Manchester City opened their title defence with a victory on Sunday, grinding out a 2-0 win over Newcastle United at St. James' Park.
David Silva slid his side into the lead in the first half after great work from Edin Dzeko, and Sergio Aguero sealed it in the 93rd minute at the second time of asking.
Let's take a tactical look at how this game played out.
Starting XIs and Formations
Newcastle United started in a 4-2-3-1 formation with Remy Cabella on the right, Moussa Sissoko in the No. 10 role and Jack Colback debuting in holding midfield.
Manchester City resumed normal service in a 4-4-2, with Fernando in at central midfield and Samir Nasri on the right instead of Jesus Navas.
Power and Pace
Newcastle's approach to the match was epitomised by the power and the pace they boasted in central areas.
Sissoko was played in a deep No. 10 role to add muscle to the midfield and protect the combination of Colback and Vurnon Anita, but also so he could bomb forward and try to breach the space behind Yaya Toure and Fernando in a 4-4-2.
Emmanuel Riviere is a nuisance up front, ridiculously quick and stronger than his somatotype suggests too; he and Sissoko spent the entire first half launching quick attacks after sitting deep to soak up pressure.
By half-time, Newcastle had just 39 percent of the play, per WhoScored.com, but a little Riviere composure could easily have seen them dig out a goal.
City took their time, but they soon found a way to get at Newcastle and it was via their dreaded left-hand combination of Aleksandar Kolarov and David Silva.
The latter wasn't in sparkling form throughout but did enough to win the game for City in certain parts; his releasing of Kolarov into space down the left put Daryl Janmaat under immense pressure and he struggled.
It forced a reshuffle from Alan Pardew, who had to switch Cabella with Gouffran (the latter moved to the right) in order to help Janmaat defend. Cabella, an attacking playmaker, is categorically wasted if asked to track full-back runs all day.
Numerically, Newcastle levelled the playing field, but the left became a free-for-all for Manchester City due to Kolarov's dominance. He received passes high up and hit the byline often; his crossing wasn't spectacular, but he created avenues through presence and position alone.
Making it Count
City's dominance opened up the aforementioned route of Sissoko dribbling vertically quite often, and even though Yaya Toure didn't drift forward too often, he wasn't much of a factor holding the fort.
If they found a way past the magnificent Fernando the Magpies were in. The problem was, once they had, Sissoko's decision-making, Riviere's lack of composure and Cabella's propensity to get decked by the defence meant the home side barely got near the goal.
The opportunities to carve out a chance were plentiful, but too often it ended with Riviere smashing the ball well wide or snatching at a chance—despite excelling physically in the build-up.
City meanwhile, suffered from the same issue (unable to kill the game off) but used their bench to address the issue. Fernandinho replaced Jovetic, creating a more orthodox 4-2-3-1 with the Brazilian duo holding the fort.
Dzeko was then replaced by Aguero, and with Yaya Toure sliding forward into the No. 10 position, the two combined to score the second and put the game to bed.
Much how Southampton deserved at least a share of the spoils in their 2-1 loss to Liverpool earlier in the day, Newcastle can consider themselves mightily unfortunate to have ended up losing here.
There were plenty of positives to take—ranging from Colback's set pieces to Riviere's energy and Cabella's finesse—but the usual scoreline of 2-0 donned the scoreboard by match's end.
Building blocks for Newcastle, a gutsy win for Manchester City.
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