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Manchester City’s ‘Tactical Fouling’
05 November 2018, 15:51
Manchester City’s ‘Tactical Fouling’
Vlad1988 / Shutterstock.com

Manchester City had little trouble blowing Southampton away in their most recent Premier League match.  The convincing 6-1 victory saw Pep Guardiola’s team return to the top of the table and they have a 2 point cushion on the teams below them.

However, their previous Premier League game was against Tottenham Hotspur away from home and that proved more difficult.  Nonetheless, Manchester City came away with a 1-0 win but it wasn’t without controversy.

Following the match, Sky Sports pundit and former Manchester United defender, Gary Neville, highlighted what he called ‘tactical fouling’ by Manchester City players. What exactly did Neville mean by this statement?

The retired England international was speaking in reference to Manchester City fouling players deliberately when the opposition is hitting them on the break.  In the match against Tottenham Hotspur, Fernandinho, Manchester City’s central midfielder was the man highlighted.  The Brazilian was shown committing fouls against Tottenham Hotspur as they attempted to create a break.

Manchester City like to play a free-flowing, attacking brand of football but this can sometimes leave them short at the back when teams take the ball off them.  The match against Tottenham Hotspur is not the only occasion when Manchester City have been caught with numbers up the field and fouled opponents on the break.

It happened in matches last season and Jose Mourinho was keen to point it out ahead of the Manchester derby last December.  At the time it was thought Mourinho was putting pressure on the referee ahead of the Manchester derby and perhaps Neville, in a devious way, was doing the same following the match against Tottenham Hotspur.

There are no doubts Manchester City foul opposition players on the break but Guardiola has been keen to point out they are trying to win the ball back as quickly as possible, which can lead to a foul sometimes. Speaking after the win over Tottenham Hotspur at Wembley Guardiola said, “Sometimes they dribble, you arrive late and you’re down and make a foul. So, yeah, it happens - I’m not saying we don’t make fouls. But the intention to do something [deliberately] … no.”

Perhaps the most interesting way to analyse the fouling by Manchester City players is to see how often it happens in the opposition half or close to the halfway line.  There were examples of Fernandinho fouling against Tottenham Hotspur on the halfway line and in doing so, he broke up the attack before it really got going.

If Fernandinho had waited until the opposition were moving through Manchester City’s half of the pitch, he would have picked up a booking.  In that sense, it is clever play by Manchester City as they are preventing the break from developing yet committing the foul so early in the break, referees are not producing yellow cards.

It will be interesting to watch the derby on Sunday 11th November to see the first time Manchester United hit Manchester City on the break using the pace of Anthony Martial and possibly Marcus Rashford.  If they are fouled as the play advances towards the halfway line, how many Manchester United players will surround the referee and what will be the outcome?

OVERALL TABLE PTS GP W D L GF GA +/-
1. Manchester City 32 12 10 2 0 36 5 31
2. Liverpool FC 30 12 9 3 0 23 5 18
3. Chelsea FC 28 12 8 4 0 27 8 19
4. Tottenham 27 12 9 0 3 20 10 10
5. Arsenal 24 12 7 3 2 26 15 11
6. Bournemouth 20 12 6 2 4 21 16 5
7. Watford FC 20 12 6 2 4 17 14 3
8. Manchester United 20 12 6 2 4 20 21 -1
9. Everton FC 19 12 5 4 3 19 15 4
10. Leicester City 17 12 5 2 5 17 16 1
11. Wolverhampton 16 12 4 4 4 12 13 -1
12. Brighton 14 12 4 2 6 13 18 -5
13. West Ham 12 12 3 3 6 14 18 -4
14. Newcastle Utd 9 12 2 3 7 9 15 -6
15. Burnley FC 9 12 2 3 7 12 25 -13
16. Crystal Palace 8 12 2 2 8 8 17 -9
17. Southampton 8 12 1 5 6 8 21 -13
18. Cardiff City 8 12 2 2 8 11 25 -14
19. Huddersfield 7 12 1 4 7 6 22 -16
20. Fulham FC 5 12 1 2 9 11 31 -20

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