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article imagePellegrini's focus on discipline & wide overloads subdues Everton

By Tyrrell Meertins     Aug 23, 2015 in Sports
Manchester City’s trip to Goodison Park presented a clash between last week’s top performers, placing Roberto Martinez in a bind regarding the manner in which his Everton side would approach the match.
Everton’s poor home results stem from their lack of a legitimate play-maker capable of unlocking organized back-lines, but their win at Southampton was a remarkable display of reactive football. Therefore, neither side made changes to their XI, as it was a matter of whether Everton would attempt to dominate the match or sit deep and play on the break.
Essentially this posed an issue for both sides. Despite a positive all-round performance against Chelsea at the Etihad, there was a brief period in the second half where Yaya Toure and Fernandinho were overrun in midfield. Everton, on the other hand, were vulnerable in wide areas due to Seamus Coleman’s positioning and Brendan Galloway’s inexperience.
Both areas of weakness were exploited in the first half, with the away side creating several chances in the final third. David Silva was superb once again in a central role, drifting laterally towards the flanks to create 3v2 overloads – this was evident down the right flank. In the opening 15 minutes, Silva and Navas combined twice to force Tim Howard to make a key save to deny Sergio Aguero, while the former’s wonderful low cross slightly evaded Raheem Sterling.
Galloway looked vulnerable against the speedy Navas, whereas Arouna Kone offered scarce cover with Bacary Sagna getting behind the Everton attacker. On the other flank, Tom Cleverley did a better job of preventing Sterling from dominating Coleman, as Aleksandar Kolarov didn’t receive the freedom to deliver venomous balls into the six-yard box.
City’s dominance in possession forced Everton into a deep 4-5-1, but the trio of Kone, Barkley and Lukaku failed to replicate displays that mesmerized Southampton’s defence. Here, Lukaku’s linkup play was inconsistent, as the Belgian’s first touch was quite poor – the duo of Eliaquim Mangala and Vincent Kompany presented an improved physical test for the Everton striker.
Coincidentally, the home side’s best moments involved Barkley carrying the ball past Yaya Toure, but the England international’s final ball was poor, as City were never outnumbered in the recovery phase. One incident saw Barkley step past Toure, lacking passing options around him, but the 21-year-old, was fortunate Mangala’s poor challenge earned a free-kick, and a booking for the City centre-back.
For all of City’s dominance, and offensive superiority, Toure’s reluctance to recover his position in a timely manner, led to Everton’s best break. Mangala was once again culpable for over-committing against Lukaku, enabling Cleverley to pick up the ball in space behind Toure to drive towards goal, forcing Fernandinho into a booking for a cynical last-ditch tackle.
Luckily for Toure, Pellegrini’s approach was quite conservative – the full- backs only pushed forward when the opportunity was presented, and Fernandinho displayed improved discipline to operate in a midfield duo. The Brazilian tucked into space between the advanced full-back and the centre-back, and when Toure bombed forward he remained a few yards ahead of the back-four.
Oddly, while Coleman’s offensive threat in the first half was scarce, the Everton full-back served as the Toffee’s main attacking source in the second. Although Coleman’s adventurous second half led to several corner kicks, the right-back was caught out of position for City’s winner.
"If we could have scored the first goal the game would have changed immensely. I think the first goal changed it a bit too much,” said Martinez.
"We had very good moments - I think we played a very good side, but I don't think they carried too much threat until the goal.”
The goal stemmed from an overload on the left with Sterling taking on Stones and sliding a sumptuous ball for Kolarov in half space – a rare occurrence where the Serbian charged past Cleverley – who beat Tim Howard at the near post. A move at the start of the half involved Sterling playing a similar reverse ball into the same area for Silva, but the Spaniard fired his effort off the post.
City were already monopolizing possession with authority and purpose prior to the goal, and though there were spells of this dominance throughout the second, their willingness to maintain a narrow compact shape, and break with speed on the counter proved beneficial. On a few occasions, Navas exploited acres of space on the break, but the Spaniard’s poor decision-making prevented a possible onslaught – yet, Nasri’s late goal followed one of these explosive counters.
“I think it is important to play attractive football and be an offensive team and if you are an offensive team it is very important to know how not to concede goals. The three games we have a high performance. There are a lot of things that all together make us a good team,” said Pellegrini.
Pellegrini’s move to a 4-2-3-1 offers width to trouble wingers, additional space in central areas for Silva to operate, but most importantly – here, at least – discipline from the full-backs and Fernandinho, ensuring that Everton couldn’t pose a threat on the counter.
Though it may be a small sample size, City’s found the correct balance between defence and attack, and are currently the best side in the country by a considerable distance.
More about Manchester, Everton, sterling, Kolarov, Roberto Martinez
 
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