UEFA Champions League 2016/17: AS Monaco 3-1 Manchester City (6-6 agg.), Tactical Analysis
A tactical masterclass from AS Monaco embarrassed Pep Guardiola's Manchester City in the UEFA Champions League knockout round.
So far, the last 16 knockout stage of the UEFA Champions League has served up several shocks, and it turned out to be the case once again as AS Monaco came from behind, on aggregate, to knock Pep Guardiola’s side out thanks to a 3-1, second-leg victory at home.
Coming into the match, many expected the English Premier League team to edge through as they did in the opening tie, but a strong first half from the Ligue 1 side proved to be the hammer blow from which the Citizens could never recover.
A goal apiece from Kylian Mbappe and Fabinho in the first 45 set Monaco up for the win before Leroy Sane pulled one back in the second half. Tiemoue Bakayoko’s header late on wound up being the decisive goal of the night to seal their passage to the quarter-finals.
High press gave Les Monegasques the edge
It was a match that Monaco had to attack with energy from the very beginning and although the early signs suggested that they were going with long balls aimed downfield to put the away defence under pressure. Their displays quickly evolved into a far more cultured one.
The front three of Bernardo Silva, Thomas Lemar and the pacey striker, Mbappe, were instrumental in pressuring the Citizens rearguard as they sat high up the pitch. Although they didn’t cause any problems for the reassured Willy Caballero with the ball at his feet, he had no option but to regularly hoof possession up field, and that was where the hosts thrived.
Monaco manager Leonardo Jardim had his troops well-drilled across the park. While the three men up top set the tone, it wouldn’t have worked without the backing of Bakayoko also getting involved in the middle of the park. The defence, too, of Jemerson, Djibril Sibide, Andrea Raggi and Benjamin Mendy were in fine fettle. They didn’t have much to do, but the little they did have to keep tabs on, they performed expertly.
Essentially, their high press reverberated around the pitch and saw City get pushed out wide, backwards and down cul de sacs.
Bernardo Silva's first half by numbers vs. Man City:— Squawka Football (@Squawka) March 15, 2017
91% pass accuracy
2 chances created
Monaco’s Silva, who had a terrific game out on the right flank, and best personified their first-half efforts. One particular snapshot of his saw him put in three consecutive tackles to stop a City attack inside their half as well as successfully winning a throw-in in the process.
Of course, the 22-year-old also picked up an assist in the opening 45 and had social media abuzz with his terrific endeavour and non-stop work-rate. Despite all that, he ran out of steam, but the groundwork had already been laid for a famous victory.
Getting the ball wide proved a masterstroke by Jardim
When Monaco’s Silva pulled a low-driven cross inside the City six-yard box in the eighth minute, it was clear that Monaco weren’t going to rely on slip-ups from their opponents and were eager to create their own through incisive industry and excellent passing.
Mbappe did well to direct the assist into the back of the net and it underlined, once more, why the 18-year-old prodigious talent is so well regarded. Some are even calling him the next Thierry Henry.
Then, the young Frenchman was played in from out wide before he landed the ball in the back of the net for the second time of the night, only for the linesman to flag offside.
Again, it was a similar story for Mendy as he cleverly overlapped his team-mate on the left flank to give himself the half yard he needed to fire in a vicious cross, low to the ground once more, that was stabbed home expertly by Fabinho just before the half-hour mark.
There was another expertly-delivered cross from the other side of the field minutes later that Caballero did well to thump away to safety.
It was no coincidence, though, that Monaco’s third goal of the night came via a perfectly-weighted free kick. It was their go-to route for much of the tie and it turned out to be a clever ploy. Jardim knew his brave troops would run out of steam eventually with so much energy being directed into their pressing game so they had to capitalise on those sort of moments when they could.
Disorganised City defence once again exposed
John Stones will be cast as the scapegoat for this defeat in the British press considering how off-form he was on the night, but his fellow team-mates were equally as poor.
However, it is Guardiola who should shoulder the majority of the blame. His tactics were completely wrong for the majority of the clash, and despite a 25-minute spell in the second period where they created a few decent chances only to be denied thanks to a series of expert saves by Danijel Subasic. The Citizens offered little to back up the ethereal notion that City are a top class team. There was minimal evidence that they deserved to go through or that they were hard done by.
The Manchester City manager set up his team in a really passive tactical way – they sat off Monaco.
Indeed, by selecting just the one defensive midfielder in Fernandinho, the City boss gave Monaco the incentive to come at them, and they were unable to cope with the first-half onslaught. Overrun in midfield, they lacked any bite, any passion and any defensive nous.
In short, they were asking to be punished, especially when one considers that the team have failed to keep a clean in each of their past 11 away UCL matches. The problems at the back run extremely deep for this group of players. It seems to be hardwired into their system, but it’s Guardiola’s job to turn things around and get things working with a few genius tweaks on the tactical whiteboard, but he didn’t deliver on that front, and hasn’t for some time either.
The knock-on effect saw the rearguard hit with a great deal of pressure and they couldn’t deal with being stretched by Monaco’s wide play, Stones getting caught out of position several times, as well as Aleksandr Kolarov, Gale Clichy and Bacary Sagna all underperforming.