With a remarkable 4-0 victory over Brighton, Manchester City recorded their third win of the Premier League season. City boss Pep Guardiola’s short passing game with a focus on picking spaces continued to portray his team as one of the favourites to secure the top position in the league table. The tactical analysis below examines how Manchester City edged out Brighton in their fourth Premier League game of the season. The analysis details the strengths and weaknesses in the tactical set up of each squad and how Manchester City exploited the shortcomings of Brighton’s tactics.
Manchester City played with their usual 4-3-3 formation with Agüero, Sterling, and Mahrez at the front. When in possession, the wingers were to play wide while the midfielders to go deep to form coherent passing structure.
Brighton started the game with 3-4-3 tactical structure but turned to form a low-block defence with five at the back to absorb City’s deep attacks.
City dominated with a high press
The Citizens dominated most of the game with their high press. City’s front line especially Agüero consistently threatened Brighton’s centre-back and goalkeeper with his close marking. Besides, City’s wingers maintained their press over Brighton’s wide centre-backs.
As seen in the picture below, City’s front-three pressed Brighton’s back-three with City’s mid-line also pushed higher to support the press executed by the front line. City’s wide centre-mid De Bruyne also went deep with Hernandez to press Brighton centre-mids and match with them in numbers. The home team’s fullbacks kept a check on Brighton’s wing-backs. This way City matched with Brighton in numbers in their defensive phases of the game.
The credit for City’s first goal also goes to their high defence line. City’s Silva ran to the goal box while keeping in line with the shoulder of Brighton’s right centre-back Webster. He received the ball from his teammate and passed it to De Bruyne. While Agüero was already going up which attracted Brighton’s defenders towards him, the movement freed up De Bruyne allowing him to score the first goal of the game.
Brighton played with the low defence line
Throughout the game, Brighton adopted a conservative defensive approach by forming a deep block which would block almost all the passing options for City in Brighton’s half. As a result, City often ended up losing possession to Brighton when they tried to penetrate through the defensive block.
However, this approach also cost Brighton during their attacking phases. They would end up with only a few men in the final third of the pitch when they wanted to carry forward the attack after winning possession from Guardiola’s men. Consequently, the away team lost the possession to City whenever the ball reached to their attacking half.
Only during the initial minutes of the second period of the game, Brighton could make more action in City’s half. Later on, when City began to take control of the game with their high press and possession, Brighton players had to come back to their half to form deep block. That went on leaving them with minimal opportunities to make use any of the attacking transitions originated in their favour.
City attacked with the deep passing game
Manchester City attacked by executing a deep passing game. When in possession, they played deep short passes in the central attacking region leaving the widths blank. The wingers ensured their wide presence across their respective flanks. But the midfielders and full-backs moved closer to the deeper parts of the pitch to play short passes.
City’s scored their second goal in the late minutes of the first half when Mahrez made a deep cut with the ball into Brighton’s low block defence and then passed the ball to De Bruyne who was unmarked behind him. That pass had already distracted the attention of defenders from Agüero towards De Bruyne and Mahrez. De Bruyne then put in a deep flat cross to Agüero who brilliantly dribbled cut the defenders and scored past the opposing goalie.
In the second half of the game too, the possession order remained the same for both teams with City continued to dominate with their high press and deep passing game, and Brighton continued to confront City’s attack by forming a deep defensive block.
In the early stage of the second half, City scored the third goal of the game. They managed to penetrate Brighton’s deep block thanks to Mahrez who sat deep within the defensive block to be available as a central passing option. City’s left-back Zinchenko dribbled up and passed to Mahrez. While the opponent defenders were already eyeing deeply positioned Mahrez, the winger passed the ball to Agüero who had positioned himself in line with Brighton’s last line. With that pass, Agüero scored his second goal of the game.
Brighton’s defensive errors
Despite forming a deep defensive block, Brighton made a couple of defensive errors which saw them lose by such a significant margin. The away team conceded goals because of delay in the positioning of their last time in critical instances. As an example, they conceded the final goal after they were late to form the deep block in their attempt to press City in the more advanced region. They offered City’s Bernardo Silva the opportunity to get past their scattered defence.
As another example, during the defensive phase of Brighton, their wing-back Bernardo went up to mark City’s right-back Walker leaving a large area behind him empty. That move allowed Walker to pass the ball behind Bernardo to his teammate Mahrez. The resulting build-up led to City scoring the second goal.
With their high press and deep passing game, Guardiola’s men were able to outperform their opponents. Brighton, on the other hand, did most of the action in their half thus leaving with few bodies in the advanced portion of the pitch who would keep the ball rolling. Manchester City thus dominated the possession of the game and played with a much better structure than Brighton both offensively and defensively.
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