Tactics Review: Aston Villa 0-0 Man City
Aston Villa tactics
Remi Garde changed the team shape and more than half of the personnel that started in the 3-1 defeat at Tottenham last Monday. The plan was to defend with a compact and congested midfield, before confidently working the ball through the centre of the park when building attacks.
That meant the Villans defended their half in a 4-5-1 formation, with Jordan Ayew leading the pressing from the halfway line.
Scott Sinclair and Carles Gil tracked back with City’s full-backs from the sides, while Jordan Veretout and Idrissa Gana worked in slightly more advanced central midfield positions.
Carlos Sanchez completed the five in midfield by defending from at its base, where he protected the central defenders. The back-four aligned centrally just behind the midfield unit to form a compact defensive line and close the channels.
When in possession, Villa attacked in a 4-4-2 formation with a diamond-shaped midfield. Sanchez remained as the sitting midfielder. That allowed Alan Hutton and Jordan Amavi to add width to attacks from full-back positions.
Veretout and Gana worked as ball players, looking to link up play centrally and shift play from one flank to the other, while Gil drifted inside to float between the lines as the central attacking midfielder.
Up top, Sinclair made diagonal runs from midfield to work off the shoulder of City’s last central defender and get in behind, while Ayew worked as an elusive forward dropping deeper and roaming with more freedom.
Manchester City tactics
Manuel Pellegrini kept the spine of the team he has turned to in recent games, but he continued to rotate his wide midfielders. This time Jesus Navas started on the bench with Kevin De Bruyne and Raheem Sterling in the team.
The overall plan was to dominate possession, use the width of the pitch when attacking and create chances by having his attacking midfielders make late runs into the box to support Wilfried Bony.
City started in a 4-2-3-1 formation with Yaya Toure working in the number 10 position, but the Ivorian swapped positions with Fernandinho when initiating attacks. That allowed Toure to drop deeper and dictate play when City built attacks before breaking forward to join Fernandinho as advanced central midfielders.
In more advanced positions, Sterling and De Bruyne linked up with overlapping full-backs Aleksandar Kolarov and Bacary Sagna, respectively, to create two-on-one situations down the flanks, before providing service into the box.
Bony completed the offensive formation as the focal point of the attacks. The ex-Swansea striker also used his strength to lay off chances for midfield runners with his back to goal.
City defended in a 4-2-3-1 formation, with Bony leading the defending. Fernandinho dropped to double pivot with Fernando while Toure worked in front of the Brazilian pair. Sterling and Navas engaged on Villa’s full-backs from the sides in that system.
Key tactical changes
Villa matched City in terms of spells of sustained possession in the opening half, but neither side worked the goalkeepers. City lost Bony to injury and De Bruyne struggled to impose himself up top in the remainder of the first-half.
That hosts failed to convert their spells of good possession into chances because they could not breach City through the middle in the final-third and when they assumed good crossing positions, they spurned the opportunities to deliver something for the strikers.
In the second-half, Sterling swapped positions with De Bruyne. Navas came in to supply natural width down the right flank and City adopted a high pressing defensive approach to stoke up the pressure on Villa.
The Citizens became a much better offensive force thanks to the changes. Pellegrini’s charges enjoyed more than 70 per cent possession in the third-quarter of the game and they created a couple of decent chances, particularly from Navas’ flank, but they crucially failed to score.
Garde had to deal with that problem, so he changed his wide midfielders to improve the energy levels in midfield and reduce City’s dominance. It was still a 4-5-1 defensive formation, but Charles N’Zogbia and Leandro Bacuna completed the game as orthodox wingers tracking back with City’s full-backs when defending.
Villa’s changes took the sting out of City’s attacks, which was the crucial to the result. Both sides went on to make final changes looking to nick late goals, with Fabian Delph replacing Toure while Gestede added an aerial threat to the Villans’ attack.
Neither of those late changes affected the game so City were left disappointed after failing to convert their four gilt-edged chances inside their half-hour spell of good offensive work in the second-half. Villa were simply relieved to end a seven-match losing streak.