Football Features

Man City 2-0 Nottingham Forest: Guardiola’s tiki taka shines in win but rivals celebrate too

By Harry Edwards

Published: 17:13, 23 September 2023

Pep Guardiola’s tiki taka style was on full display as Manchester City beat Nottingham Forest 2-0 on Saturday.

Man City went into their game against Forest perfect after five league games, looking to become just the second defending Premier League champions to win their opening six matches of a campaign.

The only other side were Chelsea in 2005/06, and they went on to retain their crown, which bodes well for Man City as they did indeed secure a sixth league win in a row.

The damage was done in the first half for Man City, and they heavily dominated possession with 76.6% of the ball in the opening 45 minutes. It took them just seven minutes to make that dominance show with Phil Foden finishing well following Kyle Walker’s ball into the box. But some highlights of the goal will do it injustice.

The move for Man City’s opener was built from 46 passes, the second-longest passing sequence leading to a Premier League goal since 2006/07. It was just two passes behind the record, Nacer Chadli’s goal for Tottenham against QPR in August 2014 (48 passes).

Nine Man City players were involved in the build up for the goal, which saw the hosts move the ball around the pitch with ease. One of the players to be left out of the move was Erling Haaland, and we’re starting to see him on the periphery a lot more.

The Norwegian isn’t one who needs many touches of the ball but it always feels like there are eyes on Haaland when it doesn’t really get involved. In the first half Haaland did have just seven touches, but all that mattered for him and Man City was that one of them saw the ball end in the back of the net.

Haaland netted his eighth Premier League goal of the season with a header from Matheus Nunes’ cross to make it 2-0 for Man City, a cushion they would rely on in the second half.

Haaland ended the game with 27 touches, the fewest of any Man City starter by 18 — with the next lowest being Ederson. Across the Premier League campaign as a whole, Haaland has had 135 touches at an average of 22.5 per match. He has also averaged 16.88 touches per goal, the best record in the Premier League among players to have had at least 20 touches.

Even when you include those with fewer than 20 touches, only Carlos Vinicius (15 touches, 1 goal) and Hannibal Mejbri (12 touches, 1 goal) have a better average. But there’s more.

Since Guardiola became Man City manager, 206 players have scored at least 10 Premier League goals. In that time, Haaland ranks first for fewest touches per goal (21.9), fewest touches per shot (6.3), and has the highest proportion of his touches inside the opposition box (27.8%).

For context, Sergio Agüero ranks fifth, fifth and 9th for each respective stat based on his time under Guardiola. Guardiola said that Man City “cannot replace him” when Sergio Agüero left the club. The truth is that not only did they replace him, but they found the purest poacher of them all.

Although the record remains perfect, it wasn’t a perfect afternoon for Man City. Less than 30 seconds into the second half they were reduced to 10 men as Rodri was sent off for an altercation with Morgan Gibbs-White.

A straight red for violent conduct, minimal but definitely deserved, means that Rodri will automatically serve a three-match ban. The ban also includes the EFL Cup, so Rodri will miss Man City’s game against Newcastle in midweek as well as Premier League matches against Wolves and, yes, Arsenal.

The Arsenal match before the international break is the final game of Rodri’s suspension, and shortly after his red card, “No Rodri” was trended on Twitter — with Gunners fans excited about the prospect of the Spaniard being unavailable for Man City.