea), and went on to win a further three trophies: the Premier League, the League Cup (against Chelsea) and the FA cup (against Watford). However, the Premier League season was much tighter after having won by one league point (ahead of Liverpool), and still they failed to get past the Champions League Quarter Finals (after losing to Spurs).
The 2019/20 season saw around £134m spending on new players: a new defensive midfielder in Rodri to replace the 34-year-old Fernandinho; a new left-back in Angelino to add some reinforcements with the constant injuries of Benjamin Mendy (yet the Spaniard left on loan to RB Leipzig in January 2020); and a new right back in João Cancelo to provide competition to Kyle Walker. The start of the season saw City lift the FA Community Shield, after winning on penalties (against Liverpool), but they haven’t been so fortunate in the league so far and Liverpool could be set to win their first Premier League should City lose tomorrow. Despite that, they did win the League Cup (against Aston Villa) and are still in contention for the FA Cup (they’re in the Quarter-Finals) and Champions League (they’re in the Round of 16 Second Leg).
However, their future in European football for 2020/21 and 2021/22 hangs in the balance of the Court of Arbitration of Sport (following a two-season ban from the UEFA Club Financial Control Body this February, for breaching FFP Regulations), so it might be Guardiola’s last chance at City to win the Champions League.
STYLE OF PLAY
Pep Guardiola is renowned for his possession-based style of football, nicknamed Tiki-Taka. His style is all about quick, incisive football and encourages his team to play from the back through shot passing and quick movement. He commonly uses the 4-3-3 formation but will adjust the formation and tactics according to how the opposition might set up, and how they play during the game.
In attack, he uses two different tactics to get into the final third: if the opposition prefers to sit back, this provides the defence with loads of space deep in their own half, allowing them time to pass a forward pass; if the opposition prefers to press, they attempt to play quick and short passes to evade it (which will either tire and/or disorientate the opposition), and since they have very technical players, the heavy use of the rondo in training allows them to avoid losing the ball in positions near the goal (especially when the opposition players are in close proximity). This is why teams must not press in groups but as a whole unit, otherwise it will be much easier for City to bypass the press. Once the ball reaches the final third, the team is shaped like a 2-3-5, with at least one of the full-backs pushing into the wide positions and looking to create goalscoring opportunities. It’s also important that the wingers are able to roam positions. Having five opposition players in the final third can be an absolute nightmare to defend against (because they love to exploit the common, half and wide spaces), especially when caught on the break. When the opposition plays with a back four, all it takes is for one of the City players to drop deep to collect the ball or for the ball carrier to be in a position to cross (and for that opposition player to move with or towards him), and a gap is immediately formed in the back line. Even if another defender or a midfielder attempts to cover that gap, most of the time the gap would have already been exploited and a shot would already have been taken. Such speed and intelligence is why you’ll see a lot of opposition sides struggle to play with a back four, and if the wingers are left unmarked then they can roam freely around the box.
In defence, City are quite often caught on the transition, as they commit a lot of players forward. All it takes is a fast counter-attack and they are in trouble. This is why you’ll see Guardiola adopt the ‘six second rule,’ whereby you attempt to win the ball quickly and immediately after they lose it, and if they can’t after a few seconds then they will play tactical fouls in order to regroup. However, if the opposition doesn’t attempt a fast enough counter-attack, then they avoid playing a tactical foul and just regroup into their standard 4-3-3 formation. It’s very clear that Chelsea are not a side that counter-attacks fast enough, so they’ll have to rely on set-pieces and luck to win this game.
Now let’s jump into the three main key players for Manchester City this season.
Looking at their squad, it’s very clear that they have a lot of key players, so limiting it to three options seems unfair but necessary.
The first key player for Manchester City is Ederson Moraes. The former SL Benfica Youth Academy product joined Ribeirão Futebol Clube in the summer of 2011, then Rio Ave in the summer of 2012 (both on a free transfer), before coming back to SL Benfica’s First Team for £450k in the summer of 2015. He joined Manchester City two years later for £36m (summer of 2017). First and foremost, the 26-year-old plays a as a sweeper keeper, meaning a player who isn’t afraid to come off his line to help out in defensive duties and the build-up play (in the Premier League, 14 sweeper clearances so far this season), making it tougher for the opposition to make fast counter-attacks yet creating an open goal if he were to be bypassed (which doesn’t happen often). He has amazing distribution skills (per game, 23.9 average passes at an accuracy of 87.3%; 3.6/6.4 long balls per game), especially when it comes to his ball control, and with that he’s able to kick the ball quite far that in can end up in the final third of the pitch. This alone makes him a creative threat for City and playing out from the back helps him achieve that, which in turn opens up vast amount of space for the creative midfielders to exploit. He also has great shot-stopping abilities (27 games, 11 clean sheets; 0.89 goals conceded per game; 1.9 saves per game, 1.4 of which are saved inside the box) and since his arrival to the Cityzens, he has shown his ability to react fast and be brave under pressure, especially by putting himself in situations that could injure him. In short, the Brazilian is the perfect modern goalkeeper and his reflexes, distribution and bravery make him a key threat for City.
