Monday, March 18, 2013

Three at the back for City wrong decision against Everton

I tweeted Saturday during Everton's 2-0 win over Man City how surprised I was Roberto Mancini opted for a narrow 3-4-2-1 formation against an Everton side that attacks primarily down the wings and wanted to mention it here.

Plenty has already been written about Mancini's decision- Richard Jolly wrote an interesting piece on it at Soccernet- so I'll be brief.

Mancini has experimented with three at the back on a few occasions this year with little success. This is a formation primarily used by Italian sides in modern football so it's not a huge surprise City's Italian manager would look to use the formation from time to time.

Three at the back tends to be best suited for when the opposition is playing with two forwards. Two of the center backs can stick tight with the opposition forwards and the third can provide cover in behind. Athletic Bilbao manager Marcelo Bielsa nearly always plays with one more center back than the opposition has forwards so there is always a spare man to provide cover (in other words three center backs against two forwards, two center backs against one forward). Everton only plays with one forward which meant City's three center backs, Zabaleta, Kolo Toure and Nastasic, were all in relatively narrow areas with only one direct opposition- Victor Anichebe. One center back could stick tight with Anichebe, another could provide cover but the third wasn't needed and meant City were outmanned elsewhere- in this case on the wings.

Everton are a team that are very good attacking from wide areas. Only Reading attacks through the middle less than the Toffees. Mirallas and Peinaar tuck in field from their wide midfield positions and open up space on the wings for the fullbacks to overlap into. Baines is of course a very good attacking fullback but on Saturday Everton also had Seamus Coleman on the other side- another quick fullback that likes to get forward. City's wingbacks Kolarov and Milner were left to defend Everton's wide midfielders and outside backs 1 v. 2. Time and again Everton were able to use their man advantage on the wings to advance the ball forward and take City's wingbacks out of the picture. It was little surprise when Leon Osman's opener came from a ball from Coleman after he'd advanced unmarked down the wing and Mancini quickly switched to four at the back.

It was surprising to see Mancini go with such a narrow lineup against a team that loves to attack from the wings. Footage from the game appeared to show Mancini and David Platt arguing on the sideline- you wonder how much of that had to do with the formation.

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