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3 reasons Man City’s defence is much better this season

| 02.11.2017

Pep Guardiola’s side have only conceded four league goals

Manchester City are flying high at the top of the Premier League. They’ve won eight of their nine games so far. And they’ve racked up an incredible tally of 32 goals already. 

City are rightfully drawing plaudits for their scintillating attacking play. But they’ve also been very impressive defensively.

Saturday’s 3-0 win over Burnley was their fourth clean sheet in five league games. Pep Guardiola’s team have only let in four goals so far in league action so far, the joint-lowest total in the division.

It’s a far cry from the former Barcelona boss’ first year in English football, when City were too open and often left their defenders exposed at the back.

What’s behind their defensive improvement? The Coral News Team investigate…

1) Ederson’s excellence

Claudio Bravo was a disaster in goal last season. The 34-year-old faced 11 shots in target in 2017 and conceded eight goals before losing his place in the side.

City couldn’t rely on the Chilean and spent £35m to sign Ederson from Benfica this summer. It’s still early but it looks like money well spent.

The 24-year-old has shown little difficulty in adapting to English football. He deals with aerial balls very confidently and is quick to come off his line to sweep up danger.

But it’s his distribution that’s really stood out. The Brazil international can throw the ball huge distances to launch quick counter attacks.

He also showcased his passing ability in the Champions League win over Napoli. The Italian side pressed high up the pitch, but Ederson helped City to maintain possession in dangerous situations.

Unlike Bravo, he’s a very solid last line of defence and a springboard to start attacks.

2) Making possession count

It’s taken time for City to fully get to grips with the demands of Guardiola’s possession-based approach.

The manager works relentlessly on the team’s shape to ensure there are always options for the player in possession.

The benefits are now clear to see when City are flying forward. But their improved use of the ball has also had a positive impact defensively.

Simply put, City are retaining the ball better, which means their defenders have less work to do and aren’t caught out of position as often.

The stats back this up. City are averaging 621 passes per league game this season, compared to 498 last term. Pass completion has also risen from 86% to 89%.

It’s not a coincidence that they’re now scoring 3.56 goals per game, up from 2.11. And they’ve more than halved the rate at which they were conceding goals – down to 0.44 per game from 1.03.

Now that he’s not constantly on the back foot, John Stones looks like the potentially top-class ball-playing defender he was billed as when he arrived at the Etihad Stadium. Nicolas Otamendi has also been much more secure this term.

3) Pressing paying off

When City don’t have the ball, they work hard to win it back as soon as possible. It’s not just running around like headless chickens though. They press intelligently, with one player going to the man on the ball while others close off potential passes to try and force an error.

Last season, they weren’t as effective at pressing, which meant opponents had time to pick a pass. As City play a high line, one long ball could often bypass the attack and midfield and leave the defence exposed.

It’s much harder for opposition teams to get out now, as the players better understand how and when the manager wants them to start closing down.

Even Sergio Aguero, who isn’t a natural workhorse, has bought into Guardiola’s methods. He’s always been a clinical goalscorer. He looks like an even better player overall now.

Aguero’s progression is symbolic of the team as a whole. They’re a much slicker unit now, with a clearer understanding of the manager’s demanding tactics.

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Daniel Anwar

Daniel has written about sport for Coral, Squawka, FourFourTwo and the Premier League, among others.