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Talking Tactics

Grealish graft makes him leader of City's deadly press

Adrian Clarke 8 Nov 2022

Adrian Clarke says the Man City midfielder's ball-winning qualities are key to Guardiola's plans

Adrian Clarke looks at key tactical points and players who can be decisive in Matchweek 16.

Manchester City

Averaging 687 passes and three goals per match, Man City’s control of matches has been impressive this season, but so too has their defensive work.

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Pep Guardiola’s side have faced the fewest shots, at 7.07 per match, and boast the lowest Expected Goals Against tally, with 10.

Those eye-catching numbers owe plenty to their monopoly of the ball, yet it would be wrong to ignore their collective structure out of possession.

City stifle opponents with a well-drilled press that has been finely honed in recent years. They remain the toughest side to bypass when moving the ball out from the back.

No team have regained possession more frequently from turnovers inside the final third.

Best ball-winners per 90 mins 22/23 
High turnovers Poss. won in final third
MCI 10.8 MCI 6.7
NEW 10.0 LEE 6.6
LEE 9.6 NEW 5.9
ARS 9.5 ARS 5.6
LIV 9.1 BRE 5.2

This specific strength could be a problem for Brentford at the Etihad Stadium this weekend.

The Bees have been vulnerable on the ball inside their own defensive territory all season.

Only Everton have faced more shots stemming from high turnovers against them. And on four of the 25 occasions when Brentford have lost the ball in a dangerous area, they have ended up conceding.

Teams conceding most after high turnover
Conceding a shot Conceding a goal
EVE 27 NFO 6
NFO 25 BRE 4
BRE 25 TOT 3
BOU 21 SOU 3
TOT 21 WOL 3

In this match, Thomas Frank may tell his players to bypass City's press by sending long passes towards striker Ivan Toney.

If Brentford move the ball too slowly inside their own half, City will compress space and smother them.

Grealish grafting under Guardiola

Record signing Jack Grealish is one of City’s most effective ball-winners in advanced areas.

The midfielder has made huge strides this season in this department, working far harder to get tight to opponents and becoming more comfortable with Guardiola’s tactical demands. 

Last term, Grealish won possession inside the final third 14 times across 1,917 minutes of Premier League action, ranking ninth for City with an average of 0.66.

This season, he has regained the ball 11 times in just 550 minutes.

Across the Premier League, only two players are winning the ball back at a better rate than Grealish's average of 1.8.

Most possession won in final third 22/23
Player Poss. won/90
Kaoru Mitoma (BHA) 2.03
Jack Harrison (LEE) 1.82
Jack Grealish (MCI) 1.80
Allan Saint-Maximin (NEW) 1.68
Kevin De Bruyne (MCI) 1.64

Grealish may have struggled to get regular playing time this season, but his all-round game and adaptability to City’s tactical demands are improving.

On and off the ball, he could be a key figure against Brentford on Saturday.

Also in this series

Part 1: How Villa have embraced Emery's style of play
Part 3: Midfield pair can revive Chelsea's creative spark
Part 4: How Casemiro brought steel to Man Utd midfield

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