Match Coverage

4-4-2 is a legitimate option and Gabriel Jesus inspires new ideas: What We Learned from Man City vs. West Ham

Manchester City once again put their fans through all the emotions in the universe, as they shook off a horrendous first half performance to win yet another game. Angelo Ogbonna gave West Ham the lead from a well worked corner, before Nicolas Otamendi and David Silva got on the scoresheet for the Blues.

West Ham played well in the first half, but David Moyes syndrome struck once again as he decided to fall back on a defence that was inexperienced, untested, and not used to the formation Moyes had them playing. Other than reaffirming my belief that David Moyes is the worst manager in the Premier League, here are some things I learned from the game.

Danilo is not a left-back

For the record, I think Danilo is a useful squad player because of his height and versatility, but he should never be used as a left-back again. In the first half, City opted to use their full-backs in narrow positions, which requires good passing and good positioning, which are two things Danilo has struggled with early in his Manchester City career. Danilo struggled to get involved in passing moves, and he looked uncomfortable and predictable as he constantly had to switch onto his right foot. Many of the issues seen today were largely because he hasn’t consistently played games for City, but a lot of the issues were because he was a square peg in a round hole. He could be useful as an overlapping full-back, but a right-footed player playing on the left is pretty incapable of being an overlapping full-back. Danilo deserves more time, but we have to accept his limitations at this point.

4-4-2 can be a legitimate option

City played their usual 4-1-4-1 in the first half, but it was clear that the passing patterns were predictable, and players were too far away from each other. At half time, Pep switched to a 4-4-2 system, and I was very impressed with the results. Not only did City finally start creating openings against a team refusing to attack, but they became less predictable, and this is a good fit for a team with as much pace as City. Kyle Walker and Fabian Delph were more direct, and this allowed City to turn a difficult game into a training exercise. City have barely used 4-4-2 since Manuel Pellegrini’s departure, but it is a formation that suits both Raheem Sterling and Leroy Sané, as they can take advantage of the one on one matchups the formation creates due to the presence of two strikers in the middle. I can’t see Guardiola going with this formation any time soon, but it should be an option, especially against defensive teams.

Gabriel Jesus is a better fit in the City style than Sergio Aguero

Sergio Aguero is great, he’s world class, and every team would love to have him, but his performance in the first half created problems. I don’t buy into work rate as an issue with Aguero, but he simply didn’t make any runs, and he gave the West Ham back three a very easy first half. Not only did he not come for the ball and attempt to link up play, but he didn’t make darting runs against a West Ham back line that lacked pace. For a system like City’s, everything runs through the striker, as he is the player who is supposed to create space, and allow others to move into it. Essentially, Aguero’s lack of movement caused City to play a rigid system, which doesn’t suit the personnel that were on the field. City looked much better in the second half as Gabriel Jesus was constantly offering himself as an option, and everyone followed Jesus’ example, as City looked to have more ideas, and the link up play was better. Sergio Aguero is still a world class striker, but in this style, the play of the team is more important than the play of the individual, and Gabriel Jesus’ constant desire to link with team-mates means he is a better fit than Sergio Aguero in the starting line-up. For Pep however, this is as big of a ‘first world problem’ as he will ever have to deal with.

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