Breaking Down Manchester City's Tactics Against CSKA Moscow

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Breaking Down Manchester City's Tactics Against CSKA Moscow
Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

City's emphatic 5-2 win over CSKA Moscow in the Champions League on Tuesday may appear to be one of the easier analyses to carry out at first sight.

The strength of the Blues' team, underwritten by their owners' almost unlimited spending power, blew the Muscovites out of the water and bodes well for their first foray into the knockout phase of Europe's elite club competition.

But even so, there were one or two wobbles from Manuel Pellegrini's team that the better sides they will face could exploit.

If there's one word to sum up City's tactics from last night, then after scouring my Big Book of Big, Clever Words, I'll opt for "relentless."

CSKA barely laid a glove on City in the opening two-and-a-bit minutes before Zoran Tosic got close enough to David Silva for a split-second and fouled him for the most stonewall of stonewall penalties you are likely to see.

This set a pattern for the match, with the early goal allowing City breathing room to to press on for the win they needed. 

Part of this was Fernandinho's first-half-only display, where rather than merely sitting in front of the back four, the Brazilian moved forward to kick-start City on the attack. He was afforded more space to do this by CSKA than he normally is in the Premier League, but it worked with midfield cohort Yaya Toure playing the anchor role.

Despite the good start, there were signs early on that City's defence minus Vincent Kompany is a very different proposition to the one with their skipper when he is fit and firing on all cylinders—something that is a way off yet.

The rigid line across the back was breached a couple of times before they were caught out with Seydou Doumbia rounding Costel Pantilimon to make it 3-1, and although the win was comfortable enough, the return of Kompany as the lynch-pin in central defence will be a welcome one. 

A word too for Samir Nasri, who is in the best form of his time at City. As the Squawka heat map shows, the France international drifted around and generally tormented CSKA, justifying his inclusion ahead of Jesus Navas. I'd expected the latter's pacy wing-play to have had more of an impact since his arrival, but his presence seems to have inspired Nasri to new heights.

There's little to be added to the tide of praise flowing over Sergio Aguero at the moment. The Argentine played alongside rather than just off Alvaro Negredo (more on him in a minute) and pulled the strings in a performance that deserved the man-of-the-match award that the broadcasters gave to Negredo.

As for the Spain striker, the former "Beast of Vallecas" is the latest in a long line of cult figures with City fans and deservedly so. 

He has taken to English football instantly—no awkward bedding-in period here—and was good value for his hat-trick. On this evidence, Edin Dzeko faces a long, hard winter on the sidelines, and his legions of vociferous followers on social media will have to accept he won't get many chances. On the flip side, Pellegrini's famed man-management skills will be tested around his use of the Bosnian striker.

So, mission accomplished for City. There's some tightening-up still to be done, but they have a chance to lay down a marker over the remaining group games (including a trip to Bayern Munich last up that, thankfully, won't have qualifying hinging on it) to present their European credentials safe in the knowledge that they will still be involved in the Champions League in the new year.

Heat maps courtesy of Squawka.

What did you think of City's performance? Get involved on Twitter @br_uk or tweet me @TimOscroft.

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