Manchester City didn’t just beat Real Madrid, they completely overpowered them. Real is a team that knows how to take advantage of a fast attack using Vinicius Junior even if they give up the initiative, but Man City has completely blocked even that possibility. Pep Guardiola’s tactics are perfect in terms of stability as well as destructive power.
On the 18th (Korean time), Manchester City, who played the second leg of the 2022-2023 European Football Federation Champions League (UCL) semifinals at the Etihad Stadium in Manchester, England, won 4-0 against Real Madrid.
Manchester City, who drew 1-1 in the previous leg, advanced to the final with 1 win and 1 draw. After losing to Chelsea in the final of the 2020-2021 season, they will try to win again in two years. It is the second final in the club’s history, and for Guardiola, it is the first challenge in 12 years since winning the title with Barcelona in the 2010-2011 season.
Their final opponent is Inter Milan. Inter advanced to the final by beating AC Milan in the first semi-final. The final will be held on 11 June at the Ataturk Olympic Stadium in Istanbul, Turkey.
Guardiola has consistently tried three-backs without wingbacks. In the early days of Manchester City, like Leroy Jane (now Bayern Munich), they tried to put a player who was close to the side scorer in the wingback position. At the time, however, it was an unsuccessful experiment.
The 3-2-4-1 formation that Manchester City completed this season didn’t spring up in Guardiola’s head one day, but can be seen as a slight adaptation of the football tradition he inherited. This is because Guardiola is the enemy of Barcelona’s total football and was a key player who implemented the 3-3-1-3 formation, a kind of three-back without wingbacks during his active career.
The 3-3-1-3 is the dream formation for teams that have developed a total football tradition, such as the Netherlands, Ajax and Barcelona. Usually the Netherlands and Barcelona talk about 4-3-3 as a common herringbone, but 3-3-1-3 is more suitable for total football. Compared to 4-4-3, instead of entrusting the defense to a three-back rather than a four-back, one midfielder is added to further enhance the control of the midfield. Creating a chain of triangles at the front of the pitch This is the theoretically easiest formation, and it shows the most extreme tendencies in terms of both forward pressure and number of spaces. Argentinian ‘Mad’ Marcello Bielsa also favored this formation, but the Bielsa style 3-3-1-3 is slightly different from the Barcelona style as it has wingbacks.
However, cases where this herpes worked successfully are very rare. It’s a herpes that doesn’t work properly unless you have a customized squad that can digest this tactic. In 1992, it was used when Barcelona’s ‘Dream Team’, led by the late coach Johan Cruyff and played by Guardiola, won the UCL (then European Cup) championship. And in 1995, Ajax, which had a lot of promising prospects, also rose to the top of the UCL with a 3-3-1-3 formation. At the time, the total football style 3-3-1-3 and the AC Milan style 4-4-2 developed in Italy fought fierce tactical battles in the UCL final, pulling each other down from the top, and there was no winner.
However, since it was the utopia of total football, the Ajax youth team has recently been developing players in this formation. Barcelona coaches, whose squads were strong enough to implement this herpes, sometimes took out these herpes as a special move. Since the late 2000s, Barcelona such as Frank Rijkaard and Guardiola have often tried this herpes. But it has never been a huge success. At least, when Guardiola used all kinds of modified formations, a form close to 3-3-1-3 was often seen, but the vitality was not long.
3-3-1-3 is good for turning passes and presses opponents because it can form a triangular network of friendly players across the field. However, in order to minimize the gap in the side defense in a formation without wingbacks, two conditions must be met. Our wingers should overwhelm the opponent’s side and minimize the defensive situation in the first place, and the stoppers during the three-back should be able to support the side defense because the activity radius is very wide. However, even if all these conditions were met, it seemed impossible to implement in modern football because it was too adventurous formation.
Guardiola introduced a 2-3-4-1 formation that minimized the risk while maintaining the advantages of this line. Considering both the skills of the players and the completeness of the formation, it is worth mentioning as the most advanced team in football history.
Coach Guardiola, who had repeated trial and error to buy a center back capable of playing total football well during his Barcelona days, created a powerful combination by combining various defensive resources he had collected in Manchester City. Centerbacks Nathan Ake and Manuel Akanji, who can play as fullbacks, are placed as left and right stoppers, and centerback John Stones, who has midfielder skills, is placed forward as a defensive midfielder. In this way, when the three-back spreads to the left and right and responds to the opponent’s side attack, the Stones can enter between them and naturally create a four-back, minimizing the gap in the defense. Depending on the aspect of the game, it is possible to switch to a four-back and spend some time.
The position of the Stones is exactly the position that Guardiola himself digested as a player. In the early 1990s, Guardiola, who was slow on his feet and weak in physical combat, could play this position only with his positioning skills and precise passing. However, in the soccer world of 2023, where the speed of soccer is increasing and the opponent’s weaknesses are more tenaciously attacked, weak defensive midfielders cannot support this position. Instead, the Stones, who have the defensive power and physical abilities of a professional center back, have the strength to hold on from his rear. Here, another defensive midfielder Rodri has excellent physical abilities, so Man City can stably attack with five players in the back who have both defensive and offensive development capabilities. It also plays a role in maintaining perfect control of the game by winning the ball kicked by the opposing team almost every time and delivering it to the attacking team.
When arranging the left and right wingers, they focused on the leadership of the side thoroughly, not on scoring ability or assisting ability. On the side, if possible, a player who is a ‘reverse winger’ and has excellent ball keeping ability must be placed so that he can drag two opponent’s side defenders to make this football successful. Jack Grealish on the left and Bernardo Silva on the right are players who meet this condition. In particular, in the case of Grealish, the UCL attack point is only 1 help. However, it is one of the most important resources in this football because of its ability to balance from the side in a 1v2 rather than directly intervening in goal situations. Grealish holds the record for the most UCL starts in the team. 안전놀이터
The 3-2-4-1 formation does not have countless natural triangles compared to the 3-3-1-3 formation. However, there is no problem because he can apply the positional play that Guardiola has been studying for the past 10 years. Coach Guardiola’s players frequently change positions regardless of the position, but at this time, they do not move spontaneously, but set the bases to be preoccupied according to the situation in advance and maintain the distance from their colleagues accordingly.
Currently, Man City can maintain the initiative in the game by blocking the opponent’s attacking opportunity from the start even without fierce pressure. Through this, it will be possible to appoint midfielder Ilkay Gundoan, who has reduced activity with age, but has excellent skills and intelligence, and striker Elling Hollan, who has excellent scoring ability instead of low contribution to team play. In addition, individual midfielders can aim for gaps while circulating the ball without having to break through the opponent’s dense defense with brilliant footing and de-pressurization, and Kevin Debrawiner, whose footing is not the best but has the best passing and shooting, can be used well.
The only challenge for Guardiola is not to think too much ahead of the final. Even two years ago, Man City tactics were already evaluated as being at the completion stage, but there was a case where they suddenly changed the composition of players in the final and lost to Chelsea. Currently, Manchester City’s tactics are built more and more to suit each player’s characteristics, so a wrong choice in just one or two positions can disrupt the entire concept.