Talking Tactics

How Diaby can fill the void up front against Man City

By Adrian Clarke 1 Apr 2024
Moussa Diaby

Adrian Clarke on why in-form Villa star's ball carrying is crucial to posing a threat on the break at Man City

Related Articles
Emery: Watkins and Ramsey will not play against Man City
Classic match: Man City's TITLE-winning fightback v Aston Villa
Why Man City were unable to unlock passive and narrow Arsenal

Adrian Clarke looks at key tactical points and players who can be influential in Matchweek 31.

Player analysis - Moussa Diaby (Aston Villa)

Villa’s high tempo football and threat on the break helped them produce a dominant, well-deserved 1-0 victory against Manchester City in December.

Repeating the trick at the Etihad Stadium on Wednesday will be extremely tough, but their style of play should give them belief they are capable of pulling off a first league double against the defending champions since 1963.

Defensive resilience will be required – Unai Emery’s side did restrict City to only two shots in the reverse fixture – but they must also carry a genuine threat on the counter-attack.

In this respect they are well stocked, with in-form Diaby likely to be a pivotal figure when Villa launch those breakaways.

Making an impact

Across Diaby’s last four Premier League appearances (one start), he has produced three assists and a goal.

His wonderful far-post cross for Lucas Digne helped Villa earn a dramatic 3-2 success at Luton Town, and he used his pace to good effect against West Ham United when cutting the ball back for Nicolo Zaniolo to equalise at London Stadium (see below).

Diaby assist v West ham

Last time out, in a 2-0 win at home to Wolverhampton Wanderers, his powerful left-footed drive from outside the box opened the scoring, before he set up Ezri Konsa to seal the victory.

Diaby's goal v Wolves

The 24-year-old has been in and out of the starting XI in recent months, but most of his game time has come as a roving right-sided striker alongside Ollie Watkins.

Against City, Diaby could have a modified role.

The astute Emery may revert to a more cautious 4-4-1-1 formation, with Diaby as the main centre-forward in the absence of the injured Watkins. 

Using his pace effectively 

To hurt a City side who will dominate possession, Villa must spring speedy transitions and be ruthless in those situations.

Diaby’s power and pace will be a big asset.

Jeremy Doku and Antoine Semenyo are the only two players in the division having played fewer minutes to have produced more shots or key passes from ball carries than the France international.

Diaby runs with the ball superbly, creating 28 goal opportunities from those carries so far, including his recent trio of assists.

Most Villa chances created from ball carries
  Chance-creating ball carries Mins played Ave. carry distance
Ollie Watkins 34 2,613 11.85m
Moussa Diaby 28 1,663 12.96m
Leon Bailey 28 1,586 12.22m

In moments where Villa need to quickly turn defence into attack, Diaby will be tremendously important.

He must be an outlet to relieve pressure that allows his defenders to get a vital rest, making himself available for a pass and holding the ball up.

At other times they will require him to drive upfield with the ball, or to make dangerous runs beyond the last man.

Wherever Diaby is played, Pep Guardiola will know the visitors are adept at delivering searching passes played in behind the offside line, so the Villa star's presence will be a concern.

It may lead to the hosts playing in a slightly more prudent manner, ensuring they do not leave Diaby 1v1 at the back for potential breakaways.

Villa will hope Diaby continues his excellent recent performances if they are to beat City for a second time this season.

Also in this series

Latest Videos

More Videos