Manchester City vs Chelsea

Manchester City vs Chelsea Preview: Jesus’ turn to shine?

If the title race was back on after City beat Liverpool, it’s dangerously close to swinging in City’s favor now. Thanks to victories over Arsenal and Everton, City are once again on top of the Premier League, though Liverpool will have a chance to wreck that before City’s match with Chelsea kicks off on Sunday.

This is one of City’s three remaining games against top six sides, and of course the reverse fixture of one of City’s few losses this season. In that game, a delightful long ball from David Luiz releasing Pedro led to Kante eventually scoring and a Luiz header from a corner polished off the win.

Assisting both of those goals was one Eden Hazard. Chelsea’s leader in Twelve’s rating, he also somehow both tops the team in progressive passes and runs made and progressive passes received. Another way to highlight his involvement is his Usage Rate, where he is by far the top player for Chelsea, using (that is, involved in the final action of) 18% of his team’s possessions. Read More

Manchester City vs Arsenal

Manchester City vs Arsenal Preview: An intriguing Spanish tactical tussle

Unai Emery’s reign began in earnest against Manchester City. The champions visited the Emirates Stadium in August and won 2-0. If Sunday’s rematch at the Etihad Stadium is essential for City, with less margin for error in the title race after defeat to Newcastle, it offers a chance to assess Arsenal’s progress in the subsequent six months.

City have won their last four games against Arsenal, scoring 11 goals. It highlights how one of Emery’s tasks is to improve Arsenal’s results against the best. He has started to do that at home, recording wins over Tottenham and Chelsea within a couple of months. He has a solitary point from three visits to top-six rivals.

It will be intriguing if Emery revisits a recent tactic in major clashes. He used Aaron Ramsey at the tip of a midfield diamond to great effect against Chelsea (and, arguably, in the FA Cup tie with Manchester United, when the Welshman was excellent despite defeat) and, while he was benched for Mesut Ozil against Cardiff on Tuesday, he should be restored to the side. Read More

Newcastle vs Manchester City

Newcastle vs Manchester City: Patched up Magpies midfield will suffer

Newcastle United always have some key things going for them. They have one of the best kits in the league, excellent fan support, and a genuinely cool stadium. Unfortunately, those don’t necessarily translate to success on the pitch and in that respect the team are in a bit of a rough spot.

Manchester City visit St. James’ Park with the Magpies just two points above the drop zone, and even that precarious position is courtesy of a critical win against fellow strugglers Cardiff City in their most recent Premier League match. Mike Ashley is Mike Ashley, so looking to the transfer market as a potential way out is probably a waste of time.

Still, it’s more the sales of players they’ve had rather than a lack of arrivals that have brought them to this point. As a reminder, they had both Dwight Gayle (the whole season) and Alexsander Mitrovic (for a brief second) on the books last season; the pair combined have more goals in 2018/19 than Newcastle do as a team.

A look at Newcastle’s xG (expected goal) timeline highlights their glaring deficiency in attack. I hope it’s not a surprise to most readers that averaging less than 1.0 xG per game is probably not going to translate into a lot of wins. Read More

Mohamed Salah Leroy Sane Premier League wingers

Tactical Analysis: Contrasting Style of Premier League Wingers

The Premier League has seen an array of wingers in years gone by. But with managers willing to try different things to adapt to the modern-day game, we have witnessed the wingers performing different roles in different set-ups. Below we will analyse the distinct types of wide players, focusing on England’s top flight.

Firstly, let us define the role. A winger is an attacking midfielder who plays in wide areas, from where they can cross the ball and dribble past defenders. All in all, they are present to support the attacks from the sides of the field. Generally, a player playing in this position possesses pace to make runs in behind the defence, especially on counter-attacks.

The “yesteryear football” in England was predominantly about teams playing the 4-4-2 system with two wingers high and wide, crossing the ball on a regular basis with two strikers present in the box to attack those deliveries. Sir Alex Ferguson won countless trophies with Manchester United playing the flat 4-4-2 or 4-4-1-1.

Back then the full-backs were defenders first, who would move forward if given the opportunity. However, the tale has changed in the modern game. The full-backs are like half-wingers themselves, hence they move forward whenever the team is in possession. It has made their job tougher in a positive sense, as they have to run up and down the pitch for the whole game, with a chance of making an impact at both ends of the field. Read More

Huddersfield vs Manchester City

Huddersfield vs Manchester City Preview: New manager bounce?

There may not be any sport which is drawn so magnetically to the apocryphal as football. The idea that marquee signings recoup their value through shirt sales. Pundits citing win-loss records from the last 50 years in games between two teams who are now made up of entirely different players. The idea that there is such a thing as a ‘ball to hand’ rule. And then there is the New Manager Bounce.

It seems obvious enough: you get rid of your old manager; bring in a new one; the results are almost certain to turn around at once (even if only for a short period). There is only one problem: it’s almost certainly not true.

When Omar Chaudhuri, head of football intelligence at the London-based sports consultants 21st Club spoke to Reuters about the New Manager Bounce, he was quite clear — there is no evidence that it exists:

“What we see is that when managers are sacked, a lot of the times their teams have been playing okay, but without luck. It only needs one crucial moment per game to go against you and that is the difference between three points and one or one point and no points. In most cases sacked managers are unlucky.

