Man City made an excellent start to their Champions League campaign beating Dutch side Feyenoord 4-0. Interestingly, three of the four goals came directly from crosses into the box.
Guardiola’s vintage Barcelona side was known as a side that didn’t cross the ball. In fact, they didn’t even play with a traditional striker. Over time, harnessing the super human talents of Lionel Messi they developed the false nine system.
It leads to confused centre-halves who didn’t have anyone to mark tightly one minute and several runners to try stop the next.
He tried to bring the same brand of football to Manchester City last season. When it came off it was spectacular, but there were too many individual errors for it to be considered a complete success.
Guardiola’s insistence upon playing the ball out from the back led to a raft of high-profile errors. Goalkeeper Claudio Bravo and defender John Stones came in for the most scrutiny as the onus to pass out from the back fell primarily on them.
This season City have gone more direct. Not by lumping it long down the middle, but by getting the ball out wide and crossing it at the first opportunity.
Game of Percentages
City have scored 14 goals this season, seven of those have come directly from a ball crossed into the box. A further two have been scored from the action immediately succeeding it, both by Raheem Sterling.
Against both Bournemouth and Everton ineffective clearances dropped for the English winger to fire home. That’s 64 per cent of Man City’s goals so far this season, with plenty of near misses from chances created.
It’s an astonishing figure for anyone who has followed Guardiola’s career closely.
The Spaniard must take immense credit for making such alterations. Identifying the flaw in trying to operate his system in England and addressing it in just one season is remarkable. It has been suggested that he is stubborn when it comes to how he wants his team to play, what we’ve seen so far this season hints at the exact opposite.
Signing Benjamin Mendy and Kyle Walker has brought a pace and crossing ability that gives City a massive advantage down the flanks. Teams sat in tight and narrow to stuff City’s attacks last season, that’s no longer an option.
Guardiola hasn’t gone full Allardyce though. There’s no big striker. Instead, there are two little ones.
Sergio Aguero and Gabriel Jesus have already disproved last season’s notion that they can’t play together. They rely on their movement and reactions to sniff out chances in the box rather than height. Both are deadly first-time finishers.
If they stay fit and Guardiola keeps those balls raining into the opposition box Man City will be hard to beat to the title.
Stephen Vaughan, Pundit Arena
Check out the latest episode of The Mixer, Pundit Arena’s Irish football podcast where we spoke to Cork City’s Johnny Dunleavy.