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Man City v Newcastle tactical analysis

Analysis of Manchester City's 4-0 win over Newcastle in which Jesus Navas offered a new option for the hosts at the Etihad Stadium.

Last Updated: 19/08/13 at 23:47 Post Comment

Manchester City were head and shoulders above Newcastle at the Etihad Stadium

Manchester City were head and shoulders above Newcastle at the Etihad Stadium

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Manchester City produced a devastating display against a ragged Newcastle team to start Manuel Pellegrini's reign with a 4-0 Premier League win at the Etihad Stadium.

An early goal from David Silva set City on their way and when Sergio Aguero added a second midway through the first-half it already looked a hopeless task for the visitors.

That was confirmed by Steven Taylor's sending off on the brink of half-time and things got worse for the Magpies after the interval when Yaya Toure expertly curled home a free-kick.

Substitute Samir Nasri capped a hugely impressive performance and here we take an in-depth look at the game to find out more...


With Matija Nastasic injured, Joleon Lescott partnered Vincent Kompany in the heart of the City defence. Micah Richards and Stevan Jovetic were also unavailable to Pellegrini with minor problems.

If the defensive positions had a familiar feel - this was the same back-five that played in that game against QPR two seasons ago - it was a new-look midfield with Jesus Navas and Fernandinho making their debuts.

Alvaro Negredo would have to wait for his Premier League debut, being named among the substitutes.

Newcastle's preparations for the match - and indeed their season - were hampered by the news that Arsenal had made a £10million bid for their star midfielder Yohan Cabaye on the eve of the contest.

Alan Pardew duly left the apparently distracted Frenchman out of his squad. "I have to pick a team here tonight that can get us a result," he told Sky Sports before kick-off, clearly frustrated. "The rights and wrongs of the bid, people can make their own mind up on. I know what my opinions on it are.

At least the Newcastle boss could name a fully-fit Hatem Ben Arfa in the starting line-up in an advanced position on the right and he appeared to be counting on the player's dribbling skills to make something happen for the Magpies.

"It will be an interesting battle on that side," added Pardew. "He'll be up against a player he knows in (Gael) Clichy. He's a player who can unlock the door for us."

Where it was won and lost

Much of the anticipation in the build-up had been about what the pace and width provided by Navas could offer to this City side on the right wing. "This is exciting," said Gary Neville. "This is what they've needed these past few years."

The early link-up between Navas and Pablo Zabaleta was certainly encouraging for the home side. The Argentine full-back, fresh from signing a new four-year deal, even had a decent penalty shout before combining with Navas to set up Edin Dzeko for a chance soon after.

This obvious threat on the right had the effect of sucking players over on the cover. Yoan Gouffran was tracking back and Jonas Gutierrez coming across to help. The contrast on the opposite flank was marked when the opening goal came in only the sixth minute.

Ben Arfa looked on as Silva drifted inside to collect the pass from Fernandinho as the play was shifted to the left. "Why has he not gone in there? Look at the space Silva has got," asked Jamie Carragher at the interval.

Silva was then allowed to stroll into the box with Moussa Sissoko failing to track him and Cheick Tiote attracted to the ball. When it did reach Silva from Dzeko's cross, the diminutive midfielder was able to nod past Tim Krul for his first headed goal in the Premier League and extend City's goalscoring run at the Etihad Stadium to 51 league games.

Silva's positioning was elusive throughout the first-half but perhaps it was a little surprising that the Navas role was not so different. While the pace of the former Sevilla man did prove an asset, he was also happy to tuck in and allow Zabaleta to overlap. The threat of width was enough. City actually attacked more down the wide open spaces of the left wing than they did down the right in the first half.

In fact, at times this looked more like the classic Pellegrini 4-2-2-2 formation that first brought him success in Europe with Villarreal. Silva and Navas played the roles of interiores - encouraged to come inside and dominate the midfield - and this was illustrated by the average position diagram in the first-half, showing Zabaleta as the wider of the two men.

By the time that interval came, the match was as good as over. Kompany was alert to dispossess Papiss Cisse in the City half and a neat flick from Dzeko soon opened things up for Aguero to beat Krul with an inch-perfect finish low into the far corner of the net. Taylor's red card in first-half stoppage time for striking Aguero with his arm then added to the visitors' woe.

In the second half, Navas showed that he is also capable of playing the role of genuine winger. With Newcastle down to 10 men, the emphasis was now fully on stretching the play and creating space for City to exploit. Navas did just that by playing high up the field - often as the most advanced City player - and sending in a series of crosses.

And the goals continued to flow. Yaya Toure added a third with a fine free-kick and the introduction of Nasri for Aguero allowed Silva to move inside and showcase the quality of his passing. With Dzeko exceptional and the combative Fernandinho treating the crowd to his full range of passing, there was much to admire in City's attacking play.

But for Newcastle, this was a mess. Mathieu Debuchy looked isolated at right-back and was desperately poor when he was called into action. His sluggishness in allowing Nasri to latch onto the ball and stroke home a fourth goal summed up his night and Newcastle's attitude.

Indeed, the ineptitude of their efforts makes assessing just how good City are looking a slightly tricky business. But what seems clear is that they have replenished their attacking options and in Navas they have a player who can create space with his width and offer the team an alternative supply route.

Pellegrini's view

For me the most important thing was the way my team played for the 90 minutes. We didn't play one way when we were winning 2-0, we played for the 90 minutes - attacking and defending as an aggressive team with possession of the ball. We scored four goals and I think we had at least another six or seven chances.

Pardew's view

The shackles were off them a bit with the new manager and everything. I thought we gave a good account of ourselves until the sending off. We had threatened the goal. But after the sending off it was a difficult night for us really. It was a silly challenge from Tayls and was a bit out of character for him.

Gary's view

I thought Navas would bring something different to Manchester City and he has done. On the other side it is narrow with David Silva and that's fine as it gives balance. What Manchester City have now got through Navas is a different option. They can still go back to Nasri and Silva with Yaya Toure off the front and play the narrow football that's worked for them these last two years. But they've got an outlet - a real outlet with quality - and it makes it a lot better for City that teams don't know how they're going to set up.

Player ratings

Edin Dzeko may not have got the goal that he deserved but his performance was something of a revelation for Manchester City. The Bosnian striker was bright throughout and his cross for Silva's opener, followed by the deft flick to put Aguero through for the second, set the game up for his side. As Pardew alluded to in his interview, perhaps the shackles are off with Roberto Mancini gone. "The manager has given me the confidence and that's what I needed," said Dzeko after the game.

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