A Different Corner could be music to City’s ears

Manchester City’s new season kicks off in less than 24 hours away to Brighton after a summer dominated by the ‘T’ word – transfers.

But how about we move away from the relentless rumours and speculation surrounding all the ins and outs at the Etihad and look at another ‘T’ word – tactics.

Different Corners – Ederson and Pep are the keys to City unlocking a whole new approach to defending corners this season.

Pep Guardiola is undoubtedly a football genius, a tactical innovator second-to-none and technical master of the tiki-taka style of play.

He’s a sky blue thinker – in the most positive sense – a non-conformist, never lacking the courage of his convictions or the self belief that his way is the best way to play and win football matches.

That said, why, in his first season as Manchester City manager, did Pep insist on adopting the conventional ‘wisdom’ of so many others, by bringing all 10 outfield players back to defend at corners?

Will 2017/18 signal a sea change in how City defend at corner kicks, starting tomorrow on the south coast?

It’s a tactical conundrum which both puzzles and perplexes many City fans, none more so than exiled Blue Andy Bird, a ‘neighbour’ – but not too noisy – of City’s owner Sheikh Mansour, out in the United Arab Emirates.

Read But Never Red met up with him in Dubai during the summer break to talk tactics and address the perceived negatives of City defending corner kicks en masse.

The phrase ‘safety in numbers’ could be a complete misnomer in two distinct areas.

Sheikh Mansour has invested hundreds of millions of pounds in transforming the fortunes of Manchester City. A tactical tweak this season could reap dividends.

City – like most teams – defend corners with every player back. This means the opposition can push more men up, without having to worry too much about a swift counter attack.

The 18-yard box and immediate surrounds can be cluttered up by as many as 19, even 20 players, all jostling for an advantage, trying to steal half a yard on each other, get away with a sneaky foul, grab hold of an opponent’s shirt…whatever it takes in the general melee.

Imposing figure – Ederson’s physical presence, quick reactions and ball distribution could quickly turn defence into attack this season.

At 1.88m tall – that’s 6ft 2” in real money – City’s new keeper Ederson Moraes certainly looks the part – physically imposing, quick off his line, a great shot-stopper and a man who can command his area, but even he can’t act as a one man bulldozer.

As good as he is, and promises to be for City, there’ll be times when he could fall foul of the cliché, that the ‘keeper failed to come and collect the ball’. Little wonder with so many bodies to impede him.

It could be equally difficult for the 23-year old Brazilian to cope with wild deflections and ricochets when a shot, or even a miscued clearance, comes flying at him through a crowded penalty area, one that resembles a Manchester Piccadilly platform at rush hour.

Ederson promises to bring a new and positive dimension between the sticks at City in 2017 and years to come.

Irrespective of whether it’s a zonal defence or a man-to-man marking system, there has to be a better way to enable Ederson to prevent goals going in at one end, while maximising his excellent ball distribution skills, to assist City scoring at the other.

You can have all the theories and best tactical plans under the sun, but if you lack the quality of players to make them a reality and execute on the pitch, you’re always going to come up short.

Therein lay the problem for Pep in his first season in English football.

Wide left – Sane, Danilo and Ederson could combine to help City’s far left strike terror down the opposition’s right flank.

The £200m+ summer spend has addressed many of City’s shortcomings, with the prospect of up to another £100m still to be invested before August 31st.

It’s the upgrade on more technically accomplished players, the injection of youth and pace, along with a collective mindset more attuned to Guardiola’s thinking that will make the difference.

A quantum change in repelling the threats from corner kicks would be a good starting point.

Sterling run – Raheem could be an integral part of City’s rapid deployment team after defending corner kicks.

Andy said: “We should leave two of our quickest attackers (Sane and Sterling being obvious choices) on the half way line. Don’t stand them together, keep them apart, near to each touchline and really give the opposition something to think about.

“It could just as easily be Aguero and Jesus, depending on team selection, but it immediately puts the opposition on the back foot. What are they going to do about this twin threat from City?

Jesus could help deliver City from the ‘evil’ of opposition corner kicks with quick counter attacking play. Image courtesy of Stiz at BlueRoom.

“Are they going to risk marking them one-on-one? Will they feel it necessary to have an extra defender as cover?  Which City attacker should they double up on? What if the ball breaks to the other side of the pitch, could they be exposed?”

The net outcome of this simple tactical shift is that at least three (four including the corner taker) of the opposition’s 10 outfield players are no longer attacking the ball or influencing matters in and around City’s goal.

