A very open game at the Etihad saw the fall of the last unbeaten record in the Premiership. Everton held the lead briefly and created a number of clear opportunities in the first half before fading badly in the second half as City took control and the full points.
Pellegrini made six changes to the side that lost at home midweek against Bayern Munich. Alvaro Negredo made his first Premier League start whilst David Silva had recovered completely from injury and started the game.
Martinez kept faith with the same side that had defeated Newcastle 3-2 with only the forced exclusion of Gareth Barry, unable to play against his parent club, altering the team. Steven Naismith came into the team with Leon Osman dropping into a deeper midfield role alongside McCarthy.
With both sides using wide players who would cut inward to differing degrees, this was a game where taking control of the centre of the pitch was paramount. Neither side’s full backs were as active as they would normally be with City’s fullbacks attempting just five crosses between them during the whole game.
It was often a criticism of Man City under Mancini of just how narrow an approach they took with little width to their play. Mancini would never have signed a player like Jesus Navas, a genuine winger. Despite this, the graphic below shows the player map for the game and it’s abundantly clear just how narrow City were.
Although notionally stationed on the left side, David Silva moved across the whole pitch. Only Milner really stayed wide alongside the full backs:-
Everton were narrow too but both Mirallas and Naismith did hold slightly wider positions. Whilst much of the focus is often on Baines, Seamus Coleman was the more effective player even if he did concede a penalty midway through the second half.
A key aspect of any Pellegrini team is the offside line which Man City were unable to execute effectively leading to Lukaku scoring the opener. A simple ball over the top caught Kompany deeper than Lescott. The England Internationalist stepped up when he had no idea if his Belgian counterpart would do the same. It was poor defending compounded by Lescott’s attempted recovery tackle which offered nothing either.
The importance of the Spaniard to Man City can be seen when he is absent from the side. City may still win and they can still play well, but the creativity and guile that Silva can produce from the centre of the pitch is often lacking. Although positioned on the left side of midfield, his ability to roam freely and constantly find pockets of space means he is extremely difficult for opponents to pin down.
The graphic below shows the locations that Silva received passed in. GIven his tendency to move around the entire pitch, City may need to explore the idea of a player moving into the space vacated by Silva when he does this. Dzeko did this in early games and stretched opposition defences aiding the creation of space for the likes of Silva to pass through. On Saturday, that movement and interchanging of positions was not as visible:-
The converse of course is the lack of cover on defensive transitions which Silva offers. Greater movement by team mates would also aid this process too.
Full Back / Centre Back Channel
With David Silva cutting inside, City looked to repeatedly slip balls trough the defence. Given how congested the central area was, it was something akin to threading the eye of a needle. David Silva would play such passes on a number of occasions including the assist for Aguero’s goal:-
City kept looking for balls in between the full back and the centre back for runners to latch onto. Despite being foiled on a number of occasions, City continued with this tactic and it would pay dividends with three such passes leading to all three City goals.
Firstly, Toure played the ball between Jagielka and Coleman which led to Negredo scoring the equalising goal. As outlined above, Silva would assist Aguero with a ball between Distin and Baines. Finally, a quick one two between Zabaleta and Toure led to the Argentinean running between Coleman and Jagielka. The young Irishman would foul Zabaleta and Ageuro dispatched the resultant penalty.
Attacking the Flanks
The graphic below shows the location of take ons during the game:-
The most interesting aspect from this diagram is how Everton ran at their opponent. There was a clear preference to run at the left side of Man City where Kolarov was alone and unprotected with Silva positioned elsewhere or unable to track back effectively.
One of the most notable features from Saturday was just how high Manchester City fouled their opponents. Many sides that play attacking, pressing football end up committing a high number of fouls as a consequence of pressing so aggressively and also when the opposition evades that first press. When a team is suspect to counter attacks, the easiest solution is to commit quick tactical fouls high up the field to enable the team to recover:
David Silva was one of the main culprits here with two clear fouls on Everton players as they broke near the halfway line. The Spaniard was fortunate to evade being cautioned for either before he later was cautioned. One reason why so many fouls were committed so high up was the pace with which Everton could attack City during transitions. Early on in the game, Everton were very successful with quick transitions and failed to take advantage of these opportunities either through poor passes or bad decision making.
It would be worth watching this area as the season progresses to see if City continue to commit a high number of fouls and in which type of games this occurs.
7 Down 31 To Go
As the sides enter another international break, both managers will see areas for optimism and areas for concern as they seek to mould their new teams.
Everton have dominated possession in the majority of their games but failed to convert a number of the good openings they are crating. The arrival of Lukaku provides a potential solution to this problem.
Pellegrini has witnessed in side dazzle and also underwhelm. This game highlighted both aspects, the defensive deficiencies but the attacking thrust and intent.
Both managers know the areas to be addressed. The weeks ahead will determine the progress in these areas.