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Manchester City’s 7-2 demolition of Stoke City on Saturday was one of the great Premier League performances, often in these situations the losing team is viewed as being unimaginably poor, however at the Etihad Stadium Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City looked very much like Barcelona/Bayern Munich.
To be a little more specific, they played in a manner reminiscent of the teams Guardiola built at those two clubs; the Blues were fantastic in possession and were able to totally kill Mark Hughes’ team with positive passing.
Raheem Sterling’s goal to make it 2-0 was football nirvana. A move that began in Manchester City’s own defensive area ended up in the back of Stoke’s net after 15 passes, everyone more precise than the last.
The visiting team were not out of position in anyway, they retained their shape yet City just passed through them. The highlight being Kevin de Bruyne’s sumptuous reverse ball into Leroy Sane inside the penalty area.
Intricate, Barca-like style of play
What was more eye-catching about this performance was that all but one of the seven goals were similar. Fernandinho’s strike from distance was an anomaly, the rest all featured clever intricate passing moves which ended in a simple finish from close range, this indicates true comfort with the system.
This is how Guardiola’s Barcelona and Bayern Munich teams played at their very best, the goals weren’t spectacular finishes but the moves which led to them were memorable enough.
A season of difficulty last year has allowed Guardiola to identify exactly what he needed to get his team to a position from which they could perfect his system. It would be a hard argument to suggest they haven’t yet reached that point.
The 1-0 victory over defending champions, Chelsea, was the indicator that the process has been completed, they dominated the hosts and really should have scored more than the one goal.
Defending no longer as big of an issue
Stoke’s visit was a continuation of that form, the hosts didn’t look at all fatigued by the recent international fixtures.
In attacking situations, City were excellent in the 2016/17 season, but it was their defending which let the system down. Furthermore there were not the wing-backs in the squad that could allow the team to play in the way the former Barcelona coach wanted.
Kyle Walker has arrived and has provided the requisite qualities; he can work up and down the line for the entirety of a match and keep an opposing team penned in. This takes the pressure off John Stones and Nicolas Otamendi; as such these two defenders are now having much more of a hand in the team’s build-up play.
It is clear that there isn’t a team that comes close to City going forward, the real test for the Blues will be how they cope with Jose Mourinho’s Manchester United, it is expected that their fierce rivals will provide a physical test and a defensive unit that hasn’t yet been seen at Eastlands this term.
Manchester City have been lauded and gone on to fail before, as recently as last season, yet this term it feels different. There is a composure about the club’s play, an assuredness which comes with having an incredibly gifted group of players who understand what they are doing.
Guardiola’s coaching methods have often been described as revolutionary to the sport, his work at the Camp Nou ushered in a new era where teams attempted to copy the way of playing.
After working closely with his players in Manchester, it is clear he has improved most of them, although they were supremely talented to begin with. The issues that the team now face are whether or not they can cope with the fixture congestion that comes with the festive period.
The tactical revolution is here
For the moment, their football should be appreciated and enjoyed.
The tactical revolution that Guardiola brought to Spain and Germany has now arrived in England and we will continue to see lopsided score-lines.
Written by Chris Winterburn
Follow Chris on Twitter @cmwinterburn
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