Community Shield, the tactical analysis of the final between Liverpool and Manchester City

For years, the Community Shield has marked the return of the European football season and the first truly felt match after the whirlwind of summer friendlies. This time then, the clash between the FA Cup winner and the Premier League champion was even more awaited, re-enacting the now classic confrontation between Jürgen Klopp and Pep Guardiola.

However, it was not the only topic of interest in the clash between Liverpool and Manchester City. On the one hand there was the curiosity to see the attacking trident without Sadio Mané at work, who spent the summer at Bayern Munich, with the inclusion in his place of Darwin Núñez, pre-shrunk from Benfica for 100 million euros. On the other hand, the expectation was even greater to see Erling Haaland at work, the flagship of the City market, arrived to be the new reference point at the center of Guardiola’s attack and about which much has already been said (also on these pages).

Liverpool attack the left wing of City

Klopp chose to give up on Nunez, preferring to include Firmino in the center, with Luis Diaz on the left wing in his canon 4-3-3. Guardiola instead tried to bring De Bruyne closer to Haaland in attack, leaving the construction tasks in the middle of the field to Rodri and Bernando Silva and occupying the flanks with Mahrez on the right and Grealish on the left.

Liverpool started off strong and, in the first 180 seconds of play, managed to kick three times towards Ederson’s goal. However, it was not the occasions themselves that made a big alarm bell sound for the City, but the fact that they all came at the end of actions developed in the finishing phase on the left side of the defense, born from Salah’s receptions behind João Cancelo. And from the left wing of the City came the goal of the Liverpool advantage: a change of play by Thiago Alcantara was controlled by Salah, who discharged from behind for Alexander-Arnold, who found a parable with his right – perhaps imperceptibly deflected by Aké – who slammed into the far post before entering the net.

Klopp’s strategy is not new and foresees a phase of first construction on the left before an attack phase on the weak side, the right, where the coordinated movements of Salah, Alexander-Arnold and midfielder Jordan Henderson, create the conditions for free up spaces for receptions. Fundamental to this game mechanism is the different contribution provided by the two mezzals. Thiago Alcantara typically moves close to midfielder Fabinho to support the first build, while Jordan Henderson moves into space by getting closer to the attackers or compensating for the movements of Salah and Alexander-Arnold.

Against City the movements of Thiago Alcantara were particularly useful in defusing the pressing organized by Guardiola. The City tried to press the first construction of Liverpool by making Haaland “dance” between the central Matip and van Dijk, with De Bruyne ready to get up on the Norwegian’s line and Bernando Silva on the two opposing midfielders.

TO

De Bruyne, after the work of Haaland, comes out on van Dijk and behind him Bernado Silva and Rodri get up on Fabinho and Thiago Alcantara.

However, Liverpool managed to skip the opponent’s pressing with good frequency thanks to the work of Thiago Alcantara, able to find the spaces to receive from the central escaping the pressing of Rodri or, in any case, moving the ball under pressure with the usual brilliance. and agility. Firmino’s movements towards the ball were also fundamental, demonstrating the tactical qualities of the Brazilian in Klopp’s game, which by increasing the passing lines made the work of pressing the City midfield more difficult.

Furthermore, Liverpool were able to exploit the structure of the City, always very high, playing long behind the defense effectively or, in any case, showing themselves more ready on the second balls. In general, Klopp’s team appeared more reactive, also ready to take advantage of the speed of Salah and Luis Diaz, both already brilliant from an athletic point of view, to overturn the field with their leads, also facilitated by the high position of Walker and Cancelo .

B.

Thiago Alcantara is surrounded by four City players, but he is calmly able to serve Fabinho who has the whole field open to advance Liverpool’s maneuver.

The attack phase of Manchester City

When it was City to have the ball, Liverpool instead tried to counter the opponents with a pressure oriented to the protection of the center of the field. The three attacking players shielded the corridors from the central and Ederson towards the midfielders, with Jordan Henderson ready to get up in pressing on Bernardo Silva, who often ended up on the same line as Rúben Dias and Aké to facilitate the release of the ball.

D.

The pressing of Liverpool. The three forwards close and Henderson ready to go under pressure on Bernardo Silva who lowers himself between the central players.

Guardiola tried to overcome the opponent’s pressing by keeping Walker and Cancelo wide to get around the opponent’s central block on the outside, and then try to bring the ball back to the center, preferably in the De Bruyne area, deployed behind the Liverpool midfield. Once possession was consolidated in the opposing half, then Cancelo and Walker rose very high, while the two winger Mahrez and Grealish tightened, trying to overload the area between the midfield and the Liverpool defense, simultaneously occupying the width and inland areas.

