In this tactical analysis, we are going to predict how West Ham and Manchester City are going to compete in Saturday’s EPL game. West Ham have had two great results previously: an away victory at Leicester City and an unbelievable comeback against Tottenham Hotspur. On the other hand, Manchester City have had their up and downs, with a shocking loss against Leicester City at the Etihad Stadium and a win against Arsenal. Manchester City is also coming into this game from a midweek victory against Porto in the Champions League.

Predicted lineups

West Ham (5-4-1), David Moyes: Lukasz Fabianski (goalkeeper), Vladimir Coufal (right full-back), Fabian Balbuena (right centre-back), Angelo Ogbonna (centre back), Aaron Cresswell (left centre-back), Arthur Masuaku (left full-back), Tomas Soucek (centre midfielder), Declan Rice (centre midfielder), Jarrod Bowen (right winger), Pablo Fornals (left winger), Michail Antonio (centre forward).

West Ham will try to play the ball from the back; Rice will step deep to receive the first pass. If that is not possible, then the centre-backs will play long balls and will try to reach the striker or the wingers in the wide areas. The midfielders and the full-backs will step up to take the second balls. West Ham, defensively, would be better if they can hold their position deeper on the field, as they are more compact in that way. From the analysis, we will show you the defensive weaknesses that West Ham has as a team when they are trying to regain the ball high up the field.

Manchester City (4-3-3), Pep Guardiola: Ederson (goalkeeper), Kyle Walker (right full-back), Ruben Dias (right centre-back), Nathan Ake (left centre-back), Joao Cancelo (left full-back), Rodrigo (defensive midfielder), Bernardo Silva (centre midfielder), Phil Foden (centre midfielder), Raheem Sterling (left winger), Riyaz Mahrez (right winger), Sergio Aguero (centre forward)

Manchester City’s analysis showed that, in their two most recent EPL games, they played with two different formations and different tactics. They played with a 4-3-3 against Leeds United, and a 3-5-2 against Arsenal. Despite that, Manchester City did keep their dominant philosophy with the ball, and high pressure on the field without it. Therefore, one thing that we will expect from Manchester City in Saturday’s game will be the Citizens’ attempt to keep the ball under their control, and put high pressure on West Ham.

EPL 2020/21: West Ham vs Manchester City - tactical preview tactics

The centre-backs elaborate on the ball and are not afraid of taking responsibility. Manchester City will try to take advantage of their centre-backs and transfer the ball forward. As we mentioned earlier, Manchester City are a team with plenty of quality that can expose the empty spaces in between the lines. Rodri will have the role of the organiser, as he likes to move deep up the field to receive the first pass from the centre-backs. He moves in between the channels and has the ability to read the game and play a quick one-touch pass and unlock the high pressure. In the picture, we can see Rodri receiving the ball and playing with one touch into the wide areas, to the centre-back, who has more free space than him to transfer the ball higher up the field.

EPL 2020/21: West Ham vs Manchester City - tactical preview tactics

Manchester City will try to take advantage of this axis. They are transferring the ball through the thirds from there. In the recent games against Arsenal and Leeds United, they started most of their attacks from the central area of the field. This is because they know how to expose the mistakes that the opponent could make while pressing high. Therefore, if Rodri manages to take the ball with a lot of space in front of him, he will pass to Phil Foden, or Kevin De Bruyne, who is coming narrow on the field.

EPL 2020/21: West Ham vs Manchester City - tactical preview tactics

In the picture below, we can see Foden and De Bruyne moving narrow on the field, and giving extra solutions to Rodri to pass forward.

EPL 2020/21: West Ham vs Manchester City - tactical preview tactics

We mentioned earlier that Manchester City’s centre-backs have the quality to play forward and cope with high pressure. An extra advantage that Manchester City has is that their centre-backs know how to transfer the ball into the middle third: they know when they have to pass, and they can read the game and notice the free space to drive the ball higher. That gives Manchester City an advantage against teams that are defending with a striker, like West Ham. This is because there is a 2v1 situation, and it is easier for a centre-back to step forward and become an extra midfielder.

EPL 2020/21: West Ham vs Manchester City - tactical preview tactics

Higher up the field, Manchester City has many players that can be dangerous. With the two central midfielders, De Bruyne and Foden, and the striker coming deep, we can see that Manchester City are trying to overload the central area of the field. In that way, the wingers, who stay wider on the field, will get more chances to expose their opponents in a 1v1 challenge.