The numbers directly involved in addressing the incoming corner kick has reduced by 25% or more, and Ederson not only has a clearer run at things and enhanced line of sight, he has two colleagues to aim for on the halfway line.

Captain Kompany will be vital in commanding City’s backline and cutting out conceding at corners. Artwork courtesy of Stiz at BlueRoom.

“Defensively I’ve always been a great believer in having a man on each post, even more so with the inside leg being their favoured foot for a clearance (e.g. Mendy left footed on Ederson’s right hand side and, vice versa, Walker on the left).

In essence, you’re left with City’s full backs guarding the line, half a dozen team mates possibly going man-to-man with the opposition and, most tellingly, a couple of speed merchants ready to swiftly transform defence into attack.

Sergio could be set for a sizzling and record-breaking season in his seventh year at the Etihad.

A few good catches and throw outs, or even repeats of Ederson’s stunning 70-yard pass to Sergio Aguero in the 3-0 pre-season win over Spurs in Nashville, and City’s opponents may well be focusing more on defending than attacking…when it’s their corner!

Can it really be that simple?

To quote the late great Bill Shankly’s homespun philosophy at Liverpool: “Football is a simple game, complicated by idiots.”

Pep – Genius, Innovator and definitely not an idiot! Imagery created by Stiz at BlueRoom.

Pep Guardiola is certainly no idiot, but as fans we can but wait and see whether he’s ready to turn the tables on his opponents at each and every corner, starting at the AMEX Stadium tomorrow evening.

By David Walker & Andy Bird

Written in collaboration with a Blue Bird, who resides in Dubai and can be located on Twitter @andybird3003. It was a real pleasure spending time with you fella and talking all things City.

Dedication: There’s a tragic irony that as City embark on an exciting new season they do so without one of their biggest fans – Philip Entwistle – who passed away earlier today at the age of just 64.

Phil did as City do, he fought ‘till the end, fighting tenaciously against cancer – giving it one helluva run for its money! If there’s a Sky Blue Heaven, he’ll be there tonight chatting with the likes of Gentleman Joe Mercer and Big Malcolm Allison, reliving City glories of old.

Farewell Phil – Goodbye to a True Blue Trooper who fought ’till the end – Philip Entwistle (pictured here with Colin Bell and Les Chapman) who died today after battling lung cancer.

Our thoughts and condolences are with Phil’s wife Janet, daughter Victoria, his family and his friends – he had so many – because he was a lovely guy, a big character and a cherished Blue.

The privilege was all ours young Phil…Keep The Faith.

www.readbutneverred.com @ReadButNeverRed @djwskyblu


  1. August 11, 2017  8:02 pm by Alan Reply

    It's an enigma wrapped in a riddle surrounded by a cloud of mystery. Why don't we have a man or two on the centre line at opposition corners? That said, as All social media tells me. "Pep knows best".
    Good to see you have your mojo back! Hope to catch up sometime this season.

    • August 11, 2017  8:06 pm by David Walker Reply

      Is that young Thistle under a different nom de plume? If so a definite catch up will be in order. Thanks for reading and commenting, good to have you back.

  2. August 11, 2017  8:04 pm by Doug Henshaw Reply

    Would love to see that happen two of our fast players on the halfway line. Great idea let's hope Pep is reading his copy of Read But Never Red.

    • August 11, 2017  8:10 pm by David Walker Reply

      If ever he's suffering from insomnia I have no doubt Pep will read Read But Never Red :-) Thanks Doug, nice to have you back.

  3. August 11, 2017  11:49 pm by David Leyland Reply

    We've sat in our seats Year in Year out asking "why don't we leave a couple of men on the halfway line?" I for one can recall running the line in a cup semi final when a corner was up the other end from me and I'm stood on the halfway line watching the 9 and 5 so to speak. The ball breaks to the keeper, who launches a boomer up the middle. I react, twist and sprint, but NO an all mighty crack across my lower back and I'm flat on my face screaming in agony from cracking two vertebrae. 22years on I'm glad they're not leaving two men up!!! It gives me nightmares ????

    Great article as usual David.

    Come on City, #inpepwetrust

    • August 12, 2017  5:51 am by David Walker Reply

      Thanks fella - a collaborative effort with our exiled Blue Brother in Dubai. Let's see if Pep's having any of it today and see if City can get Brighton to rock and fall down!

  4. August 12, 2017  12:08 am by Will Reply

    Makes perfect sense as ever. I expect lots of positive differences this season. Sorry to hear about Phil, sounds like he was a great guy.

    • August 12, 2017  5:49 am by David Walker Reply

      The credit for being tactically savvy goes to Andy Bird - I just embroidered the blog around the edges ;-) Thanks for your sentiments on Phil - he was a great guy and is a BIG BIG loss.

