Manchester City vs Burnley Premier League Preview

Manchester City vs Burnley Preview: The ultimate clash of styles

In my seemingly never-ending series of “City playing a team they should dominate” previews, the Blues take on Burnley at the weekend. While last week’s good, if ultimately unsatisfying, result at Anfield kept City on course for a repeat title, Burnley by contrast have been decidedly off their pace from last season.

Part of this was likely inevitable, as Burnley over-performed their expected goals (xG) a lot over the last few years. But the fact that it was continued over multiple seasons certainly made it seem as if they were doing it differently, to steal Mark Thompson’s line.

Over the past few years Burnley have been the soccer equivalent of the NBA’s “Grit and Grind” Memphis Grizzlies: zigging into old-school, physical play while everyone else zagged into technical play, while still being good enough with their approach to put a mild scare into top teams. While their method of play still appears basically the same, the results have flat-lined. Read More

Liverpool 0-0 Manchester City

View From The Press Box: City Used Napoli’s Sky-Blueprint To Tame Reds

Liverpool versus Manchester City was one of the most entertaining battles witnessed last season, both in terms of tactics and as a spectacle.

Jürgen Klopp’s side were the team which ended the eventual Premier League champions’ unbeaten run in January, and also knocked them out of the Champions League at the quarter-final stage.

Pep Guardiola has had plenty of time to apply his meticulous research and preparation methods to this particular opposition, and even though Liverpool aren’t firing on all cylinders at the moment, he was able to make noticeable progress at Anfield, where Manchester City haven’t won since 2003.

When the lineups were released the unexpected change came in the Liverpool side. Dejan Lovren replaced Trent Alexander-Arnold meaning Joe Gomez would be shifted across to right back.

This suggested that Klopp might be going with a shape similar to the one they faced at Napoli in midweek, when Carlo Ancelotti used Nikola Maksimović as the right centre-back of a three when attacking and as a right-back in a four when defending. Read More

Liverpool vs Manchester City Preview: Is Salah vs Laporte the key clash?

Mohamed Salah was the scourge of Manchester City last season. Sadly for the champions, if they were savouring reports of his decline, those may have been exaggerated.

Jürgen Klopp has substituted last season’s 44-goal top scorer when Liverpool required a goal against both Paris Saint-Germain and Chelsea and admitted the obvious, that the Egyptian is not at the peak of his form. Yet Twelve Football’s leader board still shows Salah as the sixth most effective player in the Premier League so far this season.

Liverpool vs Manchester City Premier League Preview

The numbers are, in part, a sign of prominence and persistence. Salah has the highest expected goals total in the Premier League (5.14) and the third most shots this season, behind only Aleksandr Mitrovic and Sergio Aguero. Read More

Manchester City vs Brighton

Manchester City vs Brighton: How well has Bernardo replaced De Bruyne?

Six weeks in to the Premier League and Manchester City keep chugging along nicely. After the disappointing loss to Lyon in the Champions League, City responded in fine style against Cardiff and Oxford with eight goals scored in total and none conceded.

What’s perhaps been the most impressive element of City’s start to the season is that it comes without Kevin De Bruyne running the entire midfield. Last year, De Bruyne had the highest usage rate (the percentage of a team’s possessions in which a given player has the final action) of any City player by a wide margin, and he also rated as Twelve’s top attacker.

One of the key questions when he went down through injury was who would take on the offensive burden he carried last season. In order to measure that, below is a table showing each player’s usage rate so far this season compared with their record last season (for players with a minimum of 270 minutes in both campaigns): Read More

Guardiola and Klopp

The contrasting use of full-backs by Guardiola and Klopp

Whenever we hear the word full-back in football, there seems to be a varied concept in people’s minds circling around. Back in the day, the job of a full-back was to stay close to their centre-backs and defend, occasionally making runs forward. However, the modern-day usage of a full-back is something different, not really alien to the previous version, but a bit more attacking and adventurous.

A right-back or left-back now acts as a winger in possession moving forward at every opportunity. They should have the awareness of making recovery runs or staying in good positions while defending. As a result, many managers in the past decade have their front-line very narrow, because they depend on the full-backs to provide the width on both sides of the field.

