Last season, Ronald Koeman’s Everton came away with four points from two games against Manchester City in the Premier League.
In both games, Everton were happy to let Manchester City dominate possession of the ball, soak up their attacks and then punish them on the counter.
Pep prioritising possession
When the two faced off on Monday night at the Etihad, it was a similar story of City dominating the ball (Manchester City had 65% possession to Everton’s 35%) and Everton striking where possible, even though City played 44 minutes with 10 men after Kyle Walker was sent off for two yellow cards.
City went into the match having bossed Brighton 2-0 in their opening game of the season. Despite being continuously ridiculed for his attack focused ethos and tactics, Pep opted to play a 3-5-2 formation to accommodate both Gabriel Jesus and Sergio Aguero.
Behind the South American duo, Pep fielded David Silva and Kevin De Bruyne, two players who both look to operate in and around the opposition box, slipping in passes to their strikers or making runs beyond their centre-forwards to try and score themselves.
All out attack for City
Against Everton, Guardiola opted for similar tactics, also playing with wing-backs to complete a six-man offensive when City were in attack.
It was Kyle Walker before he was dismissed and Sane who were tasked with creating maximum width for City, stretching the pitch to the bylines to create space for the likes of Silva, De Bruyne or one of the strikers dropping deep to work their magic.
With City’s wing-back bombing on, Koeman’s midfielders were forced back into their own half to help cover the wide areas, making it difficult for Everton to play in the opposition half.
Koeman goes direct and compact
Yet, Koeman was ready for this, his five-man midfield of Mason Holgate, Morgan Schneiderlin, Idrissa Gueye, Tom Davies and Leighton Baines played tight to restrict City in midfield and stop their wing-backs from having space out wide.
The Dutch manager had also devised a game-plan to try and punish City with a direct approach when in attack.
In their opening game, Everton beat Stoke 1-0 at home to get them off the mark in the Premier League. Koeman chose to play a 4-3-3, which turned into a 3-4-2-1 as they advanced up the pitch. The latter formation allowed Davy Klaassen and Wayne Rooney to operate in a more central role just behind the striker Sandro Ramirez.
However, against City, Koeman opted for a 3-5-2 with the young and athletic Dominic Calvert-Lewin leading the line. He was tasked with running the channels, using his pace to stretch the Man City back line and holding up the ball until he had support from his midfield.
Young and old combine
On the night he completed his job superbly, especially seeing as he is only 20-years-old. The young England U20 international also linked up well with Rooney, making intelligent runs to latch on to Rooney’s wonderful long passes from deep.
It was the combination of Calvert-Lewin and Rooney that led to the opening goal of the match. Calvert-Lewin did well to win the ball from Leroy Sané in City’s half, he then waited, watched and found Rooney who had made a run into the box and was hovering around the penalty spot. The former Manchester United man opened up his left foot and slotted the ball with one-touch in between Ederson’s legs.
Rooney has now scored 12 goals in his career against City but this was his first in an Everton shirt.
Pep’s changes save City
However, though Everton had the extra man it was City who managed to bounce back in the second half and formed attack after attack on the Everton goal.
Guardiola brought on Raheem Sterling for Jesus at halftime, then Danilo for John Stones and finally Bernardo Silva for Sane. This completed his switch to a 4-4-1 formation, meaning City had more creative players planning in a central role.
Then in the 82nd minute, City worked the ball out of their own half, then Danilo crossed the ball from the right, which looked a poor one going straight onto the head of Holgate.
Unfortunately for the youngster, instead of heading the ball over his head for a corner, he put it back into the box where Sterling, the former Liverpool man, was lurking to crash the ball into the net on the volley.
Everton then went down to 10 men in the 88th minute with Schneiderlin getting his second yellow of the match.
The game of attack versus defence ended a draw and the two former Barcelona roommates were happy to share the points. Everton are now the only team that Guardiola has failed to beat in the league in the first three attempts out of all the clubs he has managed.
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