With Newcastle coming off a frustrating loss to Chelsea at St. James’ Park, they travel to the Etihad to square up against Manchester City. City are coming off being thwarted out of their typical full points, winning only 1 point at Wolverhampton.
Opposition At A Glance
Man City Manager
Pep Guardiola is in his 3rd year as the Citizen’s boss. Last season, Man City comfortably won the Prem title with a record-breaking 100 points. They are favoured to repeat as champions this season, as well.
Tactically, Guardiola is very experimental & detail-oriented, so it can be reductive labeling his approaches. However, he does seem to favour 4-3-3 formations and high-block setups with various iterations of pressing and counter-pressing.
One area in which Guardiola stands out from others: Pep is especially keen on using one (or both) full backs in unexpected ways. In attacks (which is a predominant phase), full backs can be seen tucking into midfield, or providing width, or dropping back into the defensive line, or mixtures of these concepts.
Man City’s Current Squad
On paper, Manchester City’s squad has few glaring weaknesses. They’ve largely retained the title-winning squad from last season, with the only notable changes being a Yaya Toure subtraction and a Riyad Mahrez addition.
If there is one area of the pitch that seems to lack world-class talent, it’d be the defensive/central positions – especially with Kevin De Bruyne sidelined until November (at the earliest). That leaves an aging Fernandinho (33 years old), a workman-like Fabian Delph, and a mercurial Ilkay Gundogan as the only experienced centre-midfielders in the first team.
However, Man City is unmatched in their 10 (David Silva is still a genius) and their wide attacking players. Sterling, Sane, Mahrez, and Bernardo Silva can all exploit defensive lapses.
Man City’s Last Match: At Wolverhampton
Drawing with a newly-promoted side should set off distress signals from Manchester. Wolverhampton may have been fortunate with their goal scored, but they created a relatively high number of shots in the box against City (7). That Wolves only have up a total xG of 1.79 to City is a defensive feat.
Nuno Santo, the Wolverhampton manager, laid out a blueprint familiar to Newcastle fans: stay compact in defense with 3 distinct bands (even their 5-4-1 should ring a bell), soak up service from the wide areas, then try to break into space through the passing quality of their central midfielders.
City were unlucky with Aguero hitting the framework twice (technically 3 times, off Sterling’s wonderful 1st half strike), and Wolves were slightly fortunate in Boly’s header/handball. Wolverhampton deserved their point, though City did have both higher quality and volume of chances.
Man City: Tactical Predictions
Pep seems to alternate between his trusty 4-3-3 and a 3-1-4-2. However, against Newcastle, Pep seems to prefer a 4-3-3.
Guardiola could use this game to break in Mahrez and, also, to get Sane back into form. Look for them to occupy the flanks surrounding Newcastle’s gleeful tormenter, Sergio Aguero.
Another selection dilemma City have is at their left back spot – Mendy has enjoyed steady playing time and good form, though Pep might give Delph a runout. Benjamin is still fresh off a long-term injury recovery and could use a spell.
Manchester City will serve a very familiar flavour to the Newcastle side: short-passing to control possession in attack, and a suffocating counter-press if the Magpies get a sniff of the ball.
Unfortunately for NUFC, Man City’s preferred attacking zone is Newcastle’s position of weakness – the infamous Yedlin/Manquillo right back spot. In the 4-3-3 setup, Mendy tends to push forward and overlap, while the RB Kyle Walker typically hangs back and tucks in with the backline. (This is practically a mirror of the “Dani Alves approach” when Pep was at Barcelona.)
Look for Man City’s wide players to force errors against the full backs, and for subsequent breakdowns to allow scoring opportunities.
Newcastle United: Tactical Predictions
Kenedy will be available for selection again, and he should be raring at the chance to redeem his Cardiff performance. Lascelles also appears to be fit, though Shelvey will need another week or so.
Ki flashed promise against Chelsea and looks to get another start alongside Diamé. The big question looms over the starting striker spot: the seemingly in-form Joselu (who knew?), or the more adept target man Rondon?
The die has been cast – in both fixtures against City last season, Rafa has opted for 5 at the back. The trend should continue this Saturday.
Much like against Chelsea, Newcastle will tone down aggressive marking in order to stay compact. Any chance of a threatening counter-attack will fall on the 3 forward-most players, with the midfield duo of Ki & Diamé making sure to stay on the right side of David Silva during transitions.
Historically, Manchester City has Newcastle’s number. This fixture will most likely stand on tradition, though Newcastle has the talent and the coaching to pull off a result similar to Wolverhampton’s display from last week. A point can be had, but it will take good fortune and a near-perfect game from United.