  5. August 12, 2017  10:12 am by Ian Reply

    Have always been an advocate of at least 2 men forward, preferably staying wide to leave gaps to be exploited by runners. Also agree about a man on each post. Would be interested to hear an advocate of all men back giving the alternative viewpoint

    • August 13, 2017  6:43 pm by David Walker Reply

      Yes, so would I - is there anybody out there who wants to contribute to the case for the defence of defending a corner with all 10 outfield players? Hang on, there's a call coming in from a Mr Guardiola on line 1 - he obviously didn't get the memo about the two men on the halfway line! Thanks for the feedback - always a pleasure ;-)

  6. August 12, 2017  10:16 am by Ed Reply

    Let's hope it works and a clean sheet today. Although an exciting 4-3 win would be nice ?

    • August 13, 2017  6:49 pm by David Walker Reply

      Clean sheet, 2-0 but not perhaps too exciting, but hey, two out of three ain't bad. Cheers Ed. Lovely part of the world you frequent, but don't envy you the trips to Manchester!

  7. August 12, 2017  11:08 am by Pete lynch Reply

    Great piece and certainly thought provoking. We certainly have the quality and pace!

    • August 13, 2017  7:03 pm by David Walker Reply

      It does make you wonder why the hell we don't do it. There were a couple of occasions yesterday when the bodies were either standing or strewn around City's box and it was cluttered and potentially difficult for Ederson. Hopefully Pep will revisit his tactics sometime soon.

  8. August 12, 2017  11:56 am by Andy Bird Reply

    My thoughts are with you and those connected with Phil.

    You really are a magician with words. Amazed how our conversation can read so eloquently in an article. Great effort as usual, like others I hope we are open to try and be different at defending corners. We'll have to do another article on what to do on attacking corners at a later date! Give the muppets on TV something to try and analyse. I am sure they could find a negative with it though!

    • August 13, 2017  7:24 pm by David Walker Reply

      Thanks for your best wishes on Phil he'll be missed by so many of the City 'family' but especially, and obviously, by Janet and Victoria. He was very much in our thoughts at Brighton yesterday.

      Thank you also for your generous feedback as to 'our' finished product and how 'we' brought your tactical analysis to life.

      Sadly - despite the 2-0 win - it was the same old, same old yesterday, with all 11 City players back defending corners. There was one particular attempt on our goal when the Brighton player shot narrowly wide across the crowded penalty area where Ederson was largely unsighted. Had it been on target he'd have been hard pressed to have stopped it.

      You seem to have triggered something, with many fans agreeing with you about the two defenders on the goal line, as well as the twin attacking threat on the halfway line. As you mentioned yesterday, it would have done Liverpool a favour to have had a defender or defenders on the goal line to prevent Watford's late equaliser. Shame ;-)

      With City having one of the worst corner kick-to-goals conversion rate last season, there's also plenty of scope for another Blue Bird-RBNR collaboration on how best to score from a corner.

      In the meantime I'll look at the going rate for a Premier League Corner Kick Coaching Specialist - including the supplementary payments for his PR guru :-)

      Nice 'working' with you and be sure to give our love to Dubai.

  9. August 14, 2017  2:32 pm by Richard Cooper Reply

    At last a perusal of RBNR, which, as you have said, and was seen at Brighton,10 players back is a totally not needed scenario.
    1. Too many players "back" causes confusion.
    2. Attacking players are more likely to "fluff" a clearence.
    3. 2 players up the field will ensure the opponents have more to think about than their corner.
    4. The goalkeeper has more chance of a clean catch or good "punch" out if he can readily get to the ball.
    5. Too many players back makes a deflected goal more like likely.
    Good to see you & Debi on Saturday.

    • August 14, 2017  4:48 pm by David Walker Reply

      Good to see you too RC & Mrs C! We achieved the objective of the exercise with the win, but most mere mortals were left wondering why persist with 10 back to defend?

      Maybe Pep will get the chance to read the piece en-route to sunny Spain and the kick about with Girona. It's a damning indictment on an English summer that Manchester City feel the need to fly out of England to indulge in 'warm weather' training in the middle of August! It was plenty warm enough at Brighton...and didn't we have a nice day beside the seaside ;-)

  10. August 14, 2017  2:58 pm by ALAN BROWN Reply

    ENTY was the best!

    • August 14, 2017  4:51 pm by David Walker Reply

      He sure was fella - a terrible loss for us all. Phil's funeral is this Friday at 11.00am - will you be attending? It'll be good to see you again.

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