Before Kick-Off

The fixture list gods have not been kind to Newcastle United in this opening stretch of the season. Having already faced Spurs and Chelsea either side of a tough assignment in Cardiff, it didn’t get any easier with Man City away up next. Guardiola’s men strolled to the title last year playing superlative football. The two games in that campaign against Newcastle were not easy on the eye, and Rafa was expected to set up in similarly conservative fashion.


By the Numbers

StatsMan CityNewcastle United
Shots on Target82
Key Passes152
Pass Accuracy90%63%
Deep Passes Completed92
Dribbles Won87
Tackles Won918
Aerial Duels Won1215
Passes Per Defensive Action8.8226.40
Expected Goals2.470.55
Expected Points2.640.24

Note: Stats are sourced from understat and whoscored.

When Newcastle Had the Ball

Newcastle In Attack

Newcastle’s primary goal was getting the ball to the feet of either Salomon Rondon or Ayoze Pérez on the left flank. Nearly ⅓ of attempted passes were classified as long balls, and roughly 45% of the Newcastle’s possession took place on the left flank.

Martin Dubravka was the chief catalyst here, with 31 of his 32 passes crossing the halfway line.

Man City Defense

Manchester City utilise an aggressive counter-press whenever possession is lost. Their version of a counter-press is such that the closest person to the ball wastes no time in challenging for possession. The key to seemingly having so many players near the ball is John Stones. Stones will deploy as a sort of modern sweeper, which means that he is typically the deepest defender on the pitch (e.g. he is only as deep as halfway line).

With Stones’ positioning, Manchester City is then able to commit 8-9 players in the opposition’s half of the pitch at all times. This allows for a near-suffocation of any counter-attacks, as players will have next-to-nil time in scanning for attacking exploits.

Newcastle Goals Scored

30’ Yedlin

As Man City pressed Newcastle’s final third, Ki intercepted a pass that eventually found its way to Ciaran Clark. Clark threaded a pass toward Pérez on the left, who raced down the pitch.

As Ayoze neared the halfway line, he lofted a pass to Kenedy, who was occupying a position in the center of the pitch, near Man City’s final third. After trapping then controlling the pass, Kenedy played a through ball into the left flank, onto the path of Rondon.

Salomon received the pass at the left edge of the box, feinted, then played a pass through the legs of John Stones. DeAndre Yedlin latched onto the end of that pass near the far post and blasted it into the net.

When Manchester City Had the Ball

Man City In Attack

In light of Kevin De Bruyne’s injury, Manchester City has directed their attack through the left back Benjamin Mendy. As the attack reaches the halfway line, the ball usually finds Mendy’s feet, who is then faced with options: dribble along the touchline to pull apart the defense, whip a diagonal into space on the right flank, or recycle possession. In this match, 46% of City’s attack came down the left flank.

With Mendy’s well-rounded skill set, he is able to cause distortions in the defence, prod for vulnerabilities. This approach seems to be paying off: at full time of this match, Benjamin was tied for the league lead in assists (4).

Newcastle In Defense

Seemingly prepared for City’s approach, Newcastle aggressively pressed Mendy when he received the ball. Kenedy, Yedlin, and Diamé would close down, forcing Mendy into either dispossession or recycling possession to the centre backs.

If City broke through this press, Newcastle would quickly settle into a compact 5-4-1 shape. Once the low block was established, very little pressure was applied to the opposition.

Manchester City Goals

8’ Sterling

In recognizing the stonewall on the left touchline, Mendy dribbled toward the centre of the pitch and laid the ball off to Kyle Walker. As the defence had been focused on Mendy’s side of the pitch, there were acres of space ahead of Walker, and he played a through ball to Gabriel Jesus. Jesus tried to fight through the backline with David Silva, but a scrum resulted in Jamaal Lascelles winning the ball. Jamaal one-touched a pass toward Kenedy, but Mendy jumped on the low-velocity poke.

Mendy pushed the ball forward to Sterling in the box, who turned Yedlin & Lascelles with a cut to his right. Two dribbles later, and the ball was soon headed for the lower right part of the goal.

52’ Walker

Manchester City, retaining possession after a failed counter-attack, were looking for exploits on the left flank. As Raheem Sterling found a lane to dribble through between Yedlin and Kenedy, Sergio Aguero had been wandering toward Sterling to provide a passing outlet. At this moment, Ayoze Pérez left Kyle Walker on the other side of the pitch in anticipation of Aguero’s attacking move.

As Sterling crashed toward Newcastle’s 18-yard box, Mo Diamé tried to close Sterling, leaving Aguero in space. Sterling laid the ball off to Aguero, who was then closed Fernandez and Pérez. This left Kyle Walker with acres of space around him, which Sergio quickly identified. Walker trapped the pass, and drilled a low bullet into the left side of goal.

The Men of the Match

The Slovakian international was in for a tough afternoon against City’s superstar strike-force and performed admirably. The triple-save sequence in the 2nd half was the highlight alongside several confident claims and punches as he displayed alertness to help out his defence. There is room for improvement in the distribution department, especially in matches that we will look to build from the back in.
Mendy’s supporting runs allowed Sterling to enjoy time on the ball and the tricky winger made the most of it. Yedlin and Kenedy tried their level best to contain him but he was decisive when it mattered, cutting it to finish with aplomb. He did not shirk his defensive duties either, making more tackles than anyone else on the pitch.

In Conclusion

A defeat, but an encouraging performance. Pep fielding D. Silva, Aguero, G. Jesus, Mahrez and Sterling in the same line up would strike fear into many defenses but Newcastle, to a man, stood up well against the onslaught. What pleased most was the assuredness in defense, that went missing against Forest, returning. Diame and Ki, with support from Ayoze and Kenedy, were able to battle well in midfield and pressed smartly.