Breaking Down Manchester City's Tactics Against CSKA Moscow
City recorded their second away win in Group D of this season's UEFA Champions League, leaving themselves in a strong position to qualify for the last 16. It was a determined, hard-fought win in difficult conditions, with Sergio Aguero’s two goals giving them a 2-1 win.
Manuel Pellegrini adopted his favoured 4-2-2-2 formation, detailed on the graphic below. It’s an attacking system that offers plenty of width and sees City play with two upfront.
Once again, Javi Garcia started at centre-back alongside Matija Nastasic, and he struggled. He looked uncomfortable all evening and was at fault for the CSKA goal, allowing Keisuke Honda to out-jump him and head the ball into the path of Zoran Tosic who finished nicely.
It’s becoming a worry for City that they appear to have little option other than to play Garcia out of position when Vincent Kompany is injured. Pellegrini clearly likes a left-footed and right-footed combination at centre-back, meaning Joleon Lescott, who has been poor when given chances this season, remains on the sidelines.
City’s formation has great width, a significant alteration to last season’s narrow system. Jesus Navas and David Silva played the wide midfield roles in Moscow, but they operate very differently. Whereas Silva looks to drift inside and dictate play with his intricate passing, Navas will play right out wide and look to go down the line. Navas keeps the opposition stretched and creates space; Silva is asked to exploit that space by popping up between the lines.
Pellegrini once again went with a front two of Negredo and Aguero, a partnership which is developing all the time (see my column from earlier this week for a detailed look at their performances). They once again linked up brilliantly, particularly for City’s second where Negredo’s outside-of-the-boot pass found the head of Aguero who scored.
Both players are technically excellent, and both have sharp footballing brains, and those two elements are making for a great partnership—with the physicality of Negredo the perfect foil for Aguero.
With so much attacking intent, the importance of the Yaya Toure-Fernandinho combination can’t be underestimated. Fernandinho is the one asked to do the majority of the defending and he did it with such precision in this match he was certainly a candidate for Man of the Match. He made five tackles (to Toure’s one), and had an excellent 89 percent pass completion rate.
He is often found chasing back with great intent, and when he wins the ball, which he invariably does, he has a great range of passing to distribute the ball effectively. He is becoming one of City’s most important players.
City's formation leaves them open at times, something which is exacerbated by Kompany's absence, but it's certainly entertaining. It requires a high-tempo and a lot of hard work, but it's beginning to look more and more comfortable for the players.
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