Have Wolves exposed a chink in Manchester City’s armour?
Last season, Manchester City dominated almost every team outside the top 4 both home and away. Those in the bottom half of the Premier League had no real template, no idea of how to combat Guardiola’s rampant City side and come away with any points.
Teams would spend the week training a compact defensive shape in an attempt to hold out for a draw. During the game, they would revert to a back 6 as the wingers tucked in to add extra cover but this did little to thwart City’s attacking threat.
Whenever they won the ball back it was sent long to the striker who was totally isolated against the two City centre-backs. This total disconnect between the striker and the wide players prevented any dangerous counter-attacks from developing and City simply recycled possession and pressed relentlessly until they inevitably scored.
In the second gameweek, Wolves proved that fighting City required efficiency on the ball as well as off it. Nuno Espírito Santo's side combined deployed a fluid 3-4-3 formation with an unparalleled attacking intent.
Conor Coady led a resolute Wolves back 5 which adapted to City’s quick interplay throughout the game; the mercurial David Silva who dismantled Huddersfield the week before cut a frustrated figure.
However, the most important roles were reserved for the wingers Helder Costa and Diogo Jota. As soon as Wolves won back possession, the two wide men drove forward into the space vacated by the overcommitted City fullbacks. The Portuguese midfield pivot of Rúben Neves and João Moutinho then had the awareness and technical prowess to find the wingers with regularity.
As a consequence, City’s centre-backs were exposed throughout the game, the City captain Vincent Kompany had to make a handful of last-ditch tackles on the halfway line to prevent threatening counters.
Raul Jiménez’s offside goal was an early warning sign and although Willy Boly’s goal was dubious, it would be unfair on the balance of play to suggest that Wolves deserved anything less. The Championship winners had both the bravery and ability to take the game to Pep Guardiola and came away with an unlikely point as a result.
Kompany was quick to praise their efforts after the match: “I'm confident they will take points off our competitors… they have enough quality to play themselves out of situations when they are under pressure.”
Last season City looked to Kevin De Bruyne in these tight games to somehow break the deadlock, with the Belgian side-lined until November teams across the English top flight should take inspiration from what they witnessed at Molineux on Saturday. Guardiola’s Manchester City may not be so invincible after all.