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How Arsenal duo forced Pep Guardiola to change his whole defensive system this season

The Manchester City boss revealed the reasoning after their win against Chelsea


Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola revealed that his bizarre change of system in midseason was forced in part due to the performances of Arsenal pair Bukayo Saka and Gabriel Martinelli this season.

The Cityzens scooped their fifth Premier League title in six years when Arsenal fell to a 1-0 defeat to Nottingham Forest on Saturday evening, handing their rivals the crown before they even kicked off against Chelsea 24 hours later.

It didn’t always likely, but a late surge that saw City fail to drop a point from February onwards ensured that they overtook Mikel Arteta’s side and could yet win the title by as many as 13 points should they win their remaining games and Arsenal lose against Wolves on the final day of the season.

And City boss Guardiola has revealed that much of their success was as a result of the danger caused by wingers, which partly explained why he was ready to part ways with Oleksandr Zinchenko last summer.

“I learned this season when you play against [Bukayo] Saka, Vinícius [Júnior], these type of wingers, [Gabriel] Martinelli or [Mohamed] Salah or [Sadio] Mané in the past that you need proper defenders to win duels 1 against 1”, he explained after lifting the Premier League trophy.

It has resulted in the Spaniard playing what on paper often looks like four central defenders across his backline, with John Stones moving into midfield when they have the ball and Nathan Ake playing on the left side of a back three, with Kyle Walker stationed on the opposite flank.

That tactical tweak could yet see the Cityzens produce a historic treble, matching the 1999 Manchester United side, with the Cityzens needing to beat Inter Milan in the Champions League final and United themselves in the FA Cup final to make it a reality.

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Ben Browning

Ben Browning

Football writer and analyst. Long-time writer of all things Arsenal and avid watcher of European football. Happy to discuss all things football over on Twitter.


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