Manchester City vs Crystal Palace Review: Masking a Maligned Midfield

Yesterday, I wrote about how all of the teams with good midfielders ended up being victorious over the weekend. The interesting thing, though, is how just 3 hours after the article was posted, Alan Pardew’s Crystal Palace executed a tactical system that is able to mask a poor midfield.

Going into the match against Manchester City, Pardew knew that Yaya Toure and David Silva would have Palace’s midfield duo in knots. He also happened to know how to get a smash and grab despite all this.

The former Newcastle manager developed a plan to counter attack City. Setting up in a 4-4-1-1, Palace blocked City in defence with two banks of four and even getting Jason Puncheon and Glenn Murray to sit back at times. Wilfried Zaha, an attacking right winger, showed his defensive capabilities by man-marking Manchester City’s left-back, Gael Clichy, out of the match. Bacary Sagna, City’s right-back isn’t known for attacking capabilities, so Pardew fielded Yannick Bolasie on the right to confuse him outright with his quick feet and ridiculous pace. He used Puncheon as a lynchpin and Glenn Murray to outwit Vincent Kompany and Martin Demichelis.

The football savvy may be thinking that Aston Villa used similar tactics against Manchester United, but there is a distinct difference between United and City: weaknesses. City’s weakness is their central defensive unit, while United’s only significant weakness is Antonio Valencia from right-back. City’s out of form Vincent Kompany and the extremely slow Martin Demichelis is particularly poor, not only because many mid-table teams have better centre-backs, but also because the Citizens don’t field a defensive midfielder, leaving them very exposed on the counter attack.

Brendan Rodgers, on the other hand, appeared to be outright arrogant. If he actually believed that a midfield of Joe Allen and Jordan Henderson would’ve been able to contain Francis Coquelin, Santi Cazorla and Mesut Ozil of Arsenal, he was making a big mistake, and it showed.

Tim Sherwood’s Aston Villa was close to executing a great idea against Manchester United, but neglected the fact that it wasn’t the best way to break down Manchester United. On the other side, Brendan Rodgers showed no clear plan whatsoever and expected Philippe Coutinho to make the magic. Both managers showed a level of tactical naivety over the weekend. Alan Pardew, however, didn’t make the same mistake.

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