In the following three situations, based on an analysis of Manchester City during the 2017/2018 and 2018/2019 Premier League winning seasons, we will take a look on how to overcome the pressing of the opposing forward.

In his book “PEP GUARDIOLA ATTACKING TACTICS -Tactical Analysis and Sessions from Manchester City’s 4-3-3” Athanasios Terzis used his analysis to create a full progressive session to coach this specific tactical situation: Overcoming the Pressing of the Opposing Forwards. Each action, pass, individual movement with or without the ball, and the positioning of each player on the pitch including their body shape, are presented.

When the opposing forward/s tried to put pressure on the center backs or the inverted full backs in a way, which forced the ball wide, they were attempting to create a strong side to trap the Manchester City players and win possession. Pep Guardiola’s side had the solutions, which we show in this section.

Overcoming the Pressing of the Opposing Forward on the Centre Back Using a Link Player (Against the 4-4-2)

Overcoming the Pressing of the Opposing Forward

The red forward (No.10) moves quickly towards the City centre back Kompany (4) to force him to play wide (to full back) and create a strong side for his team to apply effective pressing. Pep Guardiola’s City players find a way to move the ball to the other side by using link players.

In this example, the attacking midfielder Gündoğan (8) drops deep, offers a passing option and becomes the link player to move the ball to the defensive midfielder Fernandinho (25), who is free and has many passing options to players in space (35, 17, 19 & 10).

Overcoming the Pressing of the Opposing Forward on the Full Back Using a Link Player (Against the 4-4-2)

Overcoming the Pressing of the Opposing ForwardIn a similar situation to the previous example, the red forward (10) moves to press the right back Walker (2). Red No.10’s aim is to force Walker (2) to play wide to the right winger Sterling (7) and then apply pressing with 3 red players (3, 8 & 11).
With red No.10 restricting the immediate available space, City again use the attacking midfielder Gündoğan (8) as a link player.

As soon as the red forward (10) moves to press the right back Walker (2), the attacking midfielder Gündoğan (8) drops into an effective position to offer a passing option and become a link player.

Gündoğan (8) passes back to the defensive midfielder Fernandinho (25). Fernandinho (25) receives free in space in the centre and has many passing options to players in space (35, 17, 19 & 10).

Overcoming the Pressing of the Opposing Forward on the Centre Back Using a Link Player (Against the 4-2-3-1)

Overcoming the Pressing of the Opposing ForwardAgainst the 4-2-3-1 formation, the defensive midfielder Fernandinho (25) was most often restricted by the opposing No.10.

This meant that the potential pass of a link player would not be directed to Fernandinho (25). Instead, the link player would play back to the centre back on the weak side, which is Stones (5) in the diagram example.

The red forward (No.9) moves quickly towards the Manchester City centre back Kompany (4) to force him to play wide (to full back) and create a strong side for his team to apply effective pressing.

As he did against the 4-4-2 formation, the attacking midfielder Gündoğan (8) drops deep, offers a passing option and becomes the link player. This time, he passes back to Stones (5), who is the centre back on the weak side. Stones (5) is free and passes to the full back on the other side Zinchenko (35), who can pass to the attacking midfielder De Bruyne (17) or the winger Sané (19) on the weak side.

Athanasios TerzisAbout the Author

The complete analysis of “Pep Guardiola Attacking Tactics” was written by Athanasios Terzis. Terzis is an international renowned tactics expert, UEFA A Licence holder and has a bachelor degree in Physical Education specialized in coaching soccer. He has published many bestsellers focusing and deconstructing some of the most successful teams and coaches of the last decades. His works include: