Up next, Manchester City play Wolves who find themselves in 13th after a surprisingly slow start to the season. City, however, are in good form having scored 19 goals in the past five games in all competitions.
Don’t expect this to be a write off for Wolves though, as they are coming into this game off the back of a solid win against Watford, followed by a last minute winner against Besiktas away in the Europa League. Expect their confidence to be high, while also being hopeful of exploiting some of City’s potential weaknesses.
The Opposition – Wolves
Wolves manager Nuno Espirito Santo has persisted with a back three system throughout much of the start to the season, which brought them great success in last year. Typically, Santo has opted for more of a 3-4-3 system with the likes of Jimenez, Jota and Traore providing excellent attacking options.
For this game though, it is probable that he will sacrifice a forward, meaning a 3-5-2 shape. Most likely to start at the back are Boly, Coady and Saiss. The latter could be moved into midfield, perhaps adding more security into that area of the pitch. This would mean Bennett would be likely to return to the Wolves defence and while this is an option Nuno may just stick with the defence that has brought him two clean sheets in the past two games. Further forward, Dendoncker, Neves and Moutinho/Saiss are expected to start in a midfield three, while Jimenez and Traore could start up front as a two with Jota out injured due to a foot injury.
In addition to being a very capable counter-attacking team, Nuno is a manager who likes his team to keep their shape, whether they are playing offensively in a game they are the favourites in, or defensively when they try and limit a strong team’s ability to create chances.
In the away game of this fixture last season, Wolves were worth their point in a 1-1 draw, despite their goal coming from a blatant handball. As most teams do when playing Manchester City, they accepted they weren’t going to have much of the ball, yet kept a brave high line and managed to put pressure on City’s midfielders when they were in possession. This resulted in City giving the ball away far too much, leading to plenty of counter-attacking opportunities for Wolves. In terms of this weekend, Traore should be their main outlet and has the pace to hurt and provide problems should City leave themselves too exposed or give the ball away too often.
It would be fair to say that City have been a little bit shaky defensively at times this season. In their last Premier League outing against Everton, there were good chances for the home side and it took some heroics from Ederson to limit Everton to just one goal. Additionally, Everton’s expected goals for that game was 2.36. Too high for Guardiola’s liking for sure. It’s important that City defend set pieces well as they will be coming up against Neves, who has excellent delivery, and the three centre backs capable of towering above others and directing headers at goal.
At centre back, Manchester City are set to start with Otamendi and Fernandinho, however both played against Everton and the fixture in midweek, and tired legs wouldn’t do so well against this Wolverhampton side. Much will depend on Pep’s team selection with regards to the way we play in midfield. He has often opted for Gundogan this season, possibly to provide extra defensive abilities as Rodri continues to adapt to his new role. There is no question that Rodri has hit the ground running as he was immediately introduced as the pivot since the start of the season. His ability to position himself in order to receive the ball regularly combined with his range of passing has been exquisite and a joy to watch. However, there have been instances where he has been hesitant to step out and to either tackle or intercept when the opposition have won the ball in midfield.
Despite Gundogan not offering as much in the attacking third as others in his position do, Guardiola trusts him for these types of games. Personally, I would like to see Bernardo play on the right side of the attacking midfield. It is understandable that De Bruyne has occupied this position for most of the season so far, but Bernardo has a lot to offer in this position too. In my view, Bernardo can work in tandem with Mahrez on the right side of the pitch with both having an excellent first touch and an ability to play short, quick passes around the opposition’s penalty area while they both have the ability to dribble past defenders.
Wolves have also been suspect defensively this year having conceded 11 goals in seven games so far. This could be attributed to playing in the Europa League this season and City will do their best to exploit any defensive frailties. As mentioned earlier, Wolves have at times played a high line. While this allows a team to become more compact and can make it easier for players to put pressure on the opposition, it can of course leave a lot of space in behind. With wide players such as Sterling and Mahrez, this could be a dangerous tactic to deploy. Should they drop too deep however, that could result in City’s attacking players having lots of the ball closer to the opposition penalty area so it will be interesting to see how Wolves set up on the day.
There’s no doubting the threat Wolves can pose. They have very good players, some of which could play in the Champions League and not look out of place. They also have a manager who knows how to get the best out of his players while being tactically astute. City are going to have to keep the ball well to ensure Wolves do not get the counter-attacking opportunities they need to get a result. I’m going for a 2-1 victory for Manchester City.
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