And

Walker and Cancelo tall and with their feet on the sideline, Mahrez and Grealish inside alongside De Bruyne. In the consolidated possession phase, City draws a line of 5 players behind Haaland.

Guardiola’s offensive strategy had mixed success. In the middle of the field Fabinho and Thiago Alcantara did an excellent defensive job, making it difficult for City to conquer the center of the field after passing from the outside and, above all, Matip and van Dijk were very adept at keeping the team short, despite the constant threat of depth and the physical presence of Haaland. Furthermore, Grealish and Mahrez, two fundamental pawns in this field to fix possession in more advanced areas of the field, were authors of a not particularly brilliant performance. In fact, things improved for Guardiola with the entry of Foden and Julian Alvarez who gave more vivacity to City’s attacking game, as in the occasion of the momentary equalizer, built by the two new entrants.

Erling Haaland vs Darwin Núñez

If Liverpool’s defensive phase worked, it is also due to the excellent performance of Matip and van Dijk, who always managed to shorten towards the midfield, despite the presence of Haaland and his constant attempts to attack the depth. At the first official match with what was his father’s shirt, the Norwegian had the task of enlarging the useful space for receptions between the lines of De Bruyne with his in-depth races as well as, of course, to finalize the opportunities created. For Haaland, therefore, Guardiola did not cut out, at least not in this first official match, the tasks of connecting the game or supporting the maneuver.

In this tactical framework Haaland still appeared a foreign body compared to the rest of the team. At times the City seemed tempted, more than usual and in a more hasty and clumsy way, to quickly reach its center forward by throwing long without too much preliminary preparation, contrary to what Guardiola historically wants. Similarly, Haaland seemed too eager to make the required moves, often mistaking the timing and direction of his attacks at depth. The numbers of participation in the game are quite clear and testify to the difficulties of dialogue with the rest of the team: in the whole game Haaland only touched the ball 16 times and made a total of 8 passes, making two mistakes. A statistic that must alarm more than the wrong occasions (one of which is quite clear), which instead tell of the Norwegian’s almost automatic ability to have scoring chances even on the darkest days, which happen to everyone.

F.

The best thing about Haland throughout the game: attacks van Dijk from behind and receives the throw from Bernando Silva, after physically resisting Robertson’s return. Unfortunately for City, he will finish too centrally on the net.

Perhaps the worst news for Haaland is that, however, despite starting from the bench, the entry of Nunez, who entered after an hour of play to replace Firmino, was fundamental for Liverpool’s victory. Uruguayan gave another dimension to the Liverpool attack thanks to its ability to constantly attack the depth, lengthening the defensive line of the City, and then positioning itself in the center of the area to receive the balls from the outside. At the first useful opportunity, he ran deep after a second ball recovered by Jordan Henderson on a block from the City defense, and only a prodigious intervention on the face from Ederson denied him the goal. Nunez was also decisive in the action of the penalty, which came precisely from a header that ended up on the hand of Ruben Dias, but it is all the action that is a good example of what the new Liverpool center forward can offer to Klopp’s ideas .

No.unez moves in depth extending the defense of the City, receives Milner’s ball and discharges it for the usual, deadly, Salah run, moving to attack the area where he receives the Egyptian cross and propitious with his header the hand ball from which the penalty for Liverpool was born.

Finally, in full recovery Nunez scored the safety goal for Liverpool. With four shots on target in 37 minutes of play, the Uruguayan was Liverpool’s most dangerous striker. In a moment of the match in which the teams may have felt the fatigue of a match played at a high pace with little training on the legs, his runs in depth have weakened the Manchester City defense that ended up succumbing.

The first match between Klopp and Guardiola this season was deservedly won by the German coach, who put the first trophy of the 2022/23 season on the board. There is still a month to go until the end of the transfer campaign and Liverpool and Manchester City can still change a lot. The Community Shield, however, told us that Klopp appears to be ahead of Guardiola in managing changes in the squad. The different technical and tactical characteristics of Firmino and Nunez are important weapons at the disposal of the German coach to overcome the departure of Sadio Mané without too many problems. The inclusion of Haaland in Guardiola’s tactical fabric, on the other hand, still seems rather behind. In just seven days, Manchester City and their striker could tell a different story at West Ham in their first Premier League match.

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About David Martin

David Martin is the lead editor for Spark Chronicles. David has been working as a freelance journalist.

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