Manchester City finished their tour of the United States with a 3-0 win over Tottenham Hotspur on Saturday. They also beat Real Madrid and lost to Manchester United in the other two games of their International Champions Cup campaign, but the results don’t matter. This is preseason, and wins and losses have absolutely zero impact on what’s to come.
There were some other very good, more important positives from the tour that City will take with them to the new season. We’ll highlight three of them:
1 - A new formation
Pep Guardiola played a classic 4-3-3 in the Manchester Derby, which made sense given that was the formation that finished last season and the players know it very well. But against Madrid and Spurs, Guardiola tested a 3-5-2 with new signings Kyle Walker and Danilo playing as wing-backs. John Stones, Vincent Kompany and Nicolas Otamendi were the three center-backs, with Kevin De Bruyne and either Phil Foden or David Silva playing in midfield behind two strikers, with Sergio Agüero, Gabriel Jesus and Raheem Sterling rotating in those positions.
City won both games in the 3-5-2, but once again, the results don’t matter. What matters is how comfortable the team looked in the new formation, which provided defensive stability while still sending plenty of bodies into the attack. Walker and Danilo were fantastic in their roles as wing-backs, constantly supporting the attack and providing width on the flanks, which allowed De Bruyne, Silva and the strikers to create chances in the middle.
The team alternated between high and medium pressure, and stayed compact throughout the game whether they were pressing high to recover the ball close to the opponent’s goal or dropping back into their own half to absorb some pressure and go on fast counter attacks. City scored all types of goals in the new formation: long possessions with short passes and movement inside the opponents half; set piece plays with high and low crosses; counter attacks with long balls to the fast strikers.
Guardiola said that the 3-5-2 won’t be the main formation and City will alternate between a back four and a back three depending on the opponent, but Pep certainly can trust that this is a very strong alternative and it will give him very good results in the new season.
2 - Young players had a chance to shine
While every City fan was waiting to see how the new signings would integrate into the system, we also got to see two youngsters shine bright in the tour: Phil Foden was Man of the Match against Manchester United, and the 17-year-old midfielder earned high praise from Guardiola for his composure, his ability to dribble past players and make accurate passes to find runners, and his incredible personality. In the next two games, it was Brahim Díaz who took the opportunities and scored goals against Real Madrid and Tottenham, and showed why he’s one of the most gifted players in the City Academy.
Foden and Brahim will most likely stay with the young teams this season and won’t have major impact in the first team, but Pep knows he can call them to play with the big boys and the kids will have no fear of the spotlight.
3 - City have a great goalkeeper again
If the decision to replace Joe Hart with Claudio Bravo seemed controversial at first, it became absolutely stupid once the Chilean couldn’t make a save all season and constantly conceded easy goals time and time again. Willy Caballero improved things a little bit towards the end of the season, but City still needed a really good goalkeeper. They addressed that problem with Éderson, and if preseason is any indication, Éderson is the solution to all the problems.
The Brazilian made a terrible mistake on his debut, but on that match against United he already showed some fantastic reflexes and great composure. His performances against Madrid and Spurs were even better, and he can make all types of saves look easy.
But it’s not just his hands that are impressive: Éderson is incredible with his distribution. He was fantastic with his feet, able to make accurate passes whether they’re short or long, and the highlight of the tour was his 70-yard goal kick that almost became an assist to Sergio Agüero against Tottenham:
Ederson 70 yard ping pic.twitter.com/WidxcxUFXq— (@Fantasistatry) July 29, 2017
Look how easily he kicks that ball! Éderson was insanely good in the tour, and there’s no reason to believe he won’t be as good once the new season starts. For goalkeepers, there is no preseason: they have to be at their sharpest for every match, and they have the same type of training and preparation whether it’s a friendly or a World Cup Final. If Éderson has been this good so far, then we can expect the same quality in the Premier League and the Champions League.