“It’s like calling tails five times in a row in a coin toss and losing each one. The next person calls tails and wins. It’s the same with a football manager.”

Read More

Manchester City vs Wolves

Manchester City vs Wolves Preview: Tricky Match-up for Guardiola’s Team

Manchester City and Wolverhampton Wanderers have one obvious thing in common: both have recently beaten Liverpool 2-1. Granted, the Wolves defeated a diluted version of the Reds in their FA Cup encounter last Monday, but both Wolverhampton and City can certainly take away a lot of positives from succeeding against the current Premier League leaders.

For Manchester City, every match is a do-or-die situation right now. After a horrendous December in which they lost three matches within 18 days, the much-needed victory over Liverpool brought back some life to their hopes of defending the Premier League title. Still, City are trailing by four points and another loss would probably crush their hopes once and for all.

Wolves are not only one of the best teams behind the Premier League’s big six, but one of the trickiest opponents for City. When they met in August, Wolves drew with the powerhouse from Manchester. And Nuno Espirito Santo’s side could repeat exactly that on Monday. Read More

Manchester City 2-1 Liverpool

Manchester City 2-1 Liverpool: View From The Press Box

As his side became the first to defeat Liverpool in the league this season, Pep Guardiola was asked why he changes his tactics when he plays them. It was a bold question, and one which was thrown straight back by the City manager.

“What did I change today? From the way we normally play? At Anfield I would agree with you, here no way”

“More direct?” came the reply, and Guardiola explained why this may have appeared to be the case.

“Yeah they stay high, we spoke with [Raheem] Sterling and Leroy [Sane] to make runs in behind.”

“Today I have the feeling we tried to do what we have done in sixteen months, that is my feeling but maybe I’m wrong.”

He had played a different system in the draw at Anfield earlier in the season, using Bernardo Silva as a holding player in a 4-2-3-1 but here he took a risk, and commented that if Fernandinho did not win his duels his defence would be isolated against some of the best attacking players in the world. Read More

Manchester City vs Liverpool

Manchester City vs Liverpool Preview: The Big One

Manchester City vs Liverpool. This is the big one. The game for all the marbles. The two best teams in the Premier League square off for a second time to see if Liverpool’s march to a first title in almost three decades will be assured or if who will win the Premier League is still an open question.

With over half of the season now gone, we’ve gotten answers to many of the big pre-season questions. One of mine was how Liverpool would fare as a more possession-based team. The addition of Alisson in particular suggested that Liverpool were going to play as more of a possession-oriented side. Given the Reds often struggled when they couldn’t rely on their press and were forced to break down an opponent last season, it made sense to focus in that area.

Though Liverpool’s results against lower sides have improved, it can’t really be said they’re playing more of a possession game, as their possession percentage this season is slightly lower than last (58% to 57% per Whoscored). As expected, Alisson has turned the ball over about 2.5 fewer times per 90 compared to the Karius/Mignolet duo, but the percentage of possessions ending in a turnover hasn’t decreased. Read More

Southampton vs Manchester City

Southampton vs Manchester City Preview – A Tale of Two Cities

It was the best of teams. It was the worst of teams. At least as far as the Premier League table was concerned.

It was Matchweek 16. Southampton had just lost 1-0 to Cardiff City and found themselves in 19th place – level on points with Fulham who were sat just below them.

At the other end of the table, Manchester City had fallen to Maurizio Sarri’s Chelsea, having been unbeaten in the league before that. Liverpool had managed to sneak ahead but, as everyone was saying, every team has to lose at some point and Chelsea seemed as likely a team as any to inflict first blood on Pep Guardiola’s team. City were still the overwhelming favourites to take home the Premier League trophy at the end of the season.

Since then, the tables have turned: recently-appointed Ralph Hasenhüttl has reversed Southampton’s fortunes, seeing them victorious against Arsenal and Huddersfield in his first four games in charge. Read More

Leicester vs Manchester City

Leicester vs Manchester City Preview: Can City Outfox Leicester?

With a sublime bit of skill to create space and a vicious rasp into the corner, Kevin De Bruyne announced his return to the City lineup in style last Tuesday against Leicester City in the Carabao Cup. Just over a week later, City face the same opponent in the league and their talisman should again prove the difference. City have generally weathered his spell on the sidelines well, but his presence is surely an early Christmas present to all City fans.

The issues of De Bruyne’s absence were laid bare all too quickly in the subsequent defeat to Crystal Palace on Saturday. With Palace’s narrow 4-5-1 forcing the issue and City’s entirely second-choice midfield of Gundogan, Bernardo and Stones unable to pass through the center, most of the attack was sent to Sterling and Sane on their respective wings.

Unfortunately, fullback is an area where Crystal Palace have strength and they rode strong performances from Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Patrick Van Aanholt, with excellent help in defending provided by Townsend (Twelve’s top-rated Palace player in the game), to limit City’s attack. Sane and Sterling combined to lose possession 13 times and had just three successful dribbles out of 15 attempted. Read More