Match Coverage

Tactical Analysis: Manchester City 4-0 Bournemouth – One-touch play and clever movement undoes Cherries

Once again, Manchester City provided a dominant performance beating Bournemouth 4-0 at the Etihad Stadium thanks to goals from Sergio Aguero (2), Raheem Sterling, and Danilo. This win puts City 13 points clear ahead of Manchester United at Christmas.

Guardiola’s team is heading towards the Boxing Day with full force as they edge closer to ending the first half of the season unbeaten, with only 12 goals conceded – not bad for a team whose main focus is to attack, attack, and attack some more.


Manchester City: Ederson; Walker, Kompany, Otamendi, Delph; De Bruyne, Fernandinho, Silva; Sterling, Agüero, Sané

Bournemouth: Begovic; Smith, Cook, Aké, Simpson, Fraser; Stanislas, Gosling, Surman, Ibe; Wilson

Guardiola didn’t think twice about choosing veterans David Silva and Vincent Kompany as soon as they were made available to play.

Tactical Analysis

Otamendi and Kompany’s aggressive positioning

As seen regularly in City’s matches this season, Otamendi and Kompany push up to become the holding midfielders whenever they have space to do so. This is particularly adopted when the opposition falls into an extreme deep block negating any space for De Bruyne and Silva to receive and influence play.

From the image above, Otamendi’s presence with the ball allows Sterling and Aguero to push up and overload Bournemouth’s back-line, thus exploiting the half-space extremely well. Otamendi’s lob resulted in a chance for Aguero to open the scoring sheet but the Argentinean missed it.

Bournemouth faced a huge issue when defending the half-space overload as well as the double runs behind the line that City performed brilliantly (more about it later).

City’s counter-press leads to first goal

After losing the ball, City were extremely fired up and willing to press in packs, this was done in order to retrieve the ball before Bournemouth would have the chance to organize themselves defensively. In the image above we see six City players performing different kinds of press: Sané and Silva with the backwards press, De Bruyne and Sterling covering the passing lane with their shadow, and Delph and Fernandinho pressing the zones near the ball. This instance resulted in City regaining the ball back and scoring the game’s first goal.

Fernandinho received the ball from Delph and found Aguero with a brilliant one touch flick over Bournemouth’s defenders. Capitalizing on the opposition’s disorganisation, Aguero managed to slot the ball in the corner of the net with ease. High pressing football at its best from Manchester City.

City’s second goal

More marvelous off-the-ball movement from Guardiola’s men; Aguero offers himself as a passing option to Silva, De Bruyne and Sterling recognize the striker’s movement and rush in the opposite direction towards the box – with De Bruyne being a step ahead of his teammate Sterling.

Upon receiving the ball, Aguero flicks it over Bournemouth’s defence to fall perfectly onto Sterling’s path. Notice how De Bruyne’s dummy movement tricked Bournemouth’s defence into thinking that they carried out the offside trap successfully.

However, that’s the secret behind City’s impressive attack, dummy movements and intelligent double runs behind the opposition’s lines that cause mayhem to whatever defence Guardiola’s men face. Sterling finishes the play with an easy 1vs1 situation – credit to his brilliant placement.

City’s third goal – Brilliant half-space exploitation

Fernandinho stands on the ball waiting for any movement from his teammates, Bournemouth’s players are all over the place leaving only three defenders in the box. Gundogan finds space behind the full back and runs towards it expecting a pass from the Brazilian. Fernandinho has been putting in brilliant performances game after game with many aspects of his play showing signs of improvement under Guardiola.

Gundogan passes the ball to Bernardo and joins Silva, Aguero, and Sterling inside the box anticipating a cross from the Portuguese. A cross is played towards Aguero who slots it home to make it 3-0. This isn’t just a random play, any of the four City players mentioned above could’ve scored a header due to their perfect positioning between Bournemouth’s defenders.

City’s fourth goal – Typical Guardiola tactics

Wingers stay wide, at all times. That’s what Pep demands of his attacking wingers and staying wide grants them two options:

  • In case the opposition followed to the wide areas, the half-space becomes exposed for Silva/De Bruyne to exploit.
  • In case the opposition sticks to the defensive shape and remains deep, wingers can use their pace to outrun them and take advantage of the defenders’ blindspot.

The Citizens’ fourth goal came because the opposing defenders remained within the structure, allowing acres of space for Danilo to run into and score.


Can anyone stop Manchester City? Anyone? Seems not! Pep Guardiola is marching on to the title with impressive attacking and defensive displays as mentioned above. His fingerprint is visibly shown whenever Manchester City plays. It’s very hard for us to choose a player of the season if City continue these amazing performances, but can it be given to Pep Guardiola?

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