Manchester City completed their brilliant play-off run with a 4-1 defeat of Arsenal that effectively extinguished any hopes that they may take down Pep Guardiola’s side and unseat them from contention.
But what has led City into becoming such a formidable opponent? Let’s look at some key components that have contributed to its remarkable transformation.
City’s goal-scoring machine
City have set an incredible goal scoring record this season – thanks to their star players. No team has ever scored more goals inside and around the penalty area while central avenues have become even more potent, overshadowing City’s traditional left-channel bias.
City has also allowed fewer shots than any other side, forcing opponents to attempt passes from farther distances than is typical – advanced metrics suggest this has played an instrumental role in their incredible goal difference of 86 (the gap between City and second-place Arsenal being more than twofold).
City’s defence is impressive as well, with Walker and Stones capable of neutralising threats when opponents play upfield. Ederson provides another solid barrier, making life difficult for opposing strikers while helping City achieve a league-low total of only 31 goals conceded. In addition, their efforts are supported by a fluid midfield that helps balance attacks across both flanks.
At some point in the game, Arsenal must have realized it was over when Kyle Walker’s pace and City’s defenders’ effectiveness at neutralising threats became clear. That City have cemented their place at the top of English football through Pep Guardiola’s innovative ideas such as turning wing backs into midfielders was evident here too.
Rob Holding and Gabriel Magalhaes should be commended for never relenting throughout 90 minutes; but, regardless of their efforts, it was impossible for the visitors to break through with City flooding the pitch with men. De Bruyne’s goal in first-half stoppage time exemplified the fluid three-at-back approach which has become Guardiola’s signature; making full use of John Stones’ defensive ability while turning Jack Grealish into an attack-minded left back.
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Though Guardiola is often accused of playing “pandemic football” in empty stadiums, his defensive tactics rely on solid principles that may go overlooked by many observers. Instead of conceding silly errors when under pressure, his approach involves widening players out and closing gaps rather than forcing mistakes by overdriving.
City often set up with Rodri and Stones playing central roles, and an inverted wingback like Dias or Akanji as an inverted wingback in front of them to help move the ball through midfield quickly and create three-on-one situations that erode enemy defences.
Erling Haaland often strikes from City’s left flank, surprising their last line of defence and forcing Walker into making an instinctive last-ditch block at Walker to prevent Erling Haaland from breaking free, which ultimately prompts Michael Oliver to claim for handball but ultimately stops play with an armful claim for handball from Michael Oliver; had this been called correctly by the referee it could have had more dramatic results for City.
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City’s magical voodoo
Mikel Arteta’s side led Arsenal for 244 days this season before their mini-collapse allowed City to keep pace and retain the title with three matches remaining and hold onto a four-point advantage over their rivals – setting up an historic treble potential!
City’s success lies in their build-up. By taking their time and pausing on the ball before surveying their options, something special occurs; opposition players begin switching off, creating space for City to enter into and exploit.
John Stones, Kyle Walker and Jack Grealish have taken it upon themselves to ensure City remain on track for another Premier League title victory. Now the Cityzens will look towards ending their season by winning both Champions League final and FA Cup trophies – something Everton have also accomplished many times over.
Source: Kora live