Not for the first time this season, the Premier League champions’ approach to a game contributed to a defeat
The problems being faced by Pep Guardiola at Manchester City were exposed yet again as Manchester United’s approach secured Ole Gunnar Solskjaer an important derby win.
Elsewhere in the Premier League, Tottenham delivered their most Jose Mourinho-esque performance to date, Duncan Ferguson was quick to make an impact at Everton and Leicester continued their winning run.
Goal breaks down how the key coaching decisions impacted the weekend’s action…
1) United’s rampant front four expose City’s multitude of transitional problems
For the majority of the second half at the Etihad Stadium, Manchester United’s low block simply absorbed the City pressure, highlighting the individual and collective defensive strength of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side as Harry Maguire and Aaron Wan-Bissaka kept Gabriel Jesus and Raheem Sterling quiet respectively.
As we have highlighted before in this column, City struggle to break down deep-lying defences this season because they lack full-back width to stretch the play and miss Leroy Sane’s clever runs in behind.
But much of the post-match analysis has ignored just how dominant United were in the first half, where this game was won.
In a repeat of their performance against Tottenham, Fred and Jesse Lingard in particular were outstanding, crisply exchanging passes and weaving through the first wave of the press to counterattack a soft City centre; Rodri simply cannot screen like Fernandinho.
City’s full-backs also made it easier for United. Kyle Walker is being sat in midfield to try to shore up this zone, which left Marcus Rashford with acres of space on the left flank to drive United forward and run the game, while Angelino was constantly caught ahead of the ball.
In short, City often had just three slow players back when four or five United bodies streamed forward.
2) Long diagonals & quick counters destroy fanned-out Burnley
Tottenham’s performance on Saturday was defined by patience in possession punctuated by long diagonal balls that stretched the opposition and suddenly switched the tempo to release a rapid front four into space.
It was, with the help of a dreadful Burnley display, the most Mourinho-like Tottenham have been since their managerial change.
Sean Dyche will be very disappointed with his team’s tactical setup. From the very first whistle, Burnley’s 4-4-2 was stretched across the length of the pitch, their three lines covering as much as 70 yards to open up massive amounts of space for Dele Alli, Harry Kane, and Heung-min Son – all of whom took advantage of the inexplicable gaps by dropping off the front line.
Burnley’s flat formation means that decompression between the lines is particularly self-defeating, since it only took one dribble to break past four players a time.
Moussa Sissoko was the best at this, driving forward to give Lucas Moura and the other three forwards time and space to make runs into the opposition half.
But take nothing away from a brilliant Spurs performance. They hit dozens of raking long balls out to Serge Aurier to move quickly into the final third, but only after long, dry periods of possession that lulled the visitors.
It was calm and steady, with long balls in key moments putting Son, Alli, Lucas, and Kane through. In other words, classic Mourinho.
3) Ferguson’s Atletico-like aggressive 4-4-2 suffocates Chelsea’s midfield
When the line-ups were released at Goodison Park it looked as though interim Everton manager Duncan Ferguson was drawing on the Freddie Ljungberg playbook of ultra-attacking tactics, but instead what we saw was Diego Simeone-esque aggressive counterattacking football.
Everton largely sat off Chelsea, but diligently held a midblock in a narrow and ruthlessly compressed 4-4-2 formation that aimed to crowd out the No.10 space and snap into tackles at every opp