There are two such managers in the Premier League who make use of these players in a contrasting way: Jürgen Klopp and Pep Guardiola. The former’s 4-3-3 system is quite different to the 4-3-3 of the latter, so let’s take a closer look at how Guardiola and Klopp employ their full-backs. Read More

Manchester City 1-2 Lyon

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

In a new feature for Twelve, James Nalton reports from the press box on Manchester City 1-2 Lyon.

For modern Manchester City, defeats are a rarity. When looking at the bigger picture, and the club’s history, that they are even competing in the Champions League is something. That they expect to win every game they play is something else. This is how far they have come in a short space of time but even though they rarely lose, defeat to Olympique Lyonnais means they have now lost their last four in this competition.

It was December of last year that Pep Guardiola’s side tasted defeat for the first time in the 2017/18 season, when they lost to wily European campaigners Shakhtar Donetsk. Their manager used the loss to spur his side on for the rest of the season, and though this latest disappointment has come earlier in the campaign, Guardiola will hope it has a similar effect.

Guardiola was serving a touchline ban as a result of being sent to the stands for complaining to the referee during his side’s defeat to Liverpool in the quarter-finals last season. Mikel Arteta took control, and it appeared that he’d been given a chance to take full responsibility, taking pre and post-match press conferences as well as leading the team from the touchline. Read More

Cardiff City vs Manchester City Premier League Preview

Cardiff City vs Manchester City Preview: Keep the Party Going

It must be one of the scenarios coaches often dream of, when you can pick up players from your bench and know that they are going to deliver. Pep Guardiola is in exactly that position right now. A few days ago, Leroy Sané, one of Manchester City’s standout players of last season, was considered to be in a crisis.

The 22-year-old did not make the cut for Joachim Löw’s German national team at the World Cup, which after all was probably a blessing in disguise, and then had a rough start this season. Read More

Manchester City vs. Fulham

Manchester City vs Fulham Preview: Time for Sané to start?

There’s no better way to leave the interminable international break behind than with an incredibly exciting Manchester City fixture. As an American, Fulham have always held a place in my heart as the club of Brian McBride, Clint Dempsey, and (to a much lesser extent) Carlos Bocanegra.

But more than that, the current incarnation of Fulham have a genuine buzz about them. Only Arsenal games feature more shots and shots on target, they have exciting young talents like Ryan Sessegnon, and they picked up a genuine star in Jean-Michel Seri in the transfer window. In short, get ready for some fireworks.

As with Wolves, Fulham aren’t your typical newly promoted side. Rather than playing defensively and seeking to counter-attack, they use possession to get their shot attempts and are even averaging a greater share of the ball than Spurs, United, or Arsenal thus far this season (albeit having endured a light schedule to date). Read More

Firmino and Aguero

A Striking Resemblance: Firmino and Aguero Lead The Way

Both Liverpool and Manchester City have made stylish starts to the new season, displaying brands of football which have prompted suggestions that the title race will be played out between these two North West sides (we’re not allowed to call them rivals yet).

Even though these teams have scored nine and seven goals respectively in their opening three games, doubts are still raised about their strikers, if not of their quality then of their role in the side.

While there are unique traits which separate Sergio Aguero and Roberto Firmino, neither are necessarily bad at the things the other gets praised for, and criticisms can be wide of the mark. They play in similar, if not completely identical, systems and both play a big part in the success of their teams. Read More

The two faces of Manchester City

The two faces of Manchester City

Manchester City’s start to the new season has not entirely gone the way Pep Guardiola probably envisioned. After two stunning performances against Arsenal and Huddersfield Town, the defending champions drew 1-1 with Wolverhampton Wanderers last Sunday. These first three weeks showed the good and the bad side of Guardiola, and the two faces of Manchester City.

Take for instance the decisive win over Huddersfield. Guardiola had to know that Huddersfield were expecting a similar formation to what City played against Arsenal, meaning a system with one centre-forward and two wingers. Hence Guardiola mixed things up switching to a back three and a two-forward formation with Sergio Agüero and Gabriel Jesus up front. Read More