The Sane and Sterling Solution: How Manchester City create space.

Since losing 4-0 to Everton Leroy Sane has started every game for Manchester City. This small change has made a huge difference to the way City have played this season. The addition of new speed and a more direct runs has brought a new positivity to the Manchester side. This has not been more evident than at Bournemouth on Monday night.

After the heavy loss they suffered at Goodison Park City  would go on to get a 2-2 draw against an inform Tottenham and then win all 4 games since. In those 4 games they have scored 11 goals and 8 of them have included a goal or assist from either Leroy Sane or Raheem Sterling. Not only are the two creating and scoring more chances than before but they’re also opening up space behind them by pressing opposition defenders high up the pitch. Their movement has been more like strikers than wingers but they can still drift wide and take players on to create chances in the box.

During the Bournemouth game this tactic worked well with both of City’s goals coming from direct runs towards the box from slightly wider positions. The first included both Sane and Sterling attacking the box with runs from wider areas. Sane would get a cross in and Sterling would find space behind the defense to score. Similarly, the second goal included a very similar pass from Raheem Sterling which became an own goal. Both could have been defended but when the attacking team puts balls into the box from close range with speed it is always tough to defend.

Generally, over the past few games Manchester City’s attack has looked like this:

city
Manchester City’s most used attacking system in the last 4

The way that Gabriel Jesus has been dropping deeper to pick up the ball has opened up space ahead of him for the two wide players to attack opposition defenders from wider positions in space. On top of this, it has left Jesus himself finding space between the opposition midfield and defensive lines and easily able to interplay and pick the ball up from David Silva and Kevin De Bruyne. The position Jesus has been taking up is very similar to the false nine which Pep Guardiola used so effectively with Lionel Messi at Barcelona. The unusual placement of the front 3 has made it difficult for opposition defenders to adapt to their movement and has led to Manchester City scoring a lot of goals.

There are some weaknesses to playing in this way, Silva and De Bruyne are often very high up the pitch and this can leave Yaya Toure somewhat exposed. However, this issue has been relieved by the positioning of Fernandinho as a fullback. His mobility and instinct has helped City to snuff out attacks early and regain possession.

Mostly it seems Manchester City are improving every week and this new found attacking intent and shape will only help increase their potential. In an already crowded top 6 and with 13 games still to play this is certainly the time to be coming into form.

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