There is a thing in this season’s calendar that, say, in four or five years would have made for a very compelling end-of-the-year fixture list: Newcastle facing both Liverpool and Manchester City on back-to-back weeks—with Arsenal still to come a little over a week from today. I say that because, of course, we expect United to be fighting head-to-head against those three clubs in just a handful of seasons from now so that schedule would have been very interesting in that situation.
Anyway, and keeping things on the low where they belong, Burn discussed the difference between Liverpool and Manchester City yesterday when presented with that question. The query was very simple for reporters to make and even simpler for an insider in the known such as Burn to answer:
“The difference [between Liverpool and] City is that [City] can demoralise you by keeping the ball constantly and you could probably not touch it for 90 minutes.
“You still think you might have a chance against Liverpool by the speed at which they counter, this is probably the big difference between the two teams.”
All clear, sir.
It’s nothing new to find narratives built around the notion of possession when discussing Pep Guardiola’s sides, the same as “Gegenpressing” often makes it to the Jurgen Klopp’s teams discourse. Burn, who not only plays at the highest level of English football but also does in the defensive line, must know what he’s talking about.
I for one think Manchester City—or Barcelona and Bayern Munich before them—under the guidance of Guardiola is an absolute behemoth and controlling side that can (will?) murder you slowly but surely bringing the game to their side on any set of circumstances.
In games such as the one against Liverpool last week, Newcastle decided to sit a little deeper than they should, so Klopp’s team had the chance to install a semi-Pep system to go against the Magpies. Had United pressed harder and higher up the pitch, things might have changed with more spaces for both teams to exploit with up-and-down counter-attacks going in both directions. It happened in the second half when Newcastle lost the grip of the game and kinda attempted to go for the game, in fact generating a nice chance at scoring for Chris Wood (ultimately ruled offside) and a shot from outside the box by Bruno in the waning minutes of the game.
City, on the other hand, just doesn’t allow for that to happen. What went down at the Etihad in the first league of City’s semi-final clash with Real Madrid was something unimaginable with the Sky Blue scoring four goals and Real hitting them back with three of their own. What happened in the second league, from the get-go, is much closer to what Pep Guardiola is known for and what most probably will happen on Sunday against Newcastle: control, control, control.
While City won’t want to rush any action at all, United should be looking to create some sort of controlled chaos today. As Burn himself said, the fact that there are continuous counter-attacks from one side and the other makes it easier for both to rack up chances, shots, and open plays that can lead to unexpected and unpredictable results.
That’s where Newcastle can pounce, and how Eddie Howe should build his plan if he wants the lads to snatch (at least) a draw before the weekend is over.