Manchester City’s Yaya Problem

I know, I know, I know. We’ve been very City centric these last few days, we might as well call ourselves “Every Day Is Kun Aguero Day”. (Not gonna happen, Jordan.) This is what occurs when you’re involved in arguably the three biggest games of the last two weeks: stuff gets written about you. Unfortunately for City, who haven’t won a game in a while, most of that stuff is pretty bad.

It’s no secret that since the Ivorian’s arrival at the Etihad, Manchester City – whether managed by Roberto Mancini or Manuel Pellegrini – go as Yaya Toure goes. And why not? An on form Toure is perhaps the most destructive force in the English Premier League. The guy gets it done.

Lately, though, Yaya Toure hasn’t been himself. He tires easily, doesn’t get involved as much, and in this week’s Champions League clash with Bayern Munich, he’s basically been anonymous.

A team of City’s caliber should not rely on one player this much, yet the team from the blue side of Manchester do. Yaya Toure has engrained himself into the fabric of the Citizens that players who should be able to assert themselves when the Ivorian doesn’t simply can’t. David Silva is more than capable of being the offensive fulcrum, but he’s marginalized for the benefit of Yaya.

City isn’t the only team that has this phenomenon, mind you. Barcelona under Tito Villanova and Tata Martino (even in Pep Guardiola’s final season) were dependent on Messi so much, the Catalan press came up with a term for it (Messidependencia). Andre Villas Boas’s Tottenham squad was so reliant on Gareth Bale for goals – creating and scoring – that AVB wilted under the pressure and was fired the season after Spurs let Bale go. Heck, even Sir Alex Ferguson’s last Manchester United team was reliant on the heroics of Robin Van Persie. (Time will tell whether Brendan Rodgers’s Liverpool squad are a product of his tactics, or this year’s Spurs.)

Where Manchester City differs from those teams, and what can help Manchester City going forward even with Yaya Toure, is that they can fix this. With the African Cup of Nations in January, they need to, and fast.

With Yaya getting up there in years – he’s 31 this season – a move to a Silva centric attack might be the best thing City do. The Spanish talisman is more than capable of being the attacking force Yaya is, and while he isn’t as dynamic, he might offer more going forward.

David Silva is a better passer than Toure. He’s quicker than the Ivorian. He’s even more inventive than Yaya the Beast ever was. A move to put him in the center of the attack, as the top of an inverted V, makes City much more dangerous. I’m not saying this should be a permanent move, mind you. I just think it would help Manny have more options.

I do, however, think that this is a good game plan for the game against Chelsea. Cesc Fabregas will struggle against Silva’s speed. The Spaniard, much like the Ivorian so far this season, has struggled defensively as part of a defensive midfield two, stretching Nemanja Matic in the same way Yaya has been stretching Fernandinho, and, to a lesser extent, Fernando, who might be this team’s most important player. (The latter is just fine doing all the running for seemingly the entire squad.)

Having Silva, Samir Nasri, and Jesus Navas attack Chelsea while Fernando and Fernandinho stay home could cause Chelsea’s defense a lot of trouble. In fact, City was at its most dangerous against Bayern when Silva was in the center. Once James Milner was introduced and David went wide, Munich relaxed a little.

On Sunday, Manchester City will try to get its first win in three games. On Sunday, City would be wise to try something different, something new, and end Yayadependence before its too late.

How well their season goes, both domestically and in Europe, may depend on it.

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EDIZD Guide to the Weekend, Vol 1

We’ve decided to start offering you a new feature to help you through the weekend, so it’s not all EPL, all the time (not that there’s anything wrong with that). Here’s your guide to the best the world of football has to offer this week.

1. Chelsea vs. City

You had to know this was coming: the two favorites in the EPL squaring off for what’s bound to be a thrilling early season clash. Chelsea can establish their domestic dominance yet again after picking up all 12 points in their first four games, while Manchester City looks to quiet the murmurs that they’re losing their hold of England. Diego Costa comes into the game on fire, but so does Joe Hart. Cesc Fabregas and Yaya Toure play the same position in vastly different styles. I personally like to say the Premier League is overrated, but that doesn’t mean it is in this clash.

