Madrid alters Guardiola

If there is an author’s team, recognizable in any instance, it is usually Manchester City. The football expectations that it generates are aligned with a very characteristic idea by placing the offensive accent on each of the decisions that are made. However, respect to Real Madrid, that the technician himself skyblue has verbalized in each of his public appearances, It was also staged in the game plan that he put into practice at the Bernabéu. Even Guardiola himself recognized it yesterday before facing the second leg: “We have to improve the first leg, try to bring more balls to the attack. I have the idea of ​​doing something different, simply to be able to be more fluid in attack”.

The 'momentum' of Madri-City at the Bernabéu.
The ‘momentum’ of Madri-City at the Bernabéu.
The xg (expected goals) chronology of the first leg.
The xg (expected goals) chronology of the first leg.

Waiting for what you decide to do at the Etihad, in the first leg it was never City, despite overwhelming possession in some phases of the match (68% in the first half) and an eleven apparently on the attack. Guardiola fell into the temptation of prioritizing precaution and order over his offensive vocation due to the known fear of suffering Madrid’s transitions. Around this suspicion, he conceived a reserve approach, with fixed positions of his players to be prepared for the loss and without taking risks in the construction of the plays. It was a conventional team, without an ounce of rebellion, far from the height of the tactical innovations that Guardiola always handles on big stages. The ball was always from the inside out. Almost nobody, with the exception of Rodri and in an isolated way Gündogan, look for inside passes to the sides or back of the Madrid midfielders. If there was an option inside that carried a certain danger in case of error, it was always looked at to the sides.

Gundogan is alone between the lines, but Rodri prefers to partner outside with Grealish.
Gundogan is alone between the lines, but Rodri prefers to partner outside with Grealish.

Statistics confirm the lack of edge of City’s flat possession at the Bernabéu. The team skyblue he signed a 90.6% success rate in the pass, figures higher than his average for the season. But In addition, only 41 of their deliveries ended up in the last third of the field and they did so with a very high precision (83.3%) for this type of action, which indicates the excess of neatness and the defect of verticality.

Bernardo Silva and Grealish remained open at all times, without internalizing its location except on specific occasions. The Portuguese hardly produced, although the Englishman did lead Madrid to uncertainty in one-on-one actions against Carvajal or simply fixing the white side and then unloading on the edge of the area. One fact stands out from his participation: he created six scoring chances.

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In the other profile, Bernardo barely left room for Walker’s incursions. It is assumed that he was one more order from Guardiola to reinforce vigilance over Vinicius that by the own will of the Portuguese player. When Walker had space to appear, City projected dangerously down that right wing.

Bernardo Silva appears inside and Walker reaches the bottom line.  This play was seen very little.
Bernardo Silva appears inside and Walker reaches the bottom line. This play was seen very little.

Even so, Guardiola’s general proposal was conditioned by prevention. The positions of Gundogan and De Bruyne were far from their usual height, more at the base than between the lines. They were very covered and received in places that did not suit them. You just have to analyze the data from the Belgian, who left his mark on the goal, to see that he couldn’t really be decisive in the vicinity of the white area. De Bruyne made 19 passes into the final third, one of his highest figures, reflecting his further back position. The same happened with Haaland, disconnected in the finishing zone. His case was not alarming because of his number of interventions, which reached 21, a parameter within his normal averages, but rather because of the little threat he posed to Madrid’s defense. City were only able to come into contact with the ball in Courtois’ area on 20 occasions, 14 less than your course records.

Gundogan and De Bruyne are between the lines, but no one risks with that pass.
Gundogan and De Bruyne are between the lines, but no one risks with that pass.

When City did the most damage to Madrid, it was when they managed to recover in advanced areas. There, yes, there was no nuance, with pressure applied after the loss and in the restarts that caused some disorders in the start of Ancelotti’s men, but less than Guardiola would have liked. City stole eleven balls in the last 40 meters of the pitch after 15 pressing sequences. However, partly also due to the extraordinary technical quality of Madrid, its PPDA scale (passes allowed to the rival by own defensive action) He was three points below his average in the Champions League (16.4 by 13.4) and began the plays five meters further back than usual.

Map of City's advanced recoveries at the Bernabéu.
Map of City’s advanced recoveries at the Bernabéu.

Guardiola’s caution in his strategy was also evident in his resolve not to make any changes. He did not want to touch anything, pondering the management of the result on other types of decisions that could turn against him. All despite the final nonsense of Gündogan and Bernardo Silva. Both racked up avoidable losses early in the second half that cornered City on their home turf, but Guardiola froze and settled for a draw. Now he promises a renewed intention to be more offensive in the final battle of the Etihad. What is clear is that the presence of Madrid changes his pace and alters his script.

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