Manchester City will be looking to beat Watford in the final match of the season. A win will give the Blues a place in next year’s Champions League while also solidifying the strength and positivity that helped City gain momentum this spring. The team is bound to be focused and aggressive in their effort to get three points.
Here are three things to watch:
1 - Movement off the ball
City might use a different formation when they take the pitch at Watford, but the movement in the final third that we saw against West Bromwich Albion will be crucial if City want to win with confidence.
The way that City worked between and behind West Brom’s back lines allowed the team's playmakers to operate with a new degree of space and comfort. With movement off the ball attracting defenders, City created connections that either led to a direct shot or quick passes that gave them clear sight of the goal.
That needs to happen again in the Watford match.
2 - Counter-Attack
A single pass from Kevin De Bruyne or one of City’s other visionary passers often allows the Blues to create a sense of contrast within their overall attacking style.
The Blues often average 60-70% of possession, usually in controlled build-up or sideways passing in the opponents’ third, but swift counter-attacks provide another form of offense that could make Watford weary of sending too many players forward when they do get the ball.
3 - Defensive Insight
Vincent Kompany has set the example. His focus has to spread.
Reading the man and the ball to neutralize opponents’ offensive efforts has been much more consistent with the Belgian skipper back in place. His confidence seems to have spread to Nicolas Otamendi and other defenders, but John Stones might be a little behind the learning curve.
West Brom’s last-minute strike showed the young English defender lost between holding his zone, watching the ball, and a drifting attacker who was able to gain the space for a successful final touch.
While the Blues won the battle thanks to their offensive prowess, strong defensive contributions will undoubtedly give them a massive edge in the future.
City’s fate rests firmly in their own hands. They face yet another game that will have to be played like a final in order to secure a Top Four finish.
Without any silverware to show for the season, they will be seeking the moral victory of playing true to their style and continuing to expand their capacities with new Sky Blues like Leroy Sané and Gabriel Jesus alongside youthful veteran leaders.