If Liverpool had hoped City would tumble down under pressure in the title race, the reigning champions made it clear they have no intentions of losing out on the league. At Craven Cottage, Manchester City registered a dominant 2-0 victory against Fulham to return to the top of the points table. Liverpool may have leapfrogged City again after their dramatic victory against Tottenham Hotspur but as it stands, City have the advantage.  Languishing at 19th in the Premier League, the Lilywhites are now 13 points away from safety with just six matches to go.

This was not a quixotic performance from Agüero and Co but against a toothless Fulham side, two goals in the first half were all that they needed to ensure three points. Against City, the Cottagers couldn’t do anything that would’ve stopped the visitors. Up front, Fulham looked toothless, their lone striker Babel cut a frustrated figure. Players behind him barely found him in a promising position and when they did, the striker couldn’t do anything effective.

Manchester City found an early breakthrough in the fifth minute via a superb goal from Bernardo Silva. Agüero passed the ball to Silva who took a few touches to find space and unleashed a low shot into the bottom right corner past the reach of Sergio Rico.

City doubled their lead 22 minutes later thanks to Bryan, who lost the ball in their defensive third, and Agüero, who overcame the resistance from Fulham defenders before shooting it over the hapless Rico. At half-time City had a comfortable two-goal lead and it looked impossible for Fulham to claw their way back into the game with the approach they adopted. At the final whistle, Manchester City found themselves back on top with Liverpool a point behind.

Starting XI

Pep Guardiola deployed Manchester City in a 4-3-3 formation. Laporte joined Otamendi in central defence. Kyle Walker and Oleksandr Zinchenko plied their trade as full-backs on the right and left flank respectively.

In midfield, Belgium midfielder Kevin De Bruyne played as a right midfielder while David Silva played on the left. İlkay Gündoğan was deployed centrally in a deeper role. Up front, Sergio Agüero was joined by Bernardo Silva on the right and Raheem Sterling on the left.

Meanwhile, the hosts functioned in a 5-4-1 formation. Fosu-Mensah, Marchand and Calum Chambers formed the three-man central defence. Cyrus Christie and Joe Bryan played as full-backs for Fulham.

Ryan Sessengon, Tom Cairney, Zambo Anguissa and Floyd Ayité combined to form their 4-man midfield. Up front, Ryan Babel played as the lone striker for the Cottagers.

Manchester City scores early and put the game to bed!

Right from the start, Manchester City dominated the play and possession. They reaped an early reward when Bernardo Silva struck a low shot into the net. The Portuguese international, who couldn’t score for his nation in two Euro qualifier games, has now scored in three consecutive games for City.

Manchester City, as they do usually, pressed high, forcing Fulham to make quick decisions. The second goal they conceded was an example of how City’s press forces the opponents to make mistakes.

Zinchenko; the standout performer

Zinchenko’s performance as a left-back for Manchester City has been impressive. Against Fulham, the Ukraine international provided more evidence to the claim by impressing everyone.

Deployed as a left-back, Zinchenko played higher up the pitch as modern full-backs tend to do. At times he was found supporting İlkay Gündoğan in central midfield, supplying balls forward. The versatile player played 91 passes with an incredible 98.8% accuracy. Making one key pass, the young International had three of his four long balls accurate.

The heatmap shows the Ukraine international playing higher up the pitch and at times, centrally.

As his heatmap suggests, he spent most of the time in Fulham’s half, supporting City’s midfielders and attackers, creating problems for the Lilywhites. The 22-year-old player impressed defensively as well. In a game where the opposition did not create too many splitting and incisive passes, Zinchenko tackled twice. Making two clearances, he also registered an interception.

Kyle Walker

The other full-back Kyle Walker was also brilliant for Manchester City. With the visitors dictating the tempo and dominating the play, Walker supported City’s attacking moves on the right flank by positioning himself in the middle third.

Kyle Walker’s heatmap

The full-back threatened Fulham with his pacey moves down the flanks. The England international played one key pass and seven accurate long balls. He was a menacing figure on the right-flank, joining City’s midfielders in creating further misery for the hosts. With two tackles, three clearances and an interception Walker delivered 59 passes with an accuracy of 86.4%.

Bernardo Silva

Bernardo Silva was there on the right to attack. He was there on the left to attack. He was everywhere. Silva has already become one of the crucial players for City. Against Fulham, he scored one, initiated attacks for City from all sides.

Bernardo Silva’s heatmap shows his work on both flanks.

He may have only played 41 passes with 81.8% accuracy but he managed to deliver four key passes and two crosses. Making two tackles and an interception he at times dropped deeper to support the defenders. The type of player who covers every blade of grass!

Conclusion

Liverpool now sit at the top of the table after a dramatic, last-gasp victory against Tottenham Hotspur at Anfield. However, City still hold the advantage and their destiny is in their own hands.

Against Fulham, City’s attackers should have been a little more clinical and it would’ve resulted in the team winning on big margin. However, the work is not completed yet. Zinchenko delivered another impressive performance, displaying versatility by supporting the midfield.


If you love tactical analysis, then you’ll love the digital magazines from totalfootballanalysis.com – a guaranteed 100+ pages of pure tactical analysis covering topics from the Premier League, Serie A, La Liga, Bundesliga and many, many more. Buy your copy of the March issue for just ₤4.99 here, or even better sign up for a ₤50 annual membership (12 monthly issues plus the annual review) right here.