Manchester City’s Use of the False Nine

False Nine
Spread the love

Manchester City’s use of the false number nine feels almost like a Pep Guardiola obsession. Combined with an almost Arsene Wenger-like dedication to recruiting certain types of players.
With a passionate predilection for passing and passing. But it is working, as it nows looks certain that City will retain their Premier League title primarily using that false number nine tactic.

Manchester City’s Successful Use of the False Nine

Recruitment the Key

Guardiola has formed a team of quality players all good on the ball and able to pass and move. From the very competent Ederson in goal, through a classy backline to a set of formidable midfielders. Which include a high-class set of ‘number tens’.

They all fit criteria that adhere to the Spaniard’s vision of how football should be played.
In some ways, the culmination of the Dutch ‘Total Football’ of the 1970s. Pass and pass, and if you lose the ball retrieve it quickly. And then repeat.

It’s a formula that mesmerises fans and defeats most opponents. Even though the feeling is that City are sometimes trying to score the perfect goal.

Unusual, but Not Unique 

Is the use of the false number nine a variation on a theme or something revolutionary? Don Revie was famous as the coach of a very successful Leeds United team. And less so for a notorious period as the England coach. But in the 1950’s he was a key part of the so-called ‘Revie Plan’.

This was a tactic that involved then Manchester City centre forward (Revie) acting as a deep-lying distributor rather than a traditional frontman. It was, in fact, modelled on the Hungarian system as adopted by Sandor Hidegkuti, which in two legendary matches contributed to the Hungary national team trouncing England. Of significantly less renown is the disastrous 4-6-0 formation as chosen by Craig Levein when he was Scotland coach.

So the tactic is not new but it is rare.

Where is the Central Striker?

Somehow the lack of a recognised striker confounds many sensibilities, particularly when most titles have been won with a central goalscorer. At the Etihad Manchester City usually have to overcome packed defences, who watch as Guardiola’s side pass it around in front of them.

This is why when you talk to the locals they would love to see someone like Erling Haaland upfront to finish off the many chances those superb midfielders create. Even when Gabriel Jesus plays he is not always positioned as a central striker. The implication is that he is not considered at the same level as the departed Sergio Aguero. But then again Ilkay Gundogan, Bernardo Silva, Phil Foden, Kevin de Bruyne and co. can all score goals. As witnessed by their 7-0 demolition of Leeds United.

Consider the Opposition 

What opposition?

As it now seems Manchester City have a stranglehold on the title race. They are heavily odds-on to retain their crown, especially with both Liverpool and Chelsea stumbling in recent weeks. And the team from Anfield will be particularly affected by key players being absent at the Africa Cup of Nations. Whereas City, with their considerable resources, will probably only lose Algerian Riyad Mahrez.

Manchester City Will Win the Premier League With False Nine Tactic

Many would declare it no contest if City secured Erling Haaland in the next transfer period.
But that looks unlikely. So City will often continue playing without a recognised central striker.

On that basis, for those of us who have been watching football for decades, it does feel like something is missing, However, they are still strongly favoured to win the title. Though it seems unlikely other teams can or will emulate those tactics. So, thankfully, it is far too early to announce the demise of the traditional striker.

Main Photo

Embed from Getty Images