Willy Boly’s red card early in the first half ultimately ended Wolves’ trip to Man City as a contest. Some would argue that it wasn’t much of a contest before the Frenchman’s dismissal, although the same could be said about Wolves recent trip to Spurs. In the first half at Wembley, Wolves had 33% of the ball. At the Etihad, Wolves had 22%. If Boly didn’t get sent off in the 19th minute, who knows what might have been?

Let’s break it down with images.

Man City Wolves Premier League Tactical Analysis

From here, it’s hard to see what quite goes so wrong that results in Boly being sent off. Yes, there’s the question as to why Boly is going to ground there, but all the same, there’s nothing too untoward about it all.

Man City Wolves Premier League Tactical Analysis
Silva ends up on the deck.

Bernardo Silva decides against hurdling Boly’s tackle and takes the brunt of it on his ankle. Looking at it, it’s totally understandable why it was a red card. On the contrary, Boly won the ball and the fact that Mark Clattenburg said it should have only been a yellow speaks volumes.

What crossed Silva’s mind?

Man City Wolves Premier League Tactical Analysis
Won the ball.

Firstly, the ball is clearly won by the ex-Porto man. Secondly, Silva can see the tackle, so why doesn’t he move out the way? Of course, it all happened rather quickly and that can’t be ignored, however, it’s not that hard to jump, is it? Anyhow, now that that’s out the way, we can move on to the match analysis. We’ll look at how City scored their first and third as the second was a penalty. A tackle from Fernandinho and also a little look at an impressive Belgian.

Team news

Nuno Espirito Santo selected what is arguably the strongest team for the first time this season. A midfield trio of Moutinho, Neves and Dendoncker were no doubt supposed to give City a run for their money, but the latter had to move to LCB to replace the dismissed Boly. Doherty returned at right wing-back and the rest was business as usual.

City brought the big guns back in as Fernandinho came back to sit in front of the defence and Ederson replaced Muric in goal after City demolished Burton 9-0. So, Wolves were facing a City side that scored 16 goals in the previous two games and a team that were pretty much refreshed and ready to go.

Doherty at fault

It didn’t take Guardiola’s side long to break the deadlock. All it took was a defence-splitting pass, a first-time cross and bang, Jesus had a tap in.

In the above heading, I’ve put Doherty at fault and that’s because he was the one that was caught flat footed. Yes, Jesus should’ve been watched more attentively and Rui could’ve perhaps judged the delivery better, but even still, if Doherty prevents the pass, nothing happens. See below.

Man City Wolves Premier League Tactical Analysis
Through the eye of a needle,

Make no mistake, Laporte picks a majestic pass. From a Wolves perspective, Doherty’s positioning is all wrong, Jesus has found room between Conor Coady and Willy Boly. Addressing Doherty, to begin with. He’s not side-on and he’s not ready for Sane’s run. After what I’ve seen and analysed earlier this season, it’s perhaps no surprise that opposing teams now readily target Doherty and Bennett.

Man City Wolves Premier League Tactical Analysis
Too easy for City.

Just like that, Sane is in the clear and once the ball is played in and Rui commits too early, unfortunately for Wolves, there’s only ever one outcome on the cards.

Man City Wolves Premier League Tactical Analysis
What might have been?

As is evidenced in the above image, Rui tries to cut out Sane’s cross but gets nowhere near it. Now, imagine if the Portuguese number one stayed on his line as the dashed arrow shows. If he did that and made himself as big as possible, would he have thwarted Jesus? Maybe. Hindsight is a wonderful thing.

Fernandinho vs Boly

Right, so we’ve looked at how Boly got sent off. What we’re going to look at now is Fernandinho’s tackle on Diogo Jota which came a few minutes earlier. Craig Pawson deemed this tackle only worthy of a yellow.

Man City Wolves Premier League Tactical Analysis
Fernandinho is very, very clever.

Jota takes another touch which essentially leaves him one on one with the last defender. Fernandinho is only too aware of this and cynically brings him down, taking none (or a small fractional amount) of the ball and all of the man. He’s not even going for the ball, it’s just a very intelligent bit of tackling.

Man City Wolves Premier League Tactical Analysis
No annotations required.

Look at that image in isolation. That’s a red card, isn’t it? Small margins. If City go down to 10 there, who knows what might have happened? Never mind – onto City’s third.

The old ‘admire from a distance’ technique from Traore doesn’t work

To put this into context, City played a number of short corners in the first half and nearly caught Wolves out on more than one occasion as Nuno’s side were slow to get bodies out.

With the goal, which went down as a Coady own goal, they actually have two men covering the two City players, yet they manage to score. How does this happen? I’ll tell you how. Adama Traore. Let me show you.

Man City Wolves Premier League Tactical Analysis
Two on two shouldn’t be a huge problem for Wolves.

The red arrows denote which of the pair Gibbs-White and Traore should be picking up. The white arrows denote the direction that the two Wolves subs move in. That’s right, Traore decides to shuffle to one side to leave a lovely passageway for De Bruyne to play into.

Man City Wolves Premier League Tactical Analysis
The ball deflects in off Coady.

Should Traore be where the arrow suggests he should be, that ball doesn’t get delivered. Undoubtedly, Traore will be growing frustrated at not having much game time thus far this season, but when he’s doing things like that, it’s hardly a surprise. Yes, Traore is an attacker rather than a defender, either way, that’s not good enough. Irrespective of that, the game was already dead.

Positives for Wolves

To say it was a long slog to find something positive would be an understatement. In certain quarters, I’ve seen Traore’s performance deemed as a positive. The above incident and the fact he was coming short all the time meaning there was no one in behind him chalks him off the potentially positive list. Rui played reasonably well, although he should’ve done better for the first. Overall, that leaves one man and one many only. Leander Dendoncker.

Man City Wolves Premier League Tactical Analysis
Credit: Wyscout.

The Belgian international completed 27 out of an attempted 29 passes and while none of them were particularly ‘Hollywood’ passes, his composure was apparent from the first whistle.

Dendoncker’s positional sense or rather lack of it as a centre half was clear at times as he would come out and press the ball rather than hold the line but the longer the game wore on, the better he performed. Saying that, there was one incident where Sterling beat him in the air. So, Dendoncker nearly didn’t make the list! Not a good day at the office at all for Wolves.

Conclusion

Wolves have got three huge games coming up in the Premier League. Leicester at home, West Ham at home and Everton away. If Nuno’s side are serious about competing for the Europa League spot, they need be picking up a decent tally in those games. Keeping 11 men on the pitch will be a good start.

Until the next time.


If you love tactical analysis, then you’ll love the digital magazines from totalfootballanalysis.com – a guaranteed 100+ pages of pure tactical analysis covering topics from the Premier League, Serie A, La Liga, Bundesliga and many, many more. Pre-order your copy of the January issue for just ₤4.99 here, or even better sign up for a ₤50 annual membership (12 monthly issues plus the annual review) right here.