Just a blip? Three aspects of Pep Guardiola’s system to look out for as Leeds United visit Manchester City

In the latest of a series for the Yorkshire Evening Post, Jon Mackenzie - from All Stats Aren't We - takes a deeper look at Leeds United's next opponents - Manchester City.

By Jon Mackenzie
Friday, 9th April 2021, 11:30 am

The last time Leeds played Manchester City at Elland Road back in October, the home side gave a really good account of themselves, eventually picking up a point thanks to a first goal for the club for Rodrigo.

That result put Manchester City eighth in the table, and although they had a game in hand for a large part of the season, they didn’t hit the top spot until three months later.

Since then, though, they haven’t looked back and are currently 14 points clear at the top of the Premier League.

LICENCE: For Manchester City's Joao Cancelo, right, to drift inside as part of a case of 'inverting' the full back. Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images.

The question is: did Leeds only pick up that point because City were in a blip?

Or can they cause Manchester City the same sorts of problems as last time?

Here are three aspects of Pep Guardiola’s system to look out for tomorrow afternoon:

1: The art of transition

In the first Premier League fixture between these two sides this season, Marcelo Bielsa was able to bait Pep Guardiola into a fairly transitional game with both teams looking to counter-attack quickly and possession turning over regularly.

By the end, Guardiola had got his team controlling possession much more and the needle swung in their favour.

Tomorrow, look out for how the game opens up. If there is a lot of quick transition then it will suit Leeds. But if Manchester City can control the ball, Leeds could struggle.

2: What structure?

Pep Guardiola is, like Marcelo Bielsa, an advocate of positional play: giving his team an edge by micro-managing structure so that they can manipulate the space on a football field to their advantage.

Where they differ is out of possession. As we know, Bielsa uses a man-marking system and Guardiola a zonally-oriented one.

For Leeds, this makes the structure quite rigid.

They will always adopt a similar structure to the opponent to help the man marking.

Manchester City, though, can be a little more fluid, something that is reflected in just how many formations they have used, even in the last month.

3: Inverting the full-back

Much of Manchester City’s success this season has come from the licence Joao Cancelo is given in their side.

The Portuguese is nominally played as a wing back but is allowed to drift inside – or “invert” – when Manchester City are looking to build up.

By doing this, City are essentially taking a player out of their back line to get better spacing in the middle of the field, trading off defensive cover for an edge in possession.

Leeds fans should be comfortable with this idea - we’ve seen Stuart Dallas do it enough – but it could impact Leeds’ man marking tomorrow as the wide player on the Leeds right is pulled inside.

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Thank you Laura Collins