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Manchester City: Four ways Guardiola can use his squad

With a big squad full of quality, it gives Pep Guardiola a lot of options heading into the new season.


Pep Guardiola wasted no time in making his summer intentions known with the acquisition of Bernardo Silva from Monaco for £43 million before the window had even opened.

This was swiftly followed by goalkeeper Ederson Moraes from Benfica for £34.7 million, as well as three new fullbacks in the form of Kyle Walker (£50 million), Benjamin Mendy (£50 million) and Danilo (£26.5 million) from Tottenham, Monaco and Real Madrid respectively.

It was clear at the end of the season that the Spaniard’s squad wasn’t up the standard he required to effectively deploy his preferred style of football and wholesale changes had to be made. With both quality and quantity added, here are Four ways Manchester City could line up this season.

  1. 1 4-3-3

    This is arguably City's strongest starting XI and Pep Guardiola's favoured formation.

    The 4-3-3 is the system of choice he used at both Barcelona and Bayern Munich and now he has the personnel to do so, we could see it deployed at the Amex Stadium on the opening day of the season against Brighton.

    4-3-3.png

    Like Barcelona, it utilises a false nine forward in Gabriel Jesus, someone to drop deep and open up space for teammates to attack, with a traditional winger in Leroy Sane and an inside forward on the opposite flank in Bernardo Silva. Unlike Sane, Bernardo would cut in and run directly at defenders.

    The midfield is where it happens, though. Fernandinho occupies the Sergio Busquets role of breaking up opposition play and carefully retaining possession, whilst David Silva and Kevin De Bruyne are tasked with using their phenomenal vision and passing skills to open up the opposition and release the front free.

    Screen-Shot-2017-08-09-at-15.30.44.png

    Guardiola's systems are fluid, however, and the perks of a 4-3-3 is that it can seamlessly transition into a 4-1-4-1 if Silva and de Bruyne push higher up the pitch.

  2. 2 3-4-2-1

    When the situation dictates as much, Guardiola now has the personnel to deploy a 3-4-2-1, the in vogue formation of the Premier League from last season.

    Screen-Shot-2017-08-09-at-15.19.02.png

    Bernardo and Sane are dropped from the flanks, but their role is taken up by Walker and Mendy, the marauding wing backs that fulfil the duties of both defenders and wingers. Their versatility means they can drop into the back three to create a five, or push forwards and create a five in attack, providing width, direct running and crossing.

    The midfield changes slightly and Ilkay Gundogan (or Yaya Toure if the German is injured) comes in to reinforce the middle and provide a more stable defensive base. Fernandinho is the deeper lying of the two, whilst Gundogan is given licence to push forward.

    Up top, this formation pertains to increased involvement from Silva and de Bruyne in the final third given their proximity to Sergio Aguero, the central striker.

    Now, the Argentine is included as this formation requires a bigger presence up front, less of a false nine and more of a complete forward that can fulfil the duties of a target man and lead the line, something Jesus is not yet competent in doing.

  3. 3 4-3-1-2

    The 4-4-2 diamond, also known as the 4-1-2-1-2 or the 4-3-1-2. Different names, but the same overall formation and it's a way for Guardiola to get both Jesus and Aguero on the pitch at the same time. It was used towards the end of last season and resulted in three wins in the final three games.

    Screen-Shot-2017-08-09-at-15.27.22.png

    Similar to the way Real Madrid play, Aguero is Karim Benzema, the leader of the line and the target man to some extent, supplying Jesus, the second striker, with knockdowns for him to attack.

    However, the beauty of the system is that it provides for versatility. Jesus as a false nine, therefore, could drop deeper, drag defenders out of position and open up space for Aguero to attack.

    Supplied by de Bruyne in the hole and David Silva from a deeper midfielder position, as a 'free eight' if you like, there's plenty of goals in this formation. Perhaps it's best used at home against teams City expect to beat fairly comfortably.

    It's not to the detriment of the defence, moreover, with both Yaya Toure and Fernandinho available to protect Stones and Kompany when Walker and Mendy bomb forwards.

  4. 4 4-2-4

    The Monaco way. This is what got the best out of Bernardo last season and led the underdogs to the Ligue 1 title and the Champions League semi-finals, beating City along the way no less.

    Screen-Shot-2017-08-09-at-15.41.32.png

    It retains the Aguero-Jesus two-striker tandem, with the Argentine as the hold-up target man and Jesus the second striker attacking the space, but it drops the number ten in the hole and deploys wingers instead.

    Sane comes back onto the left flank as the Thomas Lemar-type traditional hug the touchline and stay wide winger, with Bernardo contrasting him on the right, cutting in-field and directly attacking defenders one-on-one. This is what made him so dangerous in France.

    The loss of the number ten is negated by Jesus' presence. He can act as the false nine and drop deeper, into the hole, and assume playmaking responsibilities.

    The issue with this extraordinarily attacking system, though, is that it requires an extremely solid, tenacious and robust midfield centre, calling out for Fernandinho and Toure, so there's little room for Silva and de Bruyne. It's too lightweight a spine if either are included in the midfield duo. Perhaps best only used if injuries force Guardiola's hand then.

  1. POLL: Which formation is best?

    1. 4-3-3
    2. 4-3-1-2
    3. 3-4-2-1
    4. 4-2-4
    233 votes
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Oli Stein

Football Editor

Oli graduated from the University of Bristol with a degree in History and has been RealSport's football editor since September 2016.

He's a Tottenham Hotspur fan first and objective football writer second!

Oli is also a defensive end for American football club the London Blitz, starting his career on the offensive line with his Bristol university team.

Manchester City: Four ways Guardiola can use his squad

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