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Leicester City (3) 1-1 (4) Manchester City, League Cup Quarterfinals: Tactical Analysis

City keep fans on their toes with a penalty shootout that featured the club’s future.

Leicester City v Manchester City - Carabao Cup Quarter-Final Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images

Manchester City survived another penalty shootout in their League Cup matchup with Leicester City on Tuesday to move on to the semi-finals of the competition. Pep Guardiola heavily rotated his lineup for this game and we got a chance to see what the youth can do in prominent roles with Brahim Díaz, Phil Foden, Tosin Adarabioyo and Oleksandr Zinchenko all getting starts.

Furthermore, City fans got their first glance at Lukas Nmecha and Tom Dele-Bashiru, who came on late in the second half. For the most part, everything we saw in this game justified the excitement about their futures.

Adarabioyo impressed at center-back and displayed a composure that is rare in young central defenders. The Mancunian never seems to be out of sorts and makes strong, intelligent tackles.

Tosin didn’t provide the game-changing vision and distribution that City usually rely on with Nicolas Otamendi or John Stones to spark the attack in this game, but that has more to do with his comfort within the team given his lack of playing time than it does a lack of skill. He made a few passes in this game that cut through multiple levels of the Leicester defense, hinting at the player he’s capable of becoming with more time.

Zinchenko, a natural midfielder, got the Fabian Delph treatment by Pep and started at left-back. This wasn’t his first time at left-back in a City shirt, but it is still a position he is relatively unfamiliar with. The young Ukrainian is clearly a smart player because he understands his defensive responsibilities well. He can certainly improve when defending in space in one-on-one situations but overall, he was a bright spot against Leicester.

His movement resembled that of Delph’s, regularly stepping into midfield to provide additional passing options and defensive support to Yaya Touré, who was operating as the lone defensive midfielder. Zinchenko showed the willingness and ability to initiate buildup and contribute to the attack with off-ball runs.

Leicester City v Manchester City - Carabao Cup Quarter-Final Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images

Brahim Diaz started as the left winger but switched to the right at times, and was responsible for providing width to the City attack. City’s buildup often developed through the center of midfield and transitioned to the wings as Leicester’s defense compressed inward. Brahim, along with fellow winger Bernardo Silva, were given freedom to run at defenders in space and expose gaps in the defense, which is arguably Brahim’s greatest skill. But his movement in small spaces was notable as well, completing several one-twos to access dangerous spaces.

Phil Foden was City’s left-sided central midfielder and dictated much of the possession on that half of the pitch. His vision and distribution skills are evident whenever he has the ball at his feet and looks ready to contribute consistently now.

Manchester City played well overall given the youth and unfamiliarity between the players. This game should have ended in a 1-0 City victory if Leicester weren’t gifted one of the softest penalties you will ever see.

Pep definitely adjusted some of his tactics to give support to some of the newcomers in the lineup. Gabriel Jesus was constantly dropping deep and could be even be considered a false 9. This took some pressure off the midfield in the buildup and created an additional outlet for the backline to move the ball to. There was often a diamond created in the midfield with Jesus linking up with Foden on the left, Gundogan on the right, and Touré in deep midfield.

City also decreased the intensity of their press, allowing stretches of prolonged Leicester possession. This midfield was less capable of winning the ball back quickly without Fernandinho and Kevin De Bruyne. In preparation for longer defensive stands, Pep kept his wingers back alongside Touré, who is not able to be the lone holding midfielder at this point in his career.

City are still alive across all competitions and their squad depth was on full display today. As a frequent participant of the FIFA Manager Career mode, there is a special place in my heart for youth players and I’m always excited to watch them grow. This game was definitely a fun one to watch and give City fans more reasons to look forward to this team’s short and long term future.