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Manchester City Analysis vs Everton - Sept 28, 2019

Tactical Match Up:

Manchester City started the match with a consistent approach, similar to what we have seen thus far in other EPL matches. Their offensive organization was a 1-4-3-3 Formation (1 Holding Midfielder and 2 Attacking Midfielders. In the Defensive Organization they employed a 1-4-4-2 Formation with De Bruyne and Jesus operating as the Front and leading their High Pressing strategy.

Marco Silva's Everton side were organized in Attack with a 1-4-2-3-1 Formation and in their Defensive Organization, they used the same formation as City and defended in a compact 1-4-4-2 Formation Medium/Low Block. Walcott was in the starting XI for Everton and had to come off shortly after kick off due to a head injury - Iwobi replaced Walcott (Winger for Winger Sub - Did not change their tactics or formation).

Man City Offensive Organization 1-4-3-3 vs Everton's Defensive Organization 1-4-4-2

Man City Defensive Organization 1-4-4-2 vs Everton's Offensive Organization 1-4-2-3-1

Manchester City would end up winning this match by 3-1 with Goals from:

  1. Jesus Minute 24' - Excellent cross from DeBruyne (Cross was hit first and curled/whipped in behind the Everton Back Line) to an open Jesus who arrived at the Back Post with an easy header.

  2. Mahrez Minute 71' - Free Kick Goal from Mahrez - Otamendi and Fernandinho positioned on the inside of Everton's Wall and then split as Mahrez struck the ball with his left foot. This prevented Pickford (Everton Keeper) from having a clear view of the ball and Pickford was late to react as the ball when into the bottom corner.

  3. Sterling Minute 84' - Ball/Build up originated from Ederson and progressed all the way into the Attacking 1/3 - Eventually, a shot was hit by Aguero that rebounded off Pickford and fortunately landed in the path of Sterling who volleyed it into the back off the net (Hit the crossbar and Goal Line technology determined that it was a goal)

Below is a video that shows a detailed tactical breakdown of each goal:

On the third goal (Must Watch), you will see a lot of references to specific spaces that we're used during the build up, creation and finishing phases. In the second part of this report, we will explain the objectives and principles for each offensive space.

Man City Offensive Organization:

As a starting point, I want to highlight the key offensive spaces that Man City build, create and penetrate from and into during their offensive organization. The base formation is 1-4-3-3, but that could change depending on the rotations, interchanges, and positional heights/angles that individuals adopt based on available spaces or with the aim to create overloads in specific zones.

How the opponent is structured and organized will effect what movement patterns and structures Guardiola chooses to adopt for each match (It is well noted that he is obsessed with Opposition analysis - Carles Planchart Man City Lead Analyst performs an important role on City's staff as he ensures that Pep is provided with all the necessary details he needs in order to design a winning match plan). With the Everton match in mind, I put together the below image to reference the offensive spaces that were most utilized (these spaces will change based on the oppositions shape & tactics):

Man City 1-4-3-3 - Key Offensive Spaces vs Everton 1-4-4-2 Medium/Low Block

We will now go through a breakdown of each space and reference which phase in the offensive organization these spaces apply mostly too:

Space #1 - Build Up Space

  • Phase 1 - Building Up Phase

  • Sub Phase - Breaking the OPP 1st line, Reloading Possession, Playing around the back

  • Objective - Starting position/space for organizing and establishing offensive structures for build up play. Can be used to provoke pressure from the opponent, open forward spaces to penetrate, switch play around the back line or to reload/restart attacks when penetration is denied

  • Key Positional Roles - Centre Backs frequently operate in this space as the 1st line of attack and Midfielders will drop down into this space to set up a back 3 (Could be a MFD dropping between the CB's or wide of the CB's - This is highly effective structure against a front 2, which is what Everton deployed today vs City). Full Backs may operate in this space at times (Depending on profile)

Space #2 - Half Space

  • Phase 1 & 2 - Building up Phase & Progression Phase

  • Sub Phase - Breaking the OPP 2nd Line, Reloading Possession

  • Objective - Positional space for players to receive or dribble into that eliminates the opposition's 1st Line of pressure. The aim is to receive in this space facing forward with time/space to progress possession beyond the 2nd/3rd/ or 4th lines of the opposition's defensive organization

  • Key Positional Roles: Centre Backs can dribble/run with the ball to get beyond the opposition's 1st line of pressure and/or support in the half space where they can progress/break lines. Midfielders (Holding & Attacking MFD's) can rotate into the half space to receive, turn/face forward and progress play. Within Pep's offensive organization, we will see the Full Back's Invert and receive in the half space. When the Full Back inverts, this leaves the width open for the Winger or Attacking Midfielder to occupy.

Space #3 - The Hole

  • Phase 1 & 2 - Building up Phase & Progression Phase

  • Sub Phase - Breaking the 2nd Line, Switching Play, Effecting Opponents (1st & 2nd Lines)

  • Objective - Positional Space to receive through the opposition 1st Line of Pressure plus any players that occupy "The Hole" will effect the opposition 1st Line as they have to deal with the back line and a player(s) behind them and that will impact the opposition forwards decision making in terms of distances/shape/pressing tactics.

