Adapt to survive; how City boss Farke changed his approach at Goodison Park
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
Daniel Farke is a football philosopher deeply entrenched in his view as to how the game should be played.
Yet, on Saturday as City faced Everton at Goodison Park, there were tangible differences in the way the Canaries tactically set-up.
Realistically, there had to be some form of alteration after only a solitary point on their travels this season, especially given their alarming position in the league table.
To operate in the manner Farke desires, there needs to be a confidence oozing out of the side.
Empirical evidence shows what a fully-functioning City side is capable of producing. You merely need to reference the displays against Leeds United and Manchester City to witness it at the height of its powers.
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In recent weeks however, that swagger hasn't been evident. Those passes have lacked purpose and the defensive structure has been brittle. City have exposed their soft underbelly, with a depleted defence lacking protection and a midfield devoid of equilibrium.
Amid the animosity provided by a Goodison Park faithful baying for blood, the Canaries transformed their fortunes on the road and injected some confidence back into a display that was in stark contrast with what unfolded against Watford.
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At points during this season, it has felt as though City have reached junctions but lack the clarity or experience to know which way to turn.
Discovering a formula to consistently provide performances in the top-flight has proved testing, which might explain why a cohort of back room staff where high-fiving gleefully in the aftermath of that victory on Merseyside.
Fundamentally, Farke will point to his back room staff and delegate praise, but it is the German who must take the plaudits for the approach City undertook against Everton.
It wasn't a radical departure from their desired philosophy but an endeavour to unleash certain strengths with a greater effectiveness.
Teemu Pukki has cut an increasingly isolated figure in recent weeks, with City's desire to be defensively resilient not extracting the best out of the Finnish striker.
Enter stage left, Kenny McLean.
City's mistakes have arrived due to opponents effectively pressing their defenders to suffocate the pitch, allowing them to create pressurised situations for City's operators.
In deploying McLean as a number ten, goalkeeper Tim Krul was provided with an out ball that would help bypass City's pulse-racing passages of play out from the back.
In the same way they broke Manchester City's press with incisive passes through the lines, they broke Everton's by attempting to play over their midfield. It was another way of asserting their philosophy that ensured they were beginning passages in their opponents half.
The persistence with Marco Stiepermann in that attacking midfield position revolved around his defensive contribution and tactical game rather than contributing to the offensive output. Reference his nullification of Rodri against Manchester City as an example.
McLean offers a dynamic alternative. He's someone who can burst beyond Pukki but, equally, can compete physically.
Another component critical to the performance on Saturday was the double defensive screen City created through the two central defenders and midfielders, thus providing the full backs with a greater freedom down the flanks.
In terms of the contribution from those out wide, this was as fluid a display as any witnessed this season.
There was a synergy in the way the wide players operated. Increasingly, City's full-backs have become isolated in possession, contributing to why City have experienced turnovers in their own half regularly.
That defensive base built from Tim Krul and extending to Tom Trybull, solidified the central phase of the pitch, allowing City's full-backs to push forward and support the wide players with a greater efficiency.
On the flip-side, crucial to this performance was how the wide players supported the full-backs, with the defensive shape resembling a more visible block rather than an attempt to occupy space centrally to free the full-backs should City win possession.
Given how pivotal those wide operators were to City's success last season, it was essential that Farke rediscovered an approach to utilise their qualities once more.
It was Stuart Webber who said that plan B involved strengthening plan A but it was Farke who proved it.
If City are to survive in the Premier League, adaptation will be key and Saturday's performance serves as a template to take forward.