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Purpose

If you watched the Champions League game between Man City and Atletico Madrid on Tuesday, 4-12, and the first leg, you would have seen Atletico defending resolutely as they are often known to do.

City's possession and Atletico's 'park the bus' approach created much of a stalemate as City probed but were mostly unsuccessful. In this second game alone they had just one shot on target.


Though they were clever in positioning to manipulate Atletico. Here is one example that I love, and I hope you do too (ignore some of the infographics from my screenshots!).


Bernardo has the ball and is being pressed by Kondogbia. There is very little space between the lines as Atletico condense the space and press on Bernardo, preventing him from playing forward.


As Bernardo faces pressure, he drops the ball to Stones, who lays it into Laporte quickly, with 5+ yards of space ahead. Note Mahrez and Cancelo. You can't see Mahrez in the first image, but you can see Cancelo, though their positions do not change. They maintain width, and are a constant option against a team like Atletico.


Why? Because Atletico want to prevent City from playing, they are compact. After the ball goes backwards, Felix's press forces the ball to Laporte, but neither Griezmann nor the midfielders step to cover the press. The result is an isolated Felix and a Atletico team that is now stuck - should they press on Laporte, or retreat? In a second, they see Cancelo peeling in from the wing and the ball from Laporte allows him to break into the penalty area. Mahrez was ready to do so on the bottom of the picture.


Did it result in a goal? No. Did it break down the Atletico organization. Yes it did. City are known for possession, but they are smart and have incredible outlets all over the field. This was more of an admiration piece for such a simple tactic that requires a negative pass to draw your opponent out first, then exploit the space behind them.


Some youth coaches might say this is wrong. It's not soccer, it's long ball. If they lose to this they say "well at least we play the right way (possession)" but remember. We can beat an opponent by going through them, around them, or OVER them. That's exactly what City attempted here.