EPL 2020/21: West Ham vs Manchester City - tactical preview tactics

EPL 2020/21: West Ham vs Manchester City - tactical preview tactics

How Manchester City will defend and possible weaknesses

Manchester City will press high. That will not change, even if they use the 4-3-3 formation or the 3-5-2 formation. They are a team that wants to have the ball at their feet, and, when they lose it, they will try to win it higher up the field. They try to be dominant with and without the ball. Here, we can see Manchester City trying to restrict the opponents’ game at the back.

EPL 2020/21: West Ham vs Manchester City - tactical preview tactics

EPL 2020/21: West Ham vs Manchester City - tactical preview tactics

In the middle third of the field, Manchester City will try to set traps for their opponent. Setting a trap is a clever way to win the ball in the area that your team wants to. Manchester City will try to manipulate their opponent and drive them into the areas that they want to. This is very important, because Manchester City will win the ball high up the field, and, as a team, has players with a good offensive transition that can go forward very quickly and with good quality. In this picture, we can see Manchester City manipulating the opponents’ players, driving them into the areas that they want to.

EPL 2020/21: West Ham vs Manchester City - tactical preview tactics

A possible weakness for Manchester City when defending could be on the right of their defence. Kyle Walker is a good player that can help his team offensively, which is what Manchester City needs. However, despite his good positioning in the box, he seems to have a lack of awareness of what is going on behind him. That could hurt Manchester City in their attempts to stop the ball coming into their box with deliveries from wide areas.

EPL 2020/21: West Ham vs Manchester City - tactical preview tactics

In this picture, we can see Walker facing issues in the midfield area and being exposed in the transition game because of his high position.

EPL 2020/21: West Ham vs Manchester City - tactical preview tactics

How will West Ham attack?

West Ham is using the 5-4-1 formation. Starting their preview of with how they play out from the back, we can see that the centre midfielder, Declan Rice, will come deep, and try to receive the first pass from the defensive line. Overall, West Ham have patience in their game and will try to transfer the ball until they find a weak spot to put the ball through to. If that is not possible, and the opponent is compact, the centre-backs will play the ball direct and long, either to the striker or to the wide areas, and the centre midfielders will come closer to them and try to receive the second ball.

EPL 2020/21: West Ham vs Manchester City - tactical preview tactics

EPL 2020/21: West Ham vs Manchester City - tactical preview tactics

Higher up the field, West Ham are trying to stretch the opponents’ defensive line. They are attacking with the carrier of the ball, and, in front of them, there are five players that are positioned in a straight line along the field. In that way, they look to stretch the defensive line of their opponent and put the ball into the area behind them. If the ball is on the right side of the field, the left-winger will step inside and will give way for the left full-back, who will come higher.

EPL 2020/21: West Ham vs Manchester City - tactical preview tactics

How West Ham will defend and possible weaknesses

West Ham is a team that tries to put high pressure on their opponent. They press high, but this is one of their strengths; when they are pressing high up the field, they are not compact, and they have a lot of free space in between their lines. Therefore, this is the basic weakness of West Ham’s general play. They try to regain the ball high up the field, and they risk it too much. Teams that have players with good technical ability can expose those empty spaces in between the channels and take advantage of those situations. In the picture below, we can see how West Ham tried to press high up the field, but, at the same time, there was a lot of empty space in between the defensive and midfield lines.

EPL 2020/21: West Ham vs Manchester City - tactical preview tactics

Moreover, we noticed that West Ham as a team have big distances between the three centre-backs. That is because the full-backs have a higher position on the field, meaning that the centre-backs try to cover the full-backs’ space. They get stretched, and, because there are three of them, they have more space to cover.

EPL 2020/21: West Ham vs Manchester City - tactical preview tactics

Another weakness that West Ham should have in mind is the defending positioning of Pablo Fornals. His defensive positioning in the middle third of the field was slightly higher than normal. In that way, he had empty space behind him, and the distance between him and there was a large amount of space between him and the left full-back. The opponent could pass the ball through there, and the carrier of the ball has plenty of time to drive the ball into this free space.

EPL 2020/21: West Ham vs Manchester City - tactical preview tactics

West Ham have a more compact defensive block when they wait in the middle third of the field. That is because their main strength is that there is less space between the midfield and the defensive line. West Ham could take advantage of that and wait deeper on the field, meaning that Manchester City cannot take advantage of their quick players with balls in between and behind the lines. Moreover, they will force them to come higher, giving them an advantage in the counter-attack. In the picture below, we can see a compact team in front of their box.

EPL 2020/21: West Ham vs Manchester City - tactical preview tactics

Conclusion

This game will definitely be an interesting game to watch. Manchester City have great quality in their lines and will try to dominate ball possession. On the other hand, West Ham have shown in their last fixtures that they will not be beaten easily, even if the opponent is up in the score, as particularly against Tottenham, they showed that the game is not over until the final whistle is blown, no matter how many goals down they are.