2. Juventus vs. Milan

The luster of AC Milan has been getting quite dull the past two years, with the Italian and European giants struggling in a post-Zlatan world. Yet they come into this match with Juventus having notched all six possible points in their first two games. Both teams play highly contrasting styles, with Milan’s two Serie A matches producing 13 goals, while the more pragmatic Juventus has had a total of three in both of their fixtures. Is the Rossoneri back? No one is quite sure, but we’ll all know more after they take on The Old Lady.

3. Leverkusen vs. Wolfsburg

Despite finishing fifth last year in the Bundesliga, Wolfsburg finds themselves with only two points in three matches and reeling after an embarrassing match Thursday with Everton. Leverkusen has established themselves early at the top of the Bundesliga, but are also coming off a poor European showing losing 1-0 to a less talented AS Monaco. Will Rodger Schmidt’s horde of locust type pressers overcome an out of form Wolfsburg, or will Ricardo Rodriguez, Naldo, and Luiz Gustavo finally find the right formula to avoid conceding goals?

Sleeper Match of the Weekend: Stuttgart-Hoffenheim

Unfortunately for Ligue 1, Lyon has been too painfully terrible to include their tilt with PSG in any formal matter of this post. So instead, you get a second helping of Bundesliga. Neither of these squads are title contenders. Stuttgart finished 15th in the table last season, but the number one rule of any Hoffenheim fixture is that any and every game can turn into a shootout.

 

Eighteen — YES, 18 — year-old German phenom Timo Werner could easily break out with a hat-trick for the Reds, and Romanian international Alexandru Maxim will have plenty of room to pull off his plethora of tricks. On the other offensive end, Hoffenheim always has a shot to score 4+ goals anytime dynamic duo Robert Firmino and Kevin Volland step out onto the pitch.

Don’t plan your weekend around this match, but there is a high chance this one could end up with 10 goals considering the offensive and defensive qualities, which is why it’s worth a second look.

Best Match Outside of the Top Five Leagues: Feyenoord-Ajax

“Young Dutch talent heeeeeeeeereeee, get your young Dutch talent heeeeereeeee! You sir would you like some young Dutch talent? Yes? WELL HERE IS A HELPING OF AJAX AND FEYENOORD, WITH SO MUCH YOUNG TALENT IT WILL MELT YOUR FACE OFF.”

Seriously, anytime you get a combo of Ajax, PSV, and Feyenoord you should watch. It is sort of like a time machine to 2018.

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Bayern 1, City 0: Tactics

Yaya Toure and Fernandinho

The most notable tactical development for Manchester City was what Yaya Toure and Fernandinho did at CM in the middle of City’s 4-4-1-1. Fernandinho was everywhere on the pitch and trying to do everything, while Toure seemed lazy and didn’t show much of a defensive work rate. 35% of Fernandinho’s touches came in City’s defensive third, while Toure only had 26%. Additionally, 70% of Fernandinho’s touches came in City’s half of the pitch, while it was 56% for Toure.

Fernandinho's touches, divided by thirds.

Fernandinho’s touches, divided by thirds.

Fernandinho was much more active with trying to make tackles. The Brazilian successfully completed six and attempted several additional ones with led to no success. Toure attempted one tackle on Xabi Alonso in the 56th minute, but only managed to foul the magnificent bearded man.

When City lost possession, Fernandinho immediately started tracking back and didn’t do so leisurely. Meanwhile Toure was more gradual and casual in his reactions to City being dispossessed. This was the same dynamic Toure had with Fernando for Newcastle and Liverpool. The main issue is Bayern Munich under Pep Guardiola is an entirely different species than City’s two opponents. To properly handle Guardiola’s tactics you need all of your midfielders exerting full effort at all times. Fernandinho was. Toure was not.

