So here it comes – the most exciting game of the year. A game in which, some claim, the title itself will hinge upon. To prepare you for it, Shirley and I are delivering you another opposition closeup!
WHERE ARE CITY NOW?
Manchester City’s fans have enjoyed quite the change of fortunes since the club’s ownership switched hands to Sheikh Mansour in 2008, one of football’s wealthiest owners.
The appointment of Roberto Mancini as manager late in 2009 was arguably the catalyst for the club’s future success, with the Italian achieving City’s highest Premier League finish that season (fifth), bringing Champions League football the following year (3rd), and the Premier League title in the 2011-12 season.
City’s best football, and squad, however, has come during Pep Guardiola’s tenure.
Having built on the progress wrought by Mancini and Manuel Pellegrini, it took the Spaniard less than two years to bring the title back to Manchester and achieve a record-breaking season, hauling an impressive one hundred points.
City currently lie near the summit in 2nd place, seven points behind a dominant Liverpool side.
This still represents an impressive, albeit poorer, start to the season, registering forty-seven points, eleven less than the previous term.
PEP GUARDIOLA – A FOOTBALL PIONEER
Boasting an impressive array of medals over a playing and managing career that has spanned decades, Pep Guardiola has earned his place alongside the greatest managers of all time.
After retiring from playing at Barcelona, Guardiola was appointed coach of Barcelona B, and, remarkably, the year after was made Barcelona manager in 2008, leading the club to a historic treble. He won the Copa del Ray, La Liga, and the Champions League, making Barca the first side to achieve the feat.
He subsequently presided over two league winning seasons in the following years before choosing to take a sabbatical after a difficult fourth year at Barca, in which the club underwent a relatively less successful season, securing just the Copa del Ray and Club World Cup.
“I have always wanted short-term contracts. Four years is an eternity as Barca coach.”
His time at Bayern Munich brought a similar level of success, although the Champions League has eluded the Spaniard since his departure from La Liga.
On the 1st of February 2016, Guardiola was appointed head coach of Manchester City.
Under his lead, the club has won the Premier League title (2017/18) and Carabao Cup (2017/18).
Manchester City Tactics
Brought into a team at Barcelona which prioritised flair, Guardiola now favours a more disciplined style, which relies on a possession-based game and aggressive pressing.
It has long since been Guardiola’s philosophy that maintaining high levels of possession throughout games is the key to winning.
“Don’t believe what people say. Barça didn’t do tiki-taka! It’s completely made up! Don’t believe a word of it! In all team sports, the secret is to overload one side of the pitch so that the opponent must tilt its own defence to cope. You overload on one side and draw them in so that they leave the other side weak.”
Pep Guardiola, on his time at Barcelona
Utilising a 4-3-3, which often transcends into a 2-3-5 (two central midfielders pushing up towards the three forward players and full-backs up wide or tucking in with the lone central midfielder), however, often leaves Guardiola’s teams exposed to counter-attacks.
The solution to this is quite simple, yet ingenious: tactical fouling.
In every team Guardiola has managed, he has implemented a ‘tactical fouler’ – at Barcelona, Sergio Busquets; Bayern Munich, Javi Martinez; Manchester City, Fernandinho.
At City, Fernandinho (despite his injury lay-off), represents City’s highest fouler, having committed twenty-six fouls thus far, eight more than his closest competitor, Raheem Sterling.
Having a ‘tactical fouler’ allows Guardiola to overload opposition boxes with confidence, knowing that Fernandinho, with his excellent positional awareness, will be able to stop counter-attacks that make it to City’s half.
Should possession be lost in the opposition half however, Guardiola encourages the front five to tactically foul before a successful counter-attack can be mounted, which allows City the necessary time to fall back into shape.
Make no mistake, the Brazilian’s return to the starting line-up is massive for City’s hopes in the upcoming home fixture against Liverpool.
That being said, much of City’s play relies on overloading the opposition, yet at Anfield, Guardiola favoured a more conservative approach, citing after the match that it would be nigh on suicidal to play an open game at the Reds’ home ground.
Whether that approach will change at the Etihad remains to be seen.
THE MEN TO STOP IN A BLUE SHIRT
Happy New Year, lads and lassies…
So the 2019 half of the season is upon us and I know I speak for everyone when I say that we are all buzzing. I for one can barely sit still with excitement, anticipation, nerves and every emotion in between. How can I not? It is the most talked about game in the EPL right now (and has been for the last few weeks). Manchester City vs. Liverpool. Champions vs. Challengers. Former League Leaders vs. Current Table Toppers. The Title Decider?
Whatever the moniker it’s known by, it’s a very important game for us. Win it, and we extend our lead and hold on the top spot. Lose, and the margin becomes smaller and the pressure on Liverpool increases slightly.
Whatever happens, it’s billed to be a very interesting game. Farrell has walked us through expected tactics that Pep will deploy against us. How effective those tactics will be, will be dependent on these players. Thus, the following are the ones our lads must stop from having a good game.
ALL THE BOYS IN AN BLUE SHIRT.
Yes. I said it. The Manchester City team is that good (as much as I hate to admit it). We will have to play our best game against City for all of 90+ minutes. With Kevin de Bruyne, Fernadinho, Kun Aguero, Raheem Sterling, Leroy Sane, Gabriel Jesus, and David Silva to mention just a few of their players.
Like Jurgen Klopp said in his pre-match presser, “It’s a normal game against Manchester City, a very difficult one. It’s one of the most difficult games you can play in the modern football world. We have felt that plenty of times. They are a really strong football team with an outstanding manager. We have to be prepared as well as possible. We have to be brave, we have to be full of desire, angry again, all that stuff – like in all the other games – but with the knowledge that the opponent is, for me, still the best team in the world. I said it weeks ago because it’s 100 per cent my opinion; the way they play and all the things they have achieved and the things they will achieve. Nothing changed, only the points changed, but not the preparation for the game.”
In a nutshell, let’s shellack City at the Etihad and get the 3 points. YNWA!!!