Premier League, September 14 2019
Recently promoted Norwich City overcame the absence of eight injured players to stun Manchester City and secure three valuable points in the pursuit of preserving their Premier League status, handing Liverpool a five-point advantage over the defending champions in the process. City had not conceded twice in the opening 30 minutes of a Premier League fixture since December 2016, but Norwich made an impressively fast start and capitalised on their visitors’ disorganised defence as goals from Kenny McLean and Todd Cantwell built a two-goal lead. Pep Guardiola’s team threatened to recover when Sergio Agüero scored on the stroke of half-time, but the hosts remained composed and restored their lead when taking advantage of a desperate Nicolas Otamendi error to set Teemu Pukki up for his sixth goal of the season. As a result, Rodri’s late finish proved nothing more than a consolation.
5 / 3
SHOTS / ON TARGET
25 / 8
332 / 257
Passes / Accurate
721 / 620
8 / 3 / 0
Fouls / Yellow / Red
7 / 1 / 0
Norwich were organised by manager Daniel Farke into in a 4-2-3-1 formation while they were in possession, built on the double pivot provided by Alex Tettey and Kenny McLean, and led by lone striker Teemu Pukki. Their approach meant that possession was limited; they were instead focused on transitional moments, when Pukki and the three attacking midfielders, Todd Cantwell, Marco Stiepermann and Emi Buendía, looked to advance whenever counter-attacks were possible.
Wide attackers Buendía and Cantwell looked to move inside on the occasions Norwich had a greater period of possession, allowing full-backs Sam Byram and Jamal Lewis to advance into the spaces that existed out wide. Tettey and McLean played with caution, remaining behind the ball with central defenders Ibrahim Amadou and Ben Godfrey to guard against counters. McLean in particular adopted false full-back and false central-defensive positions to encourage the build-up of possession from defence and free up Byram and Lewis to move forward early.
Farke’s team also attempted to bypass the City press by playing over the top of it, as was seen for their second goal. They demonstrated a clinical streak by scoring from all three of their shots on target while playing unselfishly around the penalty area.
Out of possession, Manchester City attempted an aggressive press in the earliest phases of the Norwich build-ups; Bernardo Silva, Sergio Agüero, David Silva and Raheem Sterling formed the first line of that press. Agüero and David Silva targeted Norwich’s central defenders and goalkeeper Tim Krul, while Sterling and Bernardo Silva would press the same central defenders on the outside shoulder if they were receiving wide of the penalty area.
Silva or Agüero would sometimes withdraw to cover Tettey or McLean – but they did this inconsistently, which contributed to the hosts evading that press. Ilkay Gündogan and Rodri adopted deeper positions to pick up Stiepermann, but advanced to Tettey and McLean if Agüero or David Silva were engaged further up. City largely defended in transitions, by attempting to implement an immediate counter-press when possession had been lost, and doing so from all angles to suffocate the ball-carrier as early as possible and therefore to protect against breaks. Unfortunately for the champions, they didn’t defend consistently enough across the 90 minutes and were made to pay by a team that took the chances gifted to them.
Manchester City adopted a 4-1-4-1 formation, with Pep Guardiola – who curiously chose to leave Kevin De Bruyne on the bench – starting Bernardo Silva, Ilkay Gündogan, David Silva and Raheem Sterling as an attacking four behind lone striker Sergio Agüero. They dominated possession but encountered an extremely deep and compact defence, so central defenders Nicolás Otamendi and John Stones carried the ball forwards – sometimes as high as the final third.
Deprived of space in central areas, City instead looked to find it out wide. Owing to Norwich’s tactical discipline, however, they were forced into quickly switching play across the pitch in the pursuit of the gaps they required – and through shorter passes instead of direct balls from one wing to the other. Agüero also withdrew into deeper territory to receive, partly because David Silva and Gündogan were under pressure from Alex Tettey and Kenny McLean. Further attackers would make forward runs in an attempt to draw the Norwich defenders out of their compact shape.
Sterling and Bernardo Silva switched wings during the first half, so that each was playing on the side that favoured them beating the full-back on the outside and using their stronger foot to deliver – which in turn encouraged the supporting midfielder or full-back to make underlapping runs. Goalscoring chances were created, but most commonly via clipped crosses into the area that left the attacker looking for the target while under pressure; anything on the floor was largely negated by the numbers Norwich kept inside the area as they surrounded the ball.
Out of possession, as they regularly were, Norwich used a 4-4-1-1 and were largely set up in a low block. They regularly had all 11 players in the defensive third. Number 10 Marco Stiepermann was positioned just behind lone striker Teemu Pukki but occasionally advanced to form a front two, while Todd Cantwell and Emi Buendia tucked in to form a midfield four alongside Tettey and McLean.
They encouraged City to bring possession out of defence and resisted engaging with them until they reached the final third; Pukki would put moderate pressure on Stones or Otamendi as they advanced, while Stiepermann would attempt to occupy Rodri. Buendia and Cantwell worked particularly hard to track back in a bid to negate the threat of City’s wide attackers in one-on-one situations against the Norwich full-backs.
The combination of that, and McLean and Tettey tracking the runs of David Silva and Gündogan, prevented City receiving possession in the areas they pose their greatest threat. The understanding and communication within Daniel Farke’s team was also exceptional; even as City rotated to draw individuals out of position, they proved capable of passing runners on and ensuring that gaps were not left for the champions to penetrate.
Author: Tony Hodson