The Neutralization of City’s Wingers

Samir Nasri and Jesus Navas really didn’t do much of anything for City. They weren’t able to really get in behind the Bayern defense, as evidenced by their whopping zero dribbles. They only had two key passes, and one was those from a corner. Bayern neutralized City’s wide midfielders in the 4-4-1-1 excellently.

Nasri and Navas really had much time to do anything on the ball. In particular with Navas, he needs space in order to break down defenses with his great pace and his solid crossing. Navas couldn’t really do much running down the wings, challenging fullbacks one-on-one. When City was firmly in possession Bayern had two players cutting off angles and possibilities for anything to really happen. This shows Nasri receiving a pass from Clichy, with two Bayern players limiting his angles to sprint down the wing or try to cut inside.

Bayern were able to do this because of a wrinkle in Guardiola’s defensive shape. While lining up in a 3-3-3-1, Bayern were cautious to always have 4 defenders when they were dispossessed. Attack down the left, and Juan Bernat slides back. Attack down the right, and Xabi Alonso drops back between the centre backs, converting the right centre back (here, Mehdi Benatia) into a make shift right back.

As an example, this is how Bayern lined up last weekend versus Stuttgart, a game the Bavarians won 2-0:

Joe Hart, Thomas Müller, and Bayern In Front Of Goal

England’s number one had a great game against the Bavarians, and had it not been for his efforts, Bayern could have scored a lot more than Boateng’s last minute golazo. In particular, City had trouble tracking the runs of Thomas Müller, who seemingly got in the box at will. Müller should have scored as early as one minute in, and he was the player who found himself testing Joe Hart the most in this game.

Müller and Robert Lewandowski – the White Danny Welbeck – moved so well off of each other, and while the Polish striker didn’t have as many chances to score as his German teammate, Lewa’s link up play and his ability to attract multiple defenders was key.

 Pep Guardiola’s In Game Tactics

Guardiola is a great manager, but the main gripe about him his whole career is his seemingly maniacal aversion to changing up his style of play. While this didn’t hurt him so much here – Bayern were clearly the better team – at some point Guardiola is going to have to address something that happens in game, something he hasn’t shown the ability to do thus far. His substitution of Robben took too long – whether that was because of fitness issues or not, we’ll never know – and his game plan clearly needed tweaking, even as early as half time.

The main issue of Guardiola’s teams is that they can become too predictable, and that was certainly what happened as his tenure at Barca was ending. With Bayern, he has the resources to change that (who knows what this team will look like with everyone healthy), but we’ll see whether he will. Having said that, Guardiola’s tactics will wear the opposing team down since chasing the ball is extremely tiring.

It’s clear he thinks of City as a little brother type of team – no matter what they do, he will beat them. His record against Manuel Pellegrini can attest to that.

Penalty Shouts

By my count, Bayern could have had three or four calls for a penalty, with only one of them  a Robben dive. City as well could have had a penalty called against Mehdi Benatia when the defender clearly clipped Silva from behind. Spanish referee Alberto Mallenco, no stranger to La Liga fans, had a bad day overall (or he was par for the course if you’ve seen this guy call some games in the Spanish leagues).

Bayern will be glad to get the full three points, while City have a lot of questions heading into their game against Chelsea this weekend.