  • Key Positional Roles: Generally, the Holding Midfielder(s) operate in "The Hole" and provide central support to the Back Line for progression, combination plays, switches of play plus the Holding Midfielder can effect the oppositions first line and second line through sophisticated positional play. In Pep's game model, the Inverted Full Back can also provide support inside "The Hole" and create a 2nd Pivote that generates numerical superiority in the building up and progression phases.

Space #4 - Width (Wide Channels - This space can be divided in two with an Interior & Exterior channel)

  • Phase 1 & 2 - Building up Phase & Progression Phase (Our Own Half)

  • Phase 3 & 4 - Creation & Threaten/Scoring Phase (Opposition Half)

  • Sub Phase - Switching Play, Overloading Wide Areas, Stretching Opponents Lines, Rotations & Interchanges

  • Objective - Stretch the opposition from side to side. Provide wide support for penetration down wide channels or to draw the opposition onto the strong side and set up a switch onto the weak side. Rotations & Interchanges are highly effective in the width and triangles/diamonds are primary shapes to employ in the wide channel to achieve overloads.

  • Key Positional Roles: Full Backs and Wingers Operate frequently in the width - The Winger and Full Back should stagger their positional play (effective support angles) to avoid positioning/supporting in the same vertical line. The role of the Wingers and/or Full Backs is to stretch the oppositions defensive organization and provide penetration ball side and be available to switch play on the weak side. Another key role in the width is the attacking midfielder - They can create overloads (Triangles/Diamonds) in the width, make depth runs into the interior channel run, which is a key feature in Pep's game model when possession is in the Attacking 1/3 - The ATK MFD may rotate wide and interchange with the Winger, which at that point the ATK MFD would assume the responsibility of keeping the team's shape as wide as possible.

Wide Channel - Split into two spaces (Interior & Exterior)

Space #5 - Between the Lines (Between the Opponents Midfield and Back Line)

  • Phase 3 & 4 - Creation & Threaten/Scoring Phase

  • Sub Phase - Rotations & Interchanges, Central Movement to create space for self or others

  • Objective - Achieving Penetration through the central channel and into the space between the opponents midfield and back line. The receiving player aims to face forward inside this space and they can decide to pass, shot or dribble based on the cues and best options available. Runs into depth often stretch the opponents from front to back and creates space between the lines for teammates. This is a primary area for the creation of goals (assists) and to penetrate the opponents back line (exploit depth - Space #6)

  • Key Positional Roles: The Front 3 and Attacking Midfielders will operate and move in/out of the spaces between the lines. An important detail is the ability of players to rotate and time their runs to arrive into this space at the right moment based on the cues/opponents shape. Wingers can invert to overload the space between the lines and you may even employ a "False 9" to create an even greater superiority in this space. Runs in depth need to happen in sync with runs between the lines (Timing - Partnerships - 2/3 Player Movements)

Space #6 - Depth (Attacking 1/3 - Space behind the opposition back line)

  • Phase 3 & 4 - Creation & Threaten/Scoring Phase

  • Sub Phase - Attacking the 18 yard box from Crosses, Central Combinations, Central & Wide Movement to exploit space behind the opposition last line

  • Objective - Penetrate beyond the opposition last line and enter into the Attacking 1/3 with the ability to threaten and score goals. Movement in behind that provides teammates with effective options to break the last line of the opponent. Depth includes effective movements into the primary goal scoring area inside the 18 yard box (1: PK Spot to Top of the Box - 2: PK Spot to 6 Yard Box - 3: Space inside the 6 yard box)

  • Key Positional Roles: Centre Forwards, Wingers, Attacking Midfielders and Full Backs have the ability/responsibility/positional profile for making movements into depth. Variation of movement is key (Diagonal runs, Show/Go, Go/Show, Disguised Runs, 2/3 Player Movement Patterns). The aim of depth movements is to provide outlets to penetrate the opposition last line (ideally centrally and into the prime goal scoring area) or wide to create crosses or to sustain offensive pressure in the attacking 1/3 to then probe and look to eventually generate quality goal scoring opportunities.

Primary Goal Scoring Spaces

Example of the above principles and phases being applied when Man City is building up with a Back 3 Structure:

Example of the above principles and phases being applied to highlight the utilization and occupation of half spaces during the build up phase:

Example of the above principles and phases being applied when Man City set up their Inverted Full Back Structure:


No tactical theory model is completely objective or covers all scenarios possible that can happen in a football match. Tactical Theory always has some subjectivity based on the philosophies, experiences and ideology of the author. However, from watching the Man City v Everton match earlier today this proposed model of Key Offensive spaces seemed logical, sequential and relevant based on the tactics employed by Guardiola and Silva.

I will continue to evolve this model and appreciate your feedback/opinions on the above concepts/principles. Feedback is always welcomed as it will only strengthen the model and enhance the robustness of our analytical process.

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