Hopefully everyone has had time to recover from last week’s heartbreak. It’s time to get the season back on track. Next up, a trip to the South Coast, against a Bournemouth team City have had great success against in recent years. This game comes as an immediate chance to gain back the ground lost last weekend, with Arsenal travelling to Anfield on Saturday in a battle of the last two perfect records. So, what kind of team is awaiting the Champions in Bournemouth?
Probable Formation and Lineup
Eddie Howe has wasted no time this year in experimenting with his side’s lineup and formation. A three-at-the-back formation was used in their opening day draw against Sheffield United. In the second week, a more familiar 4-2-3-1 formation was used in their 2-1 win against newcomers Aston Villa. More than likely, Howe will go back to the trusted and better known four-back formation this Sunday, with the biggest difference probably being the wingers’ deeper positions to play closer to a 4-5-1.
Aaron Ramsdale has been impressive so far this season, and will start again in net. Along the backline, we will probably see an unchanged four of Charlie Daniels on the left, Nathan Ake and Steve Cook in the middle, and Adam Smith on the right.
In midfield, Howe could look to add some extra steel to his side by bringing in a third holding midfielder. Philip Billing and Jefferson Lerma will definitely retain their places, and I believe Andrew Surman will join them to add a bit more solidarity in the middle of the park.
On the wings, Ryan Fraser and Joshua King will most likely get the nod for what will be the most difficult jobs on the pitch. They will be required to stay focused for the entirety of their time on the pitch, giving the fullbacks cover without the ball and get up the pitch quickly when possession is won to support Callum Wilson up top. He will have to put a big emphasis on holding the ball up well to give his side the moments of rest from defending they will need.
Strengths and Tactics
Bournemouth are a very interesting side. On their day, they can go toe-to-toe with any squad in the league. However, they can seriously struggle. Howe is known for having his side play attacking football; this is not the case against City, though. The same fixture of last season is famously known for the fact that City did not allow Bournemouth a single shot. Period. Now, the odds that this happens again are very slim, but it is a good example to show the approach taken by the opposition in this tie. They will sit deep with 11 men behind the ball and wait for a City player to make a mistake, and this is where the main strength Bournemouth possess comes into play.
Wilson, King, and Fraser will all do their defensive duties, trying to give their fullbacks as much cover as possible. But they will be waiting for their chances. These three are as dangerous as they come, in getting out and running into the space left behind by opposition full-backs. As mindful as they need to be about City’s fullbacks, the respect must be mutual. When possession is gained, Fraser and King will be looking to get down the channels, allowing an outlet for Wilson or one of the midfielders as the Cherries look to counter quickly. Getting caught too high up the pitch even once could allow one of these three all the opportunity they need to make City’s trip back to Manchester a somber one.
The duo of Lerma and Billing has been very promising in the opening matches of the season. One of the problems City could encounter with these two is the physicality they offer. Howe will definitely be looking at this as a way to lessen the impact on the game City’s central operators will have. De Bruyne was electric against a Spurs team that simply had no idea how to deal with him in the spaces he was popping up in. While City’s system will most likely not involve quite the same dynamic this weekend, an emphasis on trying to mark the Belgian out of the game as much as possible will have been a major focus point during the week.
Bournemouth have been known since their promotion to the Premier League to be open at the back. While this in part is due to their want to go at the opposition, City will not see much of this on Sunday. Another part of it is down to personnel. Outside of Nathan Ake, the backline is not making any headlines for their abilities. Something that should be looked at is the pace of the full-backs. Sterling and Bernardo or Mahrez can find success if they are able to get into 1v1 situations to attack with speed.
The flip side of the physicality of the Cherries midfield, is the mobility that is sacrificed. De Bruyne and most likely David Silva must never stop moving on Sunday, constantly looking for pockets to pass and move, in an attempt to avoid the Bournemouth midfield time to impose themselves.
Lastly, City’s full-backs will need to be a very useful asset in this match. They must always be aware of what is going on, and anticipate turnovers rather than react. However, I trust them to keep on top of the game more than Bournemouth’s attackers that will try to turn into defenders for this tie. 2v1 opportunities will present themselves down the wings, and City must take advantage of them when they come.
The Xtra View
I will be honest in saying I attempted to jinx last weekend’s match by predicting a 2-2 draw. Knowing how that turned out, I won’t be trying that again anytime soon. City will be out there Sunday afternoon with a point to prove and I only see one outcome from this match. Look for the Blues to come storming out of the gates and ease to a solid 3-0 win, along with of course another VAR incident to spark a third week of controversy.
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