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Tactical Analysis

Tactical Analysis: Burnley 1-2 Manchester City | Under-strength City sneak past Burnley

Hiko Seijuro writes a detailed tactical analysis about the Premier League match that ended Burnley 1-2 Manchester City.

Burnley welcomed title contenders Manchester City to Turf Moor for the early kick off game of premier league Matchday 13. Manchester City fresh from securing qualification from the Champions League group stages at Monchengladbach were hoping for a win that would take them top of the table, at least until Liverpool and Chelsea played later.

Turf Moor had turned out to be tricky fixtures for the leagues finest with only Chelsea having a better home record, and a slew of impressive home performances against Liverpool, Everton, and Arsenal showed that Sean Dyche’s men would be no pushovers.

Sean Dyche made the big decision to start experienced goal keeper Paul Robinson who had been sidelined with injury since 2014; Pep Guardiola continued with his rotation policy with Stones, Gundogan, De Bryune and Silva dropping to the bench from the team that secured progression in Germany, instead, he gave Fernando his first league start since September and allowed Yaya Toure to start his second game in a row.



Burnley (4-5-1/4-4-1-1): Robinson / Ward – Keane – Mee – Lowton / Gudmonssen – Defour – Hendrick – Marney – Boyd / Vokes

Manchester City (4-2-3-1): Bravo / Sagna – Otamendi – Kolarov – Clichy / Fernandinho – Fernando – Yaya Toure – Nolito – Sterling / Aguero

City attack and Burnley defence

City set up in a 4-2-3-1 shape while attacking (which they did for most of the game), Fernandinho and Fernando played as a double pivot, playing little part during the first phase of build up due to the fact that Burnley only started with Vokes upfront meaning that City already had a 2 vs 1 overload in that part of the pitch. Instead, they would stay in the second line, usually on the same horizontal line and receive the ball behind the first line of Burnley pressure.

One thing that was strange about City’s attacking play in the first half was Yaya Toure’s movements; as City progressed further up the pitch, he usually positioned himself in the right half-space and sometimes even went as wide as the touch line. It was clear that Pep wanted him to combine with Sterling as much as possible. To counteract the resultant lack of central occupation in the ten space, Nolito would move infield and position himself between the lines while Fernandinho and Sagna would provide the option to recycle possession leaving Clichy to provide attacking width down the left hand side.  Pep’s thinking might have been to overload the right hand side and attack the left through switches of play (“you have the ball on one side to finish on the other”) however, due to slow horizontal circulation and Clichy’s reluctance to go forward, not many attacks came down that flank.

However, Pep instructing Yaya to move slightly wide can be said to have paid dividends as the Ivorian hit the post and played in Sterling for the cross that led to the corner from which Aguero equalized.

Burnley defended in a 4-4-1-1 shape with strong horizontal and spatial compactness; lone striker Vokes was tasked with pressing the centre backs with one of either Marney or Hendrick stepping up to press Fernandinho whenever he received possession. Burnley had identified the Brazilian as City’s major build up outlet and sought to limit his influence on the match. This man marking of Fernandinho was very effective and forced City’s ball circulation to be slow and slightly labored due to Fernando’s ball playing deficiencies when compared to his teammate.

Long ball Burnley

Burnley used a lot of long balls during their attacking play as they sought to utilize Vokes’ aerial ability against a makeshift City centre back pairing that was lacking in height due to the absence of Stones and Captain Vincent Kompany. Another possible reason for this tactic was to remove City’s press as a factor in the game, a fact that Guardiola mentioned in his post match press conference.

Burnley’s dependence on long balls was underscored by the fact that their highest pass combination in this game was Robinson (GK) to Vokes (10 passes). As base and as “backward” as this seem in this era of silky attacking play, Sean Dyche’s tactics worked as their goal came from one such long ball; Robinson hit a free kick long into City’s half, Otamendi headed clear and Marney was first to the second ball, volleying home from outside the box. Pep learnt though and subsequently instructed his team to keep their back line a good 40 yards from goal when defending free kicks.

City switch at half time

In the second half, Pep noted the struggles that his team were having in breaking down the opposition and made a few tactical tweaks which paid off immensely; City switched to a back three during build up. The composition of the back three differed with Fernandinho either dropping between the centre backs to create the back three or Clichy coming slightly infield to complete the back three in which case Fernandinho would hold his position in the second line. The one person that never stayed deep was Sagna who was instructed to stay high and wide. Yaya was instructed to reduce his wide movements and stayed mostly central occupying the 10 space between the Burnley defense and midfield lines; Aguero started making wide movements mostly to the left to receive and combine with Nolito.

In the first half, City’s counter-press was quite weak due to the conservative positioning of the two 6’s Fernando and Fernandinho; this allowed Burnley to fashion some nice moves and meant that they were under less pressure. Pep saw this and remedied it by instructing Fernandinho to take up a more aggressive position during attack organization phase inside Burnley’s half. This allowed him to support the counter-press knowing that Fernando was mopping up behind him; in this way, City were able to regain possession higher up the pitch and also control Burnley’s counter attacks better. Yaya’s increased central positioning allowed City to play a number of vertical line breaking passes towards him and attack zone 14.

City’s winning goal seemed to be a product a pure chaos and persistence and in some ways it was; however, it can be put down to Pep instructing Fernandinho to be more aggressive in his positioning while attacking. Yaya was tackled just inside the box and Fernandinho counter-pressed on the edge of the box, the ball fell to two Burnley players who luckily (or unluckily for Burnley) took out each other while trying to clear it, Sane fumbled his touch and Fernandinho continued his run to cross the back off Aguero who didn’t know a lot about the goal. Lucky? Maybe, but Fernandinho wouldn’t have been that high up the pitch in the first half and Pep must take credit for changing things.

The win means that City are able to maintain pressure on league leaders Chelsea who beat Tottenham to claim top spot. However, if City are to maintain their title challenge, Pep must find a solution against teams that primarily attack through long balls as he himself mentioned in his post match press conference. He can rest knowing that Chelsea will be less inclined to play route one football when they meet on Saturday. Head here to view match odds and other Rules of the Bet365 sign up bonus.

Read all our tactical analyses here

Hiko Seijuro

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