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Serie A Roundup: Week 2

  • AC Milan and Parma played easily the most exciting game of the week, with AC Milan winning 5-4 away. AC Milan had a two goal lead three times with Parma pulling one back each time. Jeremy Menez stood out for Milan, scoring this filthy goal and a penalty along with five dribbles. Keisuke Honda also contributed to two goals by scoring one and providing the assist for another. Both teams also had a centerback sent off: Felipe for Parma and Daniele Bonera for Milan. We don’t know how long it will last, but AC Milan is top of the table right now.
  • Internazionale ravaged Sassuolo, to the tune of a 7-0 beatdown at the San Siro. Mauro Icardi had a hat trick but wasn’t even the most impressive player on the pitch in Milan. That title belonged to Pablo Osvaldo, who bagged two goals along with two assists. Mateo Kovačić also managed to get his first Serie A goal along with an assist and four dribbles.
  • Napoli suffered a frustrating home lost to Chievo Verona. Despite 72% possession, 86% passing and outshooting their opponent 33-8 and earning a penalty they still lost. Chievo managed to block an impressive 12 shots and Gonzalo Higuain’s penalty was saved by Francesco Bardi.
  • Juventus took care of business like any defending champion should against Udinese. They held Udinese to a grand total of one shot on target along with having 57% possession. Carlos Tevez was the key man on offense, grabbing a goal and an assist.
  • Despite only taking five shots, Roma went to Empoli and grabbed a 1-0 win. Luigi Sepe’s own goal proved to be the difference.
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La Liga Roundup: Week 3

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-We begin this week’s La Liga roundup in–where else–Madrid, where defending champions Atlético defeated Real 2-1. Arda Turan came on for Gabi just after the hour and notched the winner 15 minutes later following a beautiful dummy by Raúl García. The victory marked Atlético’s third at the Santiago Bernabéu since May 2013, and the Colchoneros are unbeaten in three games against los Blancos this season. For the hosts, the loss sparked whistles for Iker Casillas and rumors of Cristiano Ronaldo’s exit. So, yeah. Atlético travel to Greece to battle Olympiacos in the Champions League on Tuesday, while Real stay in Spain and play Basel.

-Next, to Catalonia, where Barcelona kept its 100 per cent record intact with a 2-0 win over Athletic. Luis Enrique’s troops sputtered for over an hour before Neymar came on and scored twice in the final 11 minutes, with Lionel Messi assisting both goals (could he notch 25 assists this year?). Barça currently top the table and have yet to concede through three rounds. The Nou Camp will next play host to Barça-APOEL, while Athletic welcome Shakhtar to the Basque Country, with both group fixtures set for Wednesday evening.

-Are the reigning Europa League winners back on track? That’s certainly the hope in Andalusia, where Sevilla were barely threatened in a 2-0 win over Getafe. Carlos Bacca was in form for the Palanganas, as he took three shots, scored a penalty, and contributed some defensively, with a tackle and three clearances. Denis Suárez was also terrific, as he fired off four key passes and won three aerial duels in his 73 minutes of action. As for Getafe, this was one to forget; the Madrid-based side had only one shot on target, and it came from a sub. Sevilla will now look to kick-start its Europa League defense, beginning with Feyenoord on Thursday.

-Last season’s eighth-place finishers are off to a fine start in the 2014-15 Liga. Sunday proved a successful day at the Mestalla, as hosts Valencia beat Espanyol 3-1. After a quick goal from Pablo Piatti, Espanyol were able to hold on until the hour mark, when Dani Parejo (who had an outstanding day) slotted home Valencia’s second. Also, it’s been a nice run for Paco Alcácer; he scored against Macedonia in a Euro 2016 qualifier last week, and he bagged Valencia’s final goal in this one.

-Other results: Almería 1-1 Córdoba, Málaga 0-0 Levante (a note on Levante here), Celta Vigo 2-2 Real Sociedad (thanks to this), Rayo Vallecano 2-3 Elche, Granada 0-0 Villarreal, Eibar 0-1 Deportivo.

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Bundesliga Roundup: Week 3

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    -After a two-week hiatus due to international fixtures, the Bundesliga returned to action, which means one thing: roundup! Let’s get straight to the biggest story of this round, and that is the return of Shinji Kagawa to Signal Iduna Park for his second stint with Borussia Dortmund. The Japanese superstar couldn’t have asked for a better return, assisting Adrián Ramos’s goal and then getting on the score sheet himself in a 3-1 win against Freiburg. Dortmund will host Arsenal on Tuesday in the opening fixture of Group D.

