Manchester City had their new formation tested in the 3-1 win over Everton on Saturday. City’s new system, built for Champions League games, will always create chances for the opposing team, and Everton, a team with good attacking talent, were able to create some opportunities that Manchester City will have to adjust for.
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Manchester City Defence
Everton didn’t have any special gadget or quality trick to get the ball through Manchester City’s midfield. They just passed right through them. Part of the problem with a Kevin De Bruyne, Ilkay Gundogan, and Rodrigo midfield three is their collective lack of athleticism. Good teams will have opportunities to play through them with quick-touch passing.
In the past, with Fernandinho in midfield, Manchester City could easily anticipate moves like these, but Rodrigo doesn’t have the speed of Fernandinho, so City will have to adjust to that reality. So far, the adjustment has been the presence of Gundogan or De Bruyne in a double pivot next to Rodrigo, but that lack of athleticism will expose Rodrigo as he gets used to the style of football in the Premier League. It still feels like Pep Guardiola’s best option to combat this would be playing Kyle Walker at centre-back. Maybe he finds it too risky or maybe he thinks Walker is too valuable at right back.
It may not matter, or maybe Fernandinho and Nicolas Otamendi have the necessary athleticism. However, the speed lost when Aymeric Laporte got injured is going to expose the midfield and defence to quick-touch passing attacks. Let’s see if Guardiola is going to make any adjustments.
Riyad Mahrez Stepping Up
In the end, there was just too much quality on display for Everton to cope with. Eventually, Riyad Mahrez had to score a world-class free-kick to break the deadlock. Mahrez has had an outstanding summer as a player. The free-kick he scored on Saturday was similar, but still pales in comparison, to the one he scored for Algeria to win the African Cup of Nations.
Mahrez has been so good in Manchester City’s buildup. Cutting in on his famous left foot has been doing so well combining with City’s interior players to play in someone else. Whether it be Walker on the overlap or Raheem Sterling on the cross-field ball, Mahrez has been putting them into great positions.
He clearly feels more comfortable with his teammates and within the system. Last season Mahrez would get the ball and take people on from the right exclusively. A fine idea, but once you understand how a player like Sergio Aguero or De Bruyne moves around the pitch, better options become available.
Champions League v Dinamo Zagreb
Manchester City’s second Champions League game is a home clash with Croatian giants Dinamo Zagreb. The talent-producing powerhouse isn’t as strong as it was a few seasons ago, as much of its golden-generation have gone on to populate Europe. For most people watching, though, there is an interesting standout talent to watch.
His name is Dani Olmo, and he is originally from the famed La Masia, but in a surprising move, the Spanish youth international left Barcelona for Zagreb in 2014. Since then, Olmo has caught plenty of eyes, earning last season’s Player of the Year in the Croatian First Football League and playing a key role for Spain U21’s European Championship victory this past summer.
From a City perspective, a comprehensive victory is the least to expect. It would nice to see Mahrez get the start, given how well he has played recently. Aguero and David Silva will most likely come into the team as well, and to see Benjamin Mendy get another start in this game would be helpful for both himself and City.
Manchester City Women
The Manchester City Women’s team also beat Everton this past weekend, but it was hardly the most interesting news. The UEFA Women’s Champions League draw for the last 16 was held on Monday morning, and Manchester City were given the mouth-watering revenge opportunity to face Atletico Madrid.
Atletico knocked Manchester City out of the Champions League last season and are one of the best sides in Europe. They’ve won the Spanish league in back-to-back seasons, even besting European finalists Barcelona last season. Even better, it is a chance to play against former Manchester City striker and England international Toni Duggan.
Duggan spent the last two seasons at Barcelona after making her name in sky blue. She is not the only star player City will have to contend with as Atletico boast most of the starters from the Spain World Cup team that went toe-to-toe with the USA. Those games will be on October 16th and 31st.