Gameweek 1 of Fantasy Premier League (FPL) gets underway this time next week and one of the main sources of debate among FPL managers each and every week will be over Manchester City’s line-up.
It’s been a summer of change at the Etihad, with Erling Haaland arriving but some big-name players exiting.
‘You have to shake. You have to move. With the same guys it’s almost impossible.’ – Pep Guardiola, May 2021
Manchester City did try to add to their ranks in the months that followed the above quote but advances for Harry Kane (£11.5m) were rebuffed and the only major changes saw the arrival of Jack Grealish (£7.0m) and the departure of Sergio Agüero.
A year later, City shook.
Out have gone Fernandinho, Raheem Sterling (£10.0m), Gabriel Jesus (£8.0m) and Oleksandr Zinchenko (£5.0m), with over a quarter of a century’s service between them, replaced by Kalvin Phillips (£5.0m), Erling Haaland (£11.5m) and Julián Álvarez (£6.5m). A left-back is seemingly imminent too, whether it’s Marc Cucurella (£5.0m) or otherwise.
How could this affect City’s tactical set-up and approach? Here are some potential changes we could see.
A Double Pivot
Guardiola has generally deployed a 4-3-3 since arriving in the north west, with two number 8s providing the creative flair in midfield. But in the second half of last season, City began to use a version of the 4-2-3-1 in some matches, with Ilkay Gündoğan (£7.5m) or Bernardo Silva (£7.0m) sitting in next to Rodri (£6.0m). It helps City in the build-up, adding an extra technical player, and it was usually deployed against teams who pressed high.
When the opponent presses they have an extra man to pick up deep in City’s midfield and spaces open up behind them for Kevin De Bruyne (£12.0m) to drift into. The champions’ full-backs can hold width and are given more licence to push forward.
City build with a Rodri and Gündoğan double pivot and wide full-backs, allowing De Bruyne to push high at Molineux in May
When City press in a 4-4-2, De Bruyne joins the front man in the initial press. Allied to a double pivot in the build-up, it results in De Bruyne playing higher up the pitch, where he’s more dangerous.
Haaland and De Bruyne form the first line of the press vs Bayern Munich with Bernardo and Rodri sitting in midfield
De Bruyne’s returns in the second half of last season speak for themselves. Notably, his re-introduction to the team, after fitness issues in mid-December, brought Bernardo’s hot streak to a swift conclusion.
- Potential Winners: De Bruyne, Cancelo, Walker, new left-back
- Potential Losers: Gündoğan, Bernardo
If you’ve signed a Tremendous Nordic Meat Shield, it would be remiss not to utilise his freakish physical prowess. Haaland’s speed and intelligence in transition has led to a glut of goals in the Bundesliga.
That isn’t a natural fit for Guardiola’s side, who have developed into a patient, metronomic team where control is King. The swashbuckling days of Sterling and Leroy Sane bombing down the wings are long gone. City’s play is slower and more precise.
But now the Citizens not only have one of the world’s most lethal attackers in transition, they also possess a player with an unparalleled combination of on-ball running power and passing range to orchestrate them in De Bruyne. It seems likely that Guardiola will try to take advantage by introducing quick transitions when City win the ball back deep. Keep an eye out for De Bruyne staying high out of possession, almost taking up ‘false nine’ positions, with Haaland stalking the channels looking to get in behind.
Belgium used De Bruyne like this in transitions in Euro 2020. Playing high but dropping off the centre-backs to feed Lukaku in the channels
- Potential Winners: Haaland, De Bruyne
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