Brighton hosting Manchester City on what was a historic occassion at the Amex stadium presented a cagey match where pre season and title favorites, City looked happy to be patient, wait for more optimal opportunities to score than forcing it and potentially giving away a goal.
Brighton lined up in a classic 4-4-2, meaning two banks of four with strikers supporting in middle and wide areas. City looked to be taking the patient approach, playing into gaps between Brighton players then driving vertically into space
One characteristic of Pep Guardiola’s teams in the past has been to wait for the more optimal (beneficial for the team) option to be available rather than forcing it. While the home side tried to press their opponents in the central areas, City were cautious about playing slack passes into central options. While City looked impressive thanks to their off-the-ball movement, the away side lacked intensity and acceleration in moving through the open spaces which the home side provided.
City had too many players behind the ball in the initial phases of build up slowing down their ability to progress up the pitch quickly. It seemed as if Guardiola felt it’s better to be safe and secure a low-scoring victory than going into an open, less predictable match with Brighton
City, however, looked potent with Leroy Sane coming off the bench in the second half. The Manchester side looked much more dangerous and maybe this was part of Pep’s plan. Tire Brighton and then kill them off with Sane. Deep in their own half, City’s back 3 becomes flat back 5 with the 2 wingbacks joining for cover.
The sequence of the Ederson-Kompany pass combo broke pressure from the home side, typifying why 3 at-the-back configurations can work well for Juego de Posición. Kompany moved vertically back towards the edge of the eighteen-yard line giving Ederson a pass option. Ederson’s pass to Kompany shifted Brighton’s defensive block
However due to City’s spacing, Kompany positioned in halfspace (HS) with forward passing options, The Belgian had vertical passing lane along HS. The City captain kept on playing forward passes, breaking the horizontal shift in Brighton’s defensive block
In a 2 at-the-back configuration assuming the same overall shape, Kompany would have less coverage in the middle if he gave up the ball, requiring Ederson to be closer to him or another player to be in the vicinity to ensure central space is covered. Also, City needed to make sure that it wasn’t too big of a distance between the two centre backs in 2 at-the-back configuration
It’s possible to achieve the same goal with 2 at-the-back or 3 at-the-back configurations, however because the aforementioned are different configurations themselves, it impacts the possibilities and shapes created to achieve the same goal.
Perhaps Pep’s plan all along was to play conservatively, tire out Brighton and bring on more dynamic players in Sane, Bernardo Silva to apply more offensive pressure to secure the win. This was justified with subbing off Danilo bringing on Sane, moving central playmaker Kevin de Bruyne wide; Pep always seems to have his micro managements prearranged. Had his plan been to play conservatively throughout the match, it could have backfired as Brighton threatened at some stages and could come to haunt City late in the game, an understandable perspective considering City’s porous defence last season.