Wolves 2-1 Man City – Chalkboards

2 11 2010

It’s one of the first rules of blogging really – don’t just regurgitate the opinions and analysis of the mainstream.

I’m going to break it here. Mainly because I cannot resist. But also because who could possibly have known Match of the Day would get this one spot on! It probably helped that (a) Lee Dixon was on the panel, (b) Dixon is a City fan so may have actually watched the game, and (c) .. it was blindingly obvious:

City’s Lack of Width

Manchester City lined up in a 4-3-1-2 formation with David Silva behind a front two of Emanuele Adebayor and Mario Balotelli. Both Balotelli and Silva pulled wide to receive the ball but the lack of natural width was remarkable with James Milner and Gareth Barry tucked inside to support Yaya Toure. 
The problem was exarcebated by the fact that Wolves were playing a 4-5-1 with attacking wingers in Matt Jarvis and Stephen Hunt. The City full-backs Micah Richards and Jerome Boateng therefore faced a twofold problem. Firstly, they were obliged to get forward, out of their comfort zone, to provide the width in City’s formation. Secondly, they had two wingers to mark playing high up the field and pinning them back. 

City Dominate Cente – But Give Up the Wings

You see some interesting chalkboards on the Guardian site. However, you rarely see the Opta stats illustrate such a stark contrast between two sides that, in terms of passes completed in this match, were pretty evenly matched. Michael Cox of Zonal Marking illustrated Wolves’ wingplay through the use of heatmaps. Lee Dixon used images from the game to show how Wolves bypassed the tight midfield three of City. Here I’ve gone for the pass completion data:

Guardian Chalkboards powered by Opta data

Stephen Ward hugs the touchline

As the chalkboard shows, Man City had a stranglehold on the centre of the park and, as you may expect, Yaya Toure completed more passes than any other City player. In contrast, Wolves barely completed a pass within the centre circle, but that this did not prevent them having the majority of the ball (53% of possession). They were helped by the fact that two of the best passers on their side are the full-backs Stephen Ward and Kevin Foley. Given City’s formation it is little surprise that the two men played more passes than anyone else on the field – clearly playing into Wolves’ hands. Ward, in particularly, held the width to an extraordinary degree – as illustrated on the chalkboard opposite – where he completed most of his passes without venturing more than a few yards from the touchline to do so. On the other flank, it was Foley who advanced to hook over the cross for the winning goal. Both Wolves full-backs, therefore, were able to take advantage of the fact that they had no direct opponent for large parts of the game.

Mancini: Reactive not Proactive

Of course, while Foley and Ward are extremely comfortable on the ball, their weakness this season has been in a defensive capacity. Each player has conceded a penalty in recent weeks when an opponent has ran at them – Foley on West Ham’s Victor Obinna; Ward against Spurs’ Alan Hutton.
The obvious change that Robert Mancini needed to make was to bring on Adam Johnson to have a run at one or both of the full-backs – with the dual bonus of exposing their weakness and cutting off a key supply line to the Wolves wingers. Remarkably, Mancini only turned to Johnson half-way through the second half when City were a goal down and, crucially, just seconds after Mick McCarthy had brought on George Elokobi for Stephen Hunt. Elokobi is a limited footballer but a far more resilient defensive opponent and with Ward now covering ahead of him the Wolves left flank had effectively been reinforced. As a result, Johnson arrived on the pitch at the very moment that the window of opportunity to expose this weakness had been closed shut.

Conclusions

This was an important win for Wolves and, on the face of it, a shock victory against their highly paid opponents. However, it is hard to imagine that a side will turn up at Molineux more determined to play into the home side’s hands. Wolves’ ball-playing full-backs were given the time and space to pick out key man Matt Jarvis, while City clogged up the midfield to no avail.
Mancini identified the problem too late to save the game. He’ll need to think quicker in future if he is to save City’s season .. and his own job.

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6 responses

2 11 2010
FootballFarrago

Great use of the chalkboards – too often I see articles accompanied by these confusing diagrams that just look like a toddler has been bought a new set of crayons and pad of garish green paper. You use them well to back up your point – as you say it’s an obvious one, but it’s good to prove these things with visual aids.

Do you know where to find the ‘average player position’ charts? This would probably also highlight this point – and could be used to show Stephen Ward’s width (his position, not his waistline).

Jude Ellery
Editor, FootballFarrago

2 11 2010
Carlton

You can get the average position diagrams from ESPN soccernet

Oh and great use of chalkboards by the author.

2 11 2010
Will

good article, i didnt watch the game but still found it interesting

2 11 2010
November 2nd links – who’s just wild about ‘arry’s media boycott - Sofa Ball

[…] Dua’s analysis of Liverpool’s play at both ends of the pitch and Ghostgoal’s take on Wolves’ exploitation of City’s narrow […]

3 11 2010
chris waddle

this is a great article ghost. i was at the game but couldnt put my finger on how wolves managed to turn the game around and force city back, but this makes it clear.

it also helps to explain why i thought milijas (despite his well taken goal) had a fairly quiet game and was unable to make an impact like some of the others wolves players. maybe as teams start to see jarvis as more of a threat and mark him more tightly it will allow some other players to come to the party!

3 11 2010
des drumm

Fascinating and intelligent analysis. Ward receives a lot of unfair criticism from Wolves fans. I hope they read this to understand his importance to the team-and to supplying Jarvis with good possession. Jarvis gets the plaudits for the first goal, but it was a very neat ball slipped through by Ward that set Jarvis up for the cross. Earlier article on the Wolves /Brazil similarly thought-provoking.

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