Vulnerable channels and 20 zones: the tactics behind Guardiola’s title win

Manchester City have exploited the area between the opposition centre-back and full-back and the roles of Fernandinho and Ederson have been crucial too

Ottmar Hitzfeld, the former Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich coach, used to speak of the red zone, a central area of the pitch just outside the penalty area. Control that, he believed, and you controlled the game. If in your half you denied the opposition the ball in that space, they were forced wide and, while crosses can be dangerous in certain circumstances, they are a low percentage route to goal.

At the other end a player with time on the ball in that zone was a major threat, able to shoot or slide balls through the backline. As teams have become increasingly adept at plugging the red zone – often with the use of two holding midfielders – the danger area has shifted. Manchester City, notably, target the area on the edge of the Hitzfeld red zone, the space between the opposition central defender and full-back.

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