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Pep Guardiola Was Right, Manchester City's Elite Pressing Earned Them Three Points Against Chelsea - City Xtra Analysis

CityXtra
CityXtra
 2022-01-17

There are so many facets of football that make Pep Guardiola's Manchester City so great.

They are experts in keeping possession, flawless in their build-up play, but it is one of the very basics of football that makes them such a relentless winning machine - their pressing.

Telling a footballer to press and show effort should be the bare minimum, but how to do that effectively is another task altogether.

Earlier this season, The Athletic provided readers with a graphic that highlighted the players with the most pressures per 90 minutes across the Premier League.

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Graph via The Athletic

Crystal Palace's Wilfried Zaha and Brighton & Hove Albion's Neal Maupay were top of the list with 20 pressures per 90 minutes, with Liverpool's Diogo Jota not far behind on 19.8.

But what is similar between the pair leading the way is the style of play embedded by their respective managers.

Patrick Vieira has been earning rave reviews recently, with his Palace side visibly performing better and better each week - even in the absence of Wilfried Zaha. Similarly with Brighton and Graham Potter, who are flying high in 8th place.

They both want their team to play high up the field and win the ball back in areas where they can hurt the opposition.

Palace did this to Manchester City earlier on this season. Conor Gallagher's high press forced Aymeric Laporte into a mistake and left Zaha in a one-vs-one situation to give the visitors the lead - a game they ended up winning 2-0.

So why were Gabriel Jesus and the recently departed Ferran Torres the only Manchester City forwards on that list?

This stems back to where this approach all began - Pep Guardiola's arrival in the Premier League. Nearly six years on and the Catalan is still dominating England with these exact same principles.

Speaking to beIN Sports after Saturday's victory, Pep Guardiola said, "Incredibly well deserved. For the intention to press Kepa under the last minute, and especially satisfied because we did this against the champions of Europe."

He's right; Manchester City's superior pressing was the reason they took all three points against a title rival.

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Here is the first example. From a Chelsea goal kick, a trio of Raheem Sterling, Kevin De Bruyne, and Bernardo Silva all engage to close down the space and minimise the passing options for the Chelsea player on the ball - this time it is Malang Sarr.

His only option is to go wide to Marcos Alonso, but he's already being chased down by the dogged Silva, who again forces his opposite number to play an awkward ball inside to Mateo Kovacic.

Under pressure, his pass is bobbling and makes Kovacic's job ten times harder. Not to mention he's under pressure from De Bruyne - the third City player involved in this perfectly executed press.

Kovacic's scuppered attempts to play a ball - pressured and off-balance - is off-target and leads to a big chance for Jack Grealish to open the scoring; a chance that Grealish misses, but should score.

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Just to show how effective this is all over the field, here is another scenario.

Aymeric Laporte's loose pass is intercepted by Kovavic and Chelsea have an opportunity to counter. The ball is fired into Lukaku, but Laporte, supported this time by Rodri and Jack Grealish, cut out the danger by pressing the Belgian as a trio.

This in turn leads to another big City chance. Laporte's interception allows De Bruyne to pick up the ball in a dangerous channel, and his flashed ball is inches from Raheem Sterling's boot.

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And finally, the goal. This all starts, once again, with Chelsea in possession. Sarr is again pressed by a familiar duo of Phil Foden and Raheem Sterling and is forced to pass back to Kepa Arrizabalaga.

Foden's press does not stop there; he continues to put pressure on the Spaniard and Grealish's separate press on Rudiger forces the 'keeper to play long. Laporte wins the aerial duel with Timo Werner and City are away.

The rest is just utter genius from Kevin De Bruyne, but there is no surprise Pep Guardiola was so pleased with the way his side pressed post-match.

Against the European Champions, who thrive on their ability to play out from the back, Manchester City's forward line provided a masterclass on how to effectively press your opposition.

A true triumph of Pep Guardiola and his relentless coaching.

You can follow us for live updates here: @City_Xtra

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