A Tactical and Statistical Analysis of How Manchester City Dropped Two Points
Make no mistake, even though Manchester City drew their homeChampions League match with Roma 1-1 in reality Manchester City lost this match. With multiple Roma starters missing and an early 1-0 lead Manchester City was not able to finish this match with a desperately needed three Champions League Group points. The crucial decision made by Manchester City’s manager, Manuel Pelligrini, was to set up Manchester City in a 4-4-2 formation, with only two central midfielders. Roma played a 4-3-3 formation with three Central Midfielders and Francesco Totti as a “False 9” Center Forward. Totti played this position 21 times in the 24 matches he started in the 2013/2014 season and has played the same position every time he has started in the 2014/2015 season. A “False 9” is a Center Forward who drops deep into midfield in between their opposition’s defensive and midfield lines to offer an extra central passing option:
With Manchester City playing two Forwards, Edin Džeko and Sergio Agüero, it was crucial for their defense to have one of their Forwards drop deep and mark Roma’s Holding Midfielder Seydou Keita. Keita was positioned under Roma’s Central Midfielders and was Roma’s closest midfield player to Manchester City’s Front Two. However, neither of Manchester City’s Forwards dropped deep to mark Keita:
With no defensive support from their Front Two, Manchester City became overwhelmed in a four (Roma) versus two (Manchester City) midfield battle and struggled to mark Roma in possession. Manchester City was forced to rely on extra defense support from other areas on the field. David Silva, Manchester City’s Left Winger, was forced to position himself centrally to provide midfield support for Manchester City’s overrun central midfield. Silva’s positioning provided space for Roma’s Right Fullback, Maicon, to attack Manchester City. Maicon was one of Roma’s most dangerous attackers and he almost leveled the match in the 6th minute, shooting a ball off of the underside of Manchester City’s crossbar:
With Maicon providing adequate width for Roma’s attacks, Roma’s Right Winger, Gervinho, was free to drift centrally and link play. This movement added more pressure to a Manchester City midfield that was already struggling to contain Roma’s midfield three and “False 9” Center Forward:
More importantly, Manchester City’s Centerbacks were forced to push into midfield to mark Totti who was free between Manchester City’s defensive and midfield lines. Before Totti’s match leveling goal, in the 3rd, 5th, and 23rd minute Vincent Kompany, one of Manchester City’s starting Centerbacks, pushed forward to mark Totti. In the 24th Totti was able to catch this movement from Kompany and made a run into the open space behind Kompany to level the match at one:
Both of Manchester City’s Central Midfielders were occupied. 25. Fernandinho was covering Pjanic, who he was facing. Yaya Toure was in a no win situation. Either he could close down Keita, who is in possession of the ball, leaving 4. Radja Nainggolan free or he can track Nainggolan’s run and leave Keita free. He slowly closed down Keita, allowing him the space to pass the ball to Nainggolan who made a free attacking run and played in Totti behind Manchester City’s defensive line. Also, Silva, Manchester City’s Winger, was behind and in between Fernandinho and Pjanic, and 15. Jesús Navas was behind Nainggolan. Manchester City’s Wingers were forced centrally to provide support for Manchester City’s midfield, leaving Manchester City’s Fullbacks exposed.
Roma continued their control of the match for the rest of the 1st half. At the beginning of the 2nd half Manchester City substituted James Milner for Jesus Navas. Milner played on the Left Wing and David Silva switched from the Right Wing to the Left Wing position. However, this substitution did not change the flow of the match because Pelligrini did not fix Manchester City’s central midfield and they were still overrun centrally by Roma. The flow did not change until the 57’, after two more scoring opportunities; one in the 52’ that should of given Roma the lead, and a free shot on goal for Pjanic from the top of Manchester City’s penalty box.
In the 57’ Frank Lampard replaced Edin Džeko. Lampard moved into the Central Attacking Midfielder position and Manchester City changed formation from a 4-4-2 formation to a 4-2-3-1 formation, and more importantly a three man central midfield. Automatically, Manchester City took control of the match:
With the extra central midfield support Manchester City was able to compete for the ball and close down Roma’s players who were in possession of the ball, making it easier for Manchester City to steal the ball from Roma:
Because Roma was unable to retain possession, Manchester City dominated possession and was able to play with more advanced positioning. Roma was unable to keep possession of the ball in Manchester City’s half:
With Manchester City now taking complete control of the match, Roma was trapped in their defensive third and forced to desperately defend in an attempt to keep Manchester City from scoring a 2nd goal and winning the match:
The extreme shift in balance of play after the addition of Lampard in the 57’ minute begs the question of why Pelligrini did not start the match with a three man central midfield? The responsibility for this loss has to fall at the feet of Pelligrini. He failed to adjust his pregame tactics to deny Roma the opportunity to play their preferred style of play. Pelligrini was hired to make sure matches like this never happen. Like last season’s Manchester City 1-3 loss to Bayern Munich at home in the Champions League group stage, Pelligrini has failed again.