    -Next up, an entertaining 3-3 draw between Bayer Leverkusen and Werder Bremen. Tin Jedvaj scored an incredible goal to get things going and Leverkusen continued to threaten during the first half before poor defensive play lead to Werder equalizing through Fins Bartels. After the break, former Chelsea man Franco Di Santo gave the visitors the lead. Two minutes later, Leverkusen were back on level terms through a Hakan Çalhanoglu free kick. THEN, a dozen minutes after coming on, substitute Heung-Min Son registered his first goal of the season to give the home side the advantage. However, Leverkusen’s defense would let them down once again when Bremen’s Sebastien Prodl equalized again after being found unmarked by substitute Nils Peterson. Leverkusen are away to Monaco this week.

    -Bayern Munich convincingly beat Stuttgart 2-0 as Xabi Alonso produced another man of the match performance in midfield. Mario Gotze and the returning Franck Ribéry grabbed the goals for the defending German champs. Sadly, the victory was marred by a serious thigh injury suffered by Holger Badstuber, who had just come back from a 20-month injury layoff. Badstuber is set to be out for a long period, as he will require surgery to heal his latest problem. Bayern will stay in Germany this week, as they host Manchester City on Wednesday.

    -To wrap up the rest of the weekend’s action: Borussia Mönchengladbach put FC Schalke to the sword via a 4-1 scoreline in Max Kruse’s return to action, Hoffenheim and Wolfsburg played out a 1-1 draw, Mainz thrashed Hertha Berlin 3-1 at the Olympiastadion, FC Augsburg secured a 1-0 win away to Eintracht Frankfurt, Paderborn and FC Köln drew 0-0, and finally, Hannover 96 beat Hamburger SV 2-0, which resulted in Mirko Slomka’s dismissal from the former European champions.

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Ligue 1 Roundup: Week 5

  • We’re back after a two week hiatus courtesy of the international break to talk some scintillating football from the French first division. The big matchup from the fixture list in Week 5 was Lyon’s tilt versus struggling AS Monaco. Lyon emerged victorious 2-1 on a 73′ goal by Corentin Tolisso. Another game, another loss for Monaco who now sit 19th in Ligue 1. Meanwhile Lyon snapped their three game losing streak and get to face the big bad bullies known as Paris Saint Germain in Ligue 1’s marquee match of week 6.
  • We have new leaders at the top of the French First division as Lille with their 2-0 victory versus Nantes pushed past Bordeaux for top spot. Manchester city loanee Marcus Lopes and Liverpool summer signing Divock Origi scored for the French side. In nearly 500 minutes of play, Lille have only conceded one goal, a remarkable amount to start the season.
  • PSG continue their lackadaisical start to the domestic season with a 1-1 draw away from home versus Rennes. While there’s a really good chance that PSG will still win Ligue 1, that won’t stop me from posting this in all of its glory:Standings
  • Elsewhere, Marseille continue their resurgence with another convincing win, a 3-1 victory versus Evian Thonon Gaillard. Marseille were clinical when the opportunity arrived (it helps when you play Evian, a side who will in all likelihood be relegated this season), highlighted by their opening goal coming only 20 seconds in on a long ball from Rod Finni that was smashed home by Andre-Pierre Gignac.

That makes it 4 goals in 5 games to start the season, a non penalty goal mark of 0.604 that would outpace the 0.496 rate he produced last season: Gignac

  • Other Results from Week 5 in Ligue 1: Bastia 1-1 Lens, Monpellier 1-0 Lorient, Nice 1-0 Metz, Reims 2-0 Toulouse, Saint Etienne 1-0 Caen, Guinamp 2-1 Bordeaux
  • Next week’s biggest matchup comes from the Parc de Princes where PSG hosts Olympique Lyonnais. Both teams have had pedestrian starts to the season though one of the teams is PSG so they can get away with it in comparison to Lyon. Lyon though are getting players back from injury, especially with their back line with the likes of Henri Bedimo and Samuel Umtiti (who started versus Monaco on Friday) returning. This is a big opportunity for Lyon to build on the success that came with their victory versus Monaco, and rebuild their push for a possible Champions League spot courtesy of Monaco’s epic decline from grace.
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