De Bruyne's Brilliance and Guardiola's Tactics | Manchester City's Thrilling 3-2 Comeback vs. Newcastle
|Kevin De Bruyne of Manchester City runs with the ball during the Premier League match between Newcastle United and Manchester City at St. James Park on January 13, 2024 in Newcastle upon Tyne, England. (Image-Getty)
Alex Keble provides a detailed analysis of Manchester City's remarkable 3-2 comeback victory against Newcastle United, dissecting key moments and tactics that shaped the match.
From the outset, there was a prevailing apprehension among fans, even amidst Newcastle's moments of excitement, as they anticipated the inevitable game-changing entry of Kevin De Bruyne. The awareness of his potential to disrupt the flow and reshape City's attack lingered in the background.
De Bruyne's return indeed transformed Manchester City, maintaining the consistency seen since the Treble, albeit with a pivotal distinction. His controlled finish for the equalizer encapsulated his impact, emphasizing focus and composure, setting the tone for his teammates. The anticipation for De Bruyne to deliver the match-winning moment was palpable, culminating in a brilliant play orchestrated by Oscar Bobb.
However, the individual brilliance of De Bruyne was part of a broader tactical narrative where Pep Guardiola outmaneuvered Eddie Howe. Guardiola's strategic surprise, deploying Jeremy Doku and Phil Foden as ultra-narrow wingers alongside attacking full-backs Kyle Walker and Josko Gvardiol, proved to be a tactical wildcard. This unorthodox approach aimed to exploit Newcastle's vulnerability – the gap between their defensive and midfield lines due to fatigue.
The tactic worked seamlessly in the first half, with Doku, Foden, and Julian Alvarez exploiting the No 10 space left open by Newcastle's shape. As the game progressed, the hosts narrowed their defense, but De Bruyne's entrance completed the tactical circle by rediscovering those decisive pockets for his equalizing goal.
Despite City's early tactical success, Newcastle's counter-attacks exposed vulnerabilities, prompting Guardiola to adjust. The high positioning of Walker and Gvardiol left room for Newcastle's breaks, leading to a quickfire double for the hosts. Howe's plan to exploit City's defensive frailties with defense-splitting balls over the top became evident from the start.
City struggled as Newcastle capitalized on the flanks, winning 50-50 battles and revealing brittleness in the champions. Guardiola responded by moving Walker into a deeper position, adopting a more conservative approach. This adjustment curtailed Newcastle's threat but also compromised the effectiveness of the initial tactical plan, creating a stalemate.
However, with De Bruyne's entrance, fatigue set in for Newcastle, and the inevitable occurred. The Premier League now faces a formidable Manchester City with a resurgent De Bruyne, signaling a potent threat for their rivals.