United will need defensive perfection to quell City's Argentine double-threat

We are part of The Trust Project What is it?'s Michael Cox uses FourFourTwo's StatsZone app to preview Monday evening's Premier League title decider between Manchester City and Manchester United...

The relationship between Carlos Tevez and Sergio Aguero during Manchester City’s 2-0 win over Wolves last week was interesting – the two Argentines haven’t played together much this season, but they still had a good partnership, possibly because of their time together for their national team.

The basic idea was simple – Tevez would drop deep and play as the No.10, tempting the centre-backs to move forward and close him down. At the same time, Aguero would make runs in behind the defence and hope for a through-ball, generally from David Silva or Samir Nasri, though his goal was actually assisted by left back Gael Clichy. Aguero also drifted out to the left.

It will be interesting to see how United cope with this duel threat – the communication and understanding between Jonny Evans and Rio Ferdinand will have to be perfect – Evans will probably look to play as the covering defender to use his pace up against Aguero, while Ferdinand will watch former teammate Tevez more keenly.

At the other end, despite Manchester United’s shock collapse in the 4-4 draw with Everton, we did see some excellent link-up play between Danny Welbeck and Wayne Rooney – with Welbeck teeing up Rooney for United’s excellent fourth goal.

The two have a similar dynamic to Tevez and Aguero – Welbeck stays high up, Rooney drops deep, although there’s probably slightly more variation in their positioning.

A key part of the game will be precisely how deep Rooney and Tevez move to pick up possession. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see Rooney playing as an extra midfielder, to help out Michael Carrick and Paul Scholes win the possession battle, and provide mobility. He might even drop back onto Gareth Barry when out of possession, to allow Carrick and Scholes to minimise the space between them and the United centre-backs, to close Tevez out of the game.

Sir Alex Ferguson described Jonny Evans as ‘arguably the best defender in the country’ earlier this month, but it was Manchester City’s Vincent Kompany who was elected into the PFA Team of the Year, alongside Newcastle Fabricio Coloccini.

But how do Evans and Kompany shape up statistically? Kompany makes more tackles per game (2.1 to 1.3) and more interceptions (2.4 to 1.9), but Evans makes more clearances (7.8 to 6.4) and blocks more shots (1.0 to 0.8). With the ball at their feet, Evans is more reliable, with a pass completion rate of 90.4% compared to Kompany’s 87%.

While both are excellent positionally, they are clearly very different in style – Kompany is an old-fashioned centre-back who dominates in the air with his physical strength, while Evans is a more precise, crafty defender who nicks the ball cleanly. In the biggest Premier League game of the season, the pressure will be on Kompany to live up to his billing from the PFA, and on Evans to prove his manager right.

One of the more striking contrasts in approach between the two teams in the reverse fixture was the distribution of the two goalkeepers. David De Gea looked to play short passes to his defenders, or longer balls out to the wing towards Nani, who could use his aerial power up against Gael Clichy. Whichever he did, his balls were generally controlled and precise.

Joe Hart, on the other hand, thumped long balls directly down the centre of the pitch towards Mario Balotelli, who tried to flick the ball on. That may change, however, with Tevez and Aguero unlikely to win many aerial balls, so City will most likely have to build up play more intricately.

The different approaches of De Gea and Hart with the ball are perhaps a reflection their nationalities, although over the course of the season there’s relatively little different between their pass completion ratios – De Gea is on 57.3%, Hart on 52.5%.

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