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Understanding the differences in Manchester City’s and Liverpool’s 4-3-3

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Written by Hammad


Manchester City and Liverpool are two of the best teams in the game right now. Aside from leading the Premier League this season, Liverpool currently hold the Champions League, Uefa Super Cup, and Club World Cup title, while City won the Carabao Cup, FA Cup, and the Premier League last season. These two clubs produced the greatest title race in Premier League history last season when Liverpool collected an astonishing 97 points but still finished second to City. These two teams are a major reason why betting on football matches have become very popular now. If you are looking for a quality sportsbook, Bodog is one of the best.

It is very interesting that both teams use the same formation, the 4-3-3, which becomes 2-3-5 in attack. There are a lot of similarities between these two in terms of winning percentage, possession dominance, attacking intent, counter-pressing, and world-class players but there are a few differences, which will be explained in this article.

First and foremost, Jürgen Klopp and Pep Guardiola are attack-minded coaches. Klopp’s football has been described as “Heavy Metal”. His Liverpool are brilliant at pressing the opposition to force turnovers as high up the pitch as possible. Guardiola wants midfield control, ball retention and possession play. City like to control games, they build attacks with positional play and lots of short passes. Let’s discuss the differences between these great sides.

Creating width in attack

There is a very Crucial Saying in Football, “Get fat while attacking and get slim while defending”. Like any other top-quality team, This strategy is also implemented by both Liverpool and Manchester City. However, their ways of creating width in attack is completely different. Liverpool’s use of fullbacks is much different to City. Liverpool play with a narrow front three (Which forces the opposition defense to get narrow) and their fullbacks feature heavily in the attack. 

Manchester City use their wingers for attacking width. A way to judge the different ways that both sides create width is to look at the type of goals scored by both of these teams. Man City have become the masters of scoring from cutbacks in the penalty box, where a wingers makes a late run from wide (Raheem Sterling has benefited the most with this tactic). Meanwhile, Liverpool’s front three score a lot of goals in-and-around the penalty area, from crosses or movement. As mentioned above, Liverpool’s fullbacks are heavily involved in their attacking phase, as shown by Alexander Arnold’s (10) and Robertson’s (6) assists this season.

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND – JANUARY 03: Roberto Firmino of Liverpool shakes hands with Raheem Sterling of Manchester City during the Premier League match between Manchester City and Liverpool FC at the Etihad Stadium on January 3, 2019, in Manchester, United Kingdom. (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)

City’s fullbacks are used in a different way. Man city apply what is called “Inverted-fullbacks” where Instead of doing the overlaps, their fullbacks join the midfield to offer passing options. (City have used a back five, with wing-backs this season but this article is only about their usual 4-3-3 system). Guardiola loves possession football, so, with Man City’s wingers being wide, with their midfield two playing between the lines, then that leaves gaps in midfield, which are filled by City’s fullbacks. This strategy is brilliant in stopping opposition counter-attacks and to do their own counter-pressing when City lose the ball.

Different midfield setup

An absolutely massive difference between the two sides is the way both coaches use their midfielders. The premier league Champions have Kevin De Bruyne, David Silva, Fernandinho, Rodri, Gundogan, Bernando Silva and Phil Foden as midfield options. As you can see there is a lot of quality for slick passes and creativity. Meanwhile, Liverpool have a more combative midfield with the likes of Fabinho, Wijnaldum, Henderson, Milner, Chamberlain, and Keita. Actually, the midfield choices of both coaches perfectly sum up their philosophy. Guardiola wants neat interplay while Klopp wants energy, Pep uses his midfielders to combine with the wingers to create goals while Klopp’s midfielders score rarely but, they offer balance, protection, and grit.

To use a musical term here, Klopp’s midfield is Heavy metal while Pep’s midfield is a Violin Artist. Let’s be clear that we are not saying that Liverpool’s midfielders are inferior to anyone….. it’s just that they are used in different ways by Klopp. Liverpool do have a lot of quality midfielders who can dribble, shoot and create but Man City’s midfield is more designed for exchanges of passes and creativity. The long term Injuries to Naby Keita and Oxlade Chamberlain have also had a big impact in Klopp using a more hardworking midfield

Role of centre-backs and defensive midfielder

Another way to understand the differences between these sides is that Liverpool’s Fabinho is a DEFENSIVE midfielder (A Destroyer) whereas Manchester City’s Rodrigo is their DEEPEST midfielder, that’s why Gundogan often plays in this position with ease. The job of centre-backs is very similar for both clubs because despite what you may think of Klopp’s style, Liverpool have become a more possession dominant team. Having said that, If you look at the current centre backs of both clubs, you can see that Virgil van-Dijk and Matip are stoppers, who can play the ball out from the back, while Pep’s team recruit centre backs by judging their ball-playing abilities before checking their defensive skills. It is reported that Pep Guardiola does not teach or practice tackles in training, Actually, city spend most of the time on perfecting their passing.

Goalkeepers

Alisson Becker and Ederson Moraes are two of the most expensive goalkeepers in the history of football. Both are masters at playing out from the back but it is very clear that Alisson is a better shot-stopper than Ederson. Once again, the choice of keepers shows the philosophy of both coaches. Becker is first a stopper with amazing passing abilities while Ederson’s best traits are his amazing composure on the ball as well as his otherworldly ability to pick accurate long and short passes.

Alisson’s presence in Liverpool goal has been one of the biggest reason why the Merseyside club have such a mean defense (only Sheffield United have kept more clean sheets than Liverpool in the league). Liverpool are a team who play expansive football, which can leave them exposed occasionally but Alisson is their insurance at the back, as shown by his performances in the Champions League final against Tottenham and Club World Cup final against Flamengo.

Brazil’s goalkeepers Cassio (L), Ederson (C) and Alisson (R) take part in a training session at the Pacaembu stadium, in Sao Paulo, Brazil, on June 11, 2019, ahead of the Copa America football tournament. – The Copa America runs in Brazil from June 14 to July 7. (Photo by NELSON ALMEIDA/AFP/Getty Images)

Meanwhile, Ederson is the definition of a modern-day goalkeeper in every sense. His ball distribution from City’s goal is unparalleled, even by Alisson. Ederson’s composure, when opponents try to press Man City and his passing precision are perfect for the way the citizens want to play football.

Conclusion

Klopp has evolved so much from his Dortmund (and early Liverpool) years when his football was all about pressing, fast and furious football. His Liverpool are very comfortable in making the play by their use of narrow attackers and high fullbacks. They are much more comfortable in starting attacks, in fact, they prefer to dominate possession. It is thanks to this improvement that Klopp’s team can break deep defenses now, which was a problem in his early Liverpool days. Guardiola is also a coach who’s team can beat teams in so many different ways. City still want to dominate the ball with neat interplay but they are ruthless on the counter-attack and their pressing is top-notch. Liverpool and Manchester city are, arguably, the two best teams in the world right now. They have assembled amazing squads with two phenomenal managers. There are some similarities but now you know the things that make both of these sides special in their own unique way.


 

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