The next one is Kevin de Bruyne. The former KRC Genk Youth Academy product joined the First Team in the summer of 2008, before joining Chelsea for £7.2m in January 2012 but was loaned back for the remainder of the season to the Belgian club. The following season saw him loaned out to Werder Bremen on a fee of £405k, before being included in the First Team squad under Mourinho for the 2013/14 season. Six months later, lack of first-team opportunities saw him leave for Wolfsburg for £19.8m (January 2014), before joining Manchester City eighteen months later for £68.4m (summer of 2015). Despite being described as a creative attacking midfielder, he sees himself more as a complete central midfielder, meaning the main architect of controlling the offensive and defensive phases. In order to master that role, you need to have great defensive, transitional, attacking, dead ball and long passing abilities. From what we’ve seen during his time at City, the 28-year-old is clearly one of the most creative players the Premier League has even known, and since the departure of Eden Hazard to Real Madrid, it could be argued that he’s currently the best Premier League player. He’s very involved in the build-up play (per game, 55.4 average passes at an 81.8% accuracy; 3.2/4.4 accurate long balls; 2.5/4.5 accurate chipped passes), by spending a lot of time between the lines and initiating attacks or getting forward into the final third (by exploiting the central attacking areas or the half spaces). His abilities allow him to set up chances from the half-way line or deep in the final third (8 goals and 17 assists, 2.9 shots and 3.5 key passes per game, 1.2 shots taken inside the box per game; 6.0 xG and 14.0 xA, so 0.24 xG and 0.56 xA per 90), either by exploiting the inside channels and whipping in crosses (that bend towards on-rushing attackers) or by driving into the box and assisting from a wide position (that he exploited when the full-back pushed up for the press). While his through balls (0.96 completed per 90), crosses (2.3/8.8 crosses completed per game) and ball carrying can be eye catching, not enough is said about his overall impact, where he would contribute in transition by pressing (18.49 pressures per 90) or even tacking for the ball (1.34 tackles per 90). In short, the Belgian midfielder is Manchester City’s best player and main threat. Keep him out of the game and you can limit some of the threat, but it won’t be enough to avoid facing goalscoring opportunities.
Riyad Mahrez. The former AAS Sarcelles Youth Academy product joined Quimper in the summer of 2009, before joining Le Havre’s B Team on a free transfer in the summer of 2010, and was promoted to the Main Squad a year later. He spent another two-and-a-half seasons with the French club, before joining Leicester City in January 2014. He went on to win the Premier League 18 months later with the Foxes (May 2016) and won the PFA Players’ Player of the Year award. Despite signing a new four-year contract in August 2016, he stated a year later that he wished to leave the club (prompting interest from Arsenal and Manchester City), but despite reports of potential transfers he would have to wait a further year before joining Manchester City for £62.1m in the summer of 2018. The 29-year-old is very involved in the build-up play: he starts from a deep position before drifting into either the wide areas or half spaces of the pitch, potentially even the central spaces. If he exploits the wide spaces, then he’ll attempt to find a lot of space to run into before reaching the opposition full-back, at which point he’ll either take on the opposition player (1.7/2.9 successful dribbles per game) or cut inside and either send in a cross (0.6/3.0 crosses completed per game) or take a shot, or even keep cutting inside until space is found inside the box (9 goals and 8 assists, 2.3 shots and 1.9 key passes per game, 1.5 shots taken inside the box per game; 5.0 xG and 7.1 xA, so 0.30 xG and 0.42 xA per 90). If he exploits the half or central spaces, then he’ll look to link up the play with the other midfielders around him (per game, 35.5 average passes at an 89.8% accuracy; 1.6/2.0 accurate long balls; 1.2/1.8 accurate chipped passes) and place himself in a deeper position (before making a late run if required). It’s clear that the Algerian’s ability to be flexible between a centrally creative midfielder and a pacey and skilful winger shows why Pep Guardiola signed him, but if he joined another top side, he might be playing more regularly than he currently does.
I know I could have included Sergio Aguero, but because he’s been ruled out for potentially the rest of the season, I didn’t see any point in listing him in this segment.
Now I will predict Man City’s Starting XI.
Manchester City were very impressive in their 5-0 win against Burnley, despite fielding around half of their backup players.
Team wise, Sergio Aguero (knee injury) and Eric Garcia (head injury) are injured and Claudio Bravo (thigh injury, 50% fit), John Stones (ankle injury, 50% fit) and Phil Foden (knock, 50% fit) are doubtful.
I fully expect Manchester City to play their strongest available squad:
And that concludes my Manchester City scouting report! If you’ve enjoyed it, don’t forget to like and share this article!
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[All statistics were used from WhoScored, SofaScore and FBref]
Edited by: Dan