Manchester City’s New Strategy Proved Effective

Manchester City won their fourth Premier League in a row by beating West Ham United 3-1 in their last match of the 2023/24 Premier League season on Sunday. Phil Foden, who was awarded the Player of the Season recently, scored a brace, while Rodri added another goal to complete a wonderful win for the Cityzens, as they finished with 91 points from 38 matches.

Manchester City has now won eight Premier League titles in last 12 years. They have also won six out of a possible eight under Pep Guardiola’s tutelage, as the 53-year-old Spaniard keeps building on his legacy, much like Sir Alex Ferguson did at city rivals Manchester United.

Manchester City Has Had to Break Resolute Defences Repeatedly

Almost all the teams adopt ultra-defensive approach against the Cityzens these days, and West Ham was no exception last Sunday. They crowded their own penalty box and Manchester City had to break through their defensive set-up repeatedly.
This has been the trend even against big teams like Real Madrid and Arsenal. Aside from Liverpool, who played out a pulsating 1-1 draw with the Cityzens last March, no team has deemed it right to take the attack to Manchester City.
Hence, someone like Jérémy Doku has been of great help with his darting runs through the opposition defenders. The likes of Foden, Rodri and Joško Gvardiol have proved to be lethal with their shots from the edge of the penalty box. Bernardo Silva’s intelligent crossing and Kevin de Bruyne’s tireless work ethic has made things easier for the English champions.

Guardiola Has Made a Few Minor Adjustments to His Team’s Formation

Guardiola has also made some adjustments as the season has progressed. Manchester City has shifted from an ultra-offensive 2-2-6 formation while in possession to break open defences, to a more conventional 3-2-5, with Kyle Walker’s additional presence to deal with the counter-attacks of the opposition. Gvardiol overlapped more frequently to adopt an advanced role alongside Rodri in that formation. Doku, de Bruyne, Bernardo, Foden and Haaland were the five forwards in it.
Rodri has been indispensable for City in their attacks too, with his forward runs and timely shots. Hence, Guardiola deemed it right to make Walker stay inside his own half to deal with the counter-attacks. Moreover, he also shifted Foden to a central attacking midfielder’s role from the right wing. This allowed the 23-year-old to spend more time on the edge of the box and get more opportunities to take his shots.
Manchester City has also decided not to use John Stones as a hybrid full-back, who keeps moving into central areas to play as a defensive midfielder, in the second part of the season. As the Cityzens could afford to spend less time in passing the ball around in the middle third, they decided to have Rodri as their lone holding midfielder and Gvardiol joined him from a distance while making his overlapping runs.
Thus, it has been a win of Guardiola’s guile and the undeniable quality of his men. It remains to be seen for how much longer this team continues to enchant us with their sustained excellence.

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