Realistically speaking, it was nothing new. Pep Guardiola has been using a flexible defensive style for years, and his use of full-backs – those who push in from full-back into a central midfield role – has become a central part of his style with Bayern Munich and Manchester city.
However, there are times when you have to step back and appreciate Guardiola’s audacity. In a 3-1 win over Leeds Last night, he used a three-man defense stretched across the width of the pitch, and one midfielder Rodri who was often dropped at centre-back but also darted forward to score the opening goal and his first in the entire league. Rico Lewis Right back midfielder. The main thing, of course, is that everything works perfectly.
On paper, Guardiola would have been using a back four which included the 18-year-old Luis on the right, John Stones And the Manuel Akanji in the middle and Nathan Ack in the left back. But that was what City looked like without the ball, which was particularly unimportant when they had 69 per cent of possession.
On the field, of course, it was different. Leeds played a very tight 4-3-3, trying to control the middle of the field and prevent City from running through the middle. Stones were pushed right back and Lewis drifted in – you can see him near the center point in the screenshot below. City played, as they often do, with a 3-2 defensive base…
…and then, forward, something approaching five in front of me. Ilkay Gundogan And the Kevin De Bruyne They could be seen as part of a square midfield, but were roughly on the same line with City’s front three.
Some of the forms City have taken have been exceptional. This is an example of Stones and Ake, the wider defenders in possession, pushing forward in front of Rodri and taking turns to carry the ball forward, taking advantage of Leeds’ tightness.
Here is Rodri falling in defense, to the right of Akanji …
…then again to the left, creating a four-legged defense to help City get around Leeds’ front three and allow Stones and Ake to move wider. The bold thing here, of course, is that Lewis is left completely alone in midfield.
The next move, when City played their way out of Leeds’ pressure after 15 minutes, was particularly impressive – not just because of the fantastic passing, but the positioning of the players involved.
Akanji, in theory the most “steady” defender as the pivot of the three, is located on the ball at left-back. Stones, who had spent most of the game near the right sideline, had finished towards the left corner flag. Midfielder Rodri is the most visible defender for a while, while left-back Ake is tucked in alongside midfielder, Gundogan.
The most interesting solo performance came from Lewis, who really feels like it’s something new.
While Guardiola has previously converted defenders who used to play as a ‘natural’ full-back, running down the wings, it appears that Lewis has been molded at City’s academy specifically to play this role.
He has spent more time in midfield than fullback and feels more comfortable with that Kyle Walker or Joao Cancelo In terms of receiving forward passes in tight spaces, when making turns, and playing another forward pass.
He is excellent at clearing the pitch as the passer plays the ball towards him, and kicks the ball past the opposition goal quickly and hard, more in the manner of a Spanish midfielder than an English full-back.
His distribution was generally tidy and not expressive, but on two occasions he received the ball centrally and then spread it out to the wing, driving Leeds in and then out.
He’s also able to overlap when needed – here, while City built movement in the left channel, he dashed forward to deliver Riyad Mahrez An option from the outside, before passing into the field for Kevin De Bruyne to shoot from distance.
The tricky thing about Lewis’ role could be defensive transitions when City lose possession. Lewis is not in a natural position to tackle the opposition left wing, but as Leeds were playing so narrowly, Lewis’ task was fairly simple – just tracking Wilfred Gentoemployment.
The toughest task was for Stones, whose positioning was so forward and wide that sticking inside in a centre-back role could have been difficult – he had to go from the outside of Lewis into the inside. Leeds were sloppy on turnovers and didn’t take advantage of any space between City’s defenders.
It’s also worth considering the importance of recovery speed when playing the Stones, and Walker may now be better suited to this position than to the role of Lois.
In the end, City won this game with a quick break and then high pressing, rather than movements arising from pile-up play in the deep positions. But they controlled possession well, dragging Leeds around, exploiting spaces wide and guarding from counter-attacks.
Lewis, who was at the center of it all, was the most positive positive, and deserves to keep his place for Everton’s New Year’s Eve visit.
It remains to be seen if he gets used to the clashes coming up with him ChelseaAnd the Manchester United And the spurs. But on that evidence, he symbolizes a new Guardiola approach that we’ve come to take for granted, and could soon be seen as a whole new breed of player.
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