Manchester City clinched their place in the Quarter Finals of this seasons Champions League with a resounding 7 nil win over RB Leipzig. A outstanding result after such a tough in the first leg in Germany.
This article isn’t as much a game review, it’s more of a look of recent Manchester City form leading into this emphatic win at the Etihad last night, and how I believe it was a manifestation of recent performances and tactical shifts and designs from Pep Guardiola.
Coming into the second leg of the second round tie against RB Leipzig, Manchester City’s form barring a 1 all draw away to Forest and the away leg against Leipzig Germany which also resulted in a score draw, has been starting to resemble that of the team returning to it’s best, or more to the point the best that this version of Pep Guardiola’s side is capable of.
A hard fought 1 nil win away to Crystal Palace preceded the Leipzig game. A game for me where City dominated Palace, yes a few chances were missed and it took a late Erling Haaland (more on Erling shortly) penalty to clinch the three points but Palace didn’t create any chances of note, and City dominated the Palace game especially in possession, rendering any threat possessed by Palace moot.
It seems as Guardiola’s idea of controlling the game with possession to control the game and stifle the opponent is starting to click with the players.
Against Leipzig it was on show which seemed to me another step of progression with this iteration of Guardiola’s vison with this Manchester City squad.
Pep lined up with a back four against Crystal Palace and again against Leipzig of Ake, Dias, Akanji and the fit again John Stones. It did raise a eyebrow to see Kyle Walker dropped at right back for Stones against Palace after Walker had returned to form of late.
But the new look back four has allowed John Stones to slot in with Rodri in the centre of midfield when in possession, which has further amplified City’s control of possession.
John Stones basically has the passing game of a midfielder so slotting him into midfield looks another of Pep’s masterstrokes, provided Stones stays fit of course.
That move has also helped Rodri in midfield who’s been nothing short of outstanding all season, and has developed into one of the best defensive midfielders in world football.
The pairing of Stones & Rodri when City are in possession have dictated the flow of the two recent games, and allowed the attacking players to thrive and do what they do best and create more chances for Haaland and the team as a whole in the final third.
That had been lacking in performances where City dominated possession, but didn’t create enough chances or possess enough attacking threat, which now looking back seemed to be the current players coming to terms with the new demands and tactical shifts from Guardiola.
I’m hoping the Leipzig game is one we look back on that the new ideas from Guardiola have fully been adapted to by the players for the rest of this season and beyond.
Of course you cannot mention the Leipzig game without mentioning Erling Haaland’s awe inspiring 5 goal performance. Erling was a man possessed against Leipzig, it wasn’t just the goals. Erling’s all round performance was one of the best seen by anyone in recent memory in a Manchester City shirt.
Erling pressed the Leipzig backline and keeper when they were in possession like a mad man, he linked up the play with the midfield, and of course he put away his chances as he generally does. It was a tour de force from Haaland.
In recent games he has been more involved in the link up play, and you can see him developing as a all round player with each passing game.
Haaland has now set the new record for goals in a single season for a player for Manchester City with 39 in 36 games and counting, breaking a record that stood for 94 years of 38 in a season by Tommy Johnson in the 1928/29 season.
It really does defy logic he’s done it in mid March in a season interrupted by a World Cup. You add that to the fact he’s only the third player in Champions League history to score 5 goals in a game with Lionel Messi & Luis Adriano, on top of all the other records Haaland has broken or set this season it really is something never seen before.
Erling could become anything in his time at Manchester City, the sky is the limit for him. Especially in this team managed by Pep Guardiola.
All in all City’s recent form is a massive positive for what comes in the Champions League, and the final 11 games of the Premier League season. I think we are seeing Pep’s masterplan come together at the right time of the season.
Also the FA Cup run continues this weekend with a home tie against Burnley, who are flying at the top of the Championship.
It also sees club legend Vincent Kompany return to the Etihad as the manager of Burnley. It will be a great occasion to see Vinny return, and should be a entertaining game with the football Burnley play.