Man City started the game with a 4-4-2 variant. Lescott moved to right sided centre back, despite being left footed, with Garcia making way for Nastasic. Kolarov played at left back in place of Gael Clichy. Other that it was the same line up as against Cardiff.
Hull meanwhile started in a 4-4-1-1/4-2-3-1 system that changed to 4-4-2 in defence. There was one change from their game against Norwich, with Danny Graham coming in for the suspended Sagbo.
The pattern of the first half was a strange one. Man City’s system struggled, Hull were playing well enough to use that and cause problems.
Manchester City’s system
Under Pellegrini, Yaya Toure has played as a deep orchestrator in City’s system. In the first two games of the season, he made over 100 passes from there. What this means though is that City lose some of the vertical thrust he brings when he has the freedom to make forward runs into space, especially on the counter attack. This is a trade off Pellegrini has made within City’s system.
What was interesting here was that Toure attempted only 60 passes in the match. Hull, playing a 4-4-2 in defence, shut him out pretty well through the strikers and he was having to drop very deep between the centre backs to receive the ball. This meant he was generally unable to influence the game with his offensive qualities and led to a slightly ‘broken’ system.
This made it difficult for City to create chances. They were often looking to play off Dzeko on the first ball, playing it forward to him, generally in the air, and then building from there. Dzeko won 50% of his aerial duels, showing the inconsistency of this approach. Elsewhere Navas was playing as a right winger but failing to have an impact, not taking on the full back in 1v1 situations and not getting to the byline. Silva meanwhile was drifting inside from the left and trying to get on the ball but again not dictating attacks in the way he did at his and City’s best under Roberto Mancini.
In fact City’s main success in creating chances came from set pieces. Both Dzeko and Lescott had chances early on from corners but didn’t score.
The other failing of City’s was defensively, especially on transition. Defensive transitions were often the main problem for Mancini – the positional mobility of the attacking players often left spaces on the counter, one of the reasons for City’s continual poor showing in the Champions League.
In this game there were two specific reasons for this. First of all, Silva’s position in attack meant there was often space for the right back Elmohamady on the transition when Hull regained the ball (City were sloppy in possession, especially early on). Interestingly, while it is usually the centre backs or deep midfielders who make the most passes within a game, the player with the most passes for Hull was Elmohamady. This showed how Hull used the space in this area when they regained possession and how they counter attacked from there.
The second reason for City’s poor transition was that Toure and Fernandinho were lazy in getting back into position or were too focused on pressuring at points where they should have been recovering. City were very poor in recovering shape once they had lost the ball, which left more pressure on the centre backs and was the reason why Hull had good early chances, one sitter through Aluko which he miskicked wide and the other, an offside goal from Graham.
This second opportunity highlighted City’s problems in transition.