Kings of set pieces! After two more dead ball goals against Leeds, Manchester City are the BEST in the Premier League thanks to Pep Guardiola guru Carlos Vicens
- Manchester City sealed a 4-0 win over struggling Leeds United on Sunday
- The champions, however, have their set-piece specialist to thank for the latest victory
- Carlos Vicens’ simple instructions since arriving last year have worked wonders
A thud. Another noise. And even. The walls of the temporary changing room in the Elland Road car park took a beating. The marching Leeds fans started pointing. It was racketeering.
The bass became heavier, the structure trembling. Manchester City: a bit noisy. Deep dance music, banging. For them, that victory was not sealed with three second-half goals as the game dragged on, but in 25 minutes in the first half.
Leeds were good for much of the evening, but especially during this period. City may have given in. They were leading 1-0 but not comfortable. Pep Guardiola looked so worried someone should have found Marcelo Bielsa’s old bucket for him. It couldn’t have been good for the man’s knees, having spent so long on his hips.
Manchester City’s Rodri scores his first goal after capitalizing on a dead ball move
Manchester City’s Nathan Ake scores his side’s second goal with another set piece
Their midfield was gone before Phil Foden was brought back into that area, a match-winning decision.
City had two hits with a few set pieces, courtesy of Rodri and Nathan Ake, either side of the break. This surprised the director. “We’re not a team to score a lot of goals from set pieces, but sometimes that can unlock those kinds of games,” Guardiola said.
His pessimism is misplaced. City’s 18 goals from dead balls – excluding penalties – are the most of any top-flight team this season and the club’s highest since 2013-14. They have only conceded once from set pieces this season – again, better than all the rest.
Nicolas Jover, a specialist set-piece coach, left City for Mikel Arteta’s Arsenal last summer and has been hailed as a genius. But his replacement, Carlos Vicens, has overseen improvement in both boxes. “Carlos made things so simple and clear for the players,” Guardiola said.
Manchester City cruised to a 4-0 win at Leeds United in the Premier League on Saturday
Carlos Vicens (left) and Rodolfo Borrell look on during a training session at Man City last month
Vicens was hired to coach the Under-12s five years ago and has come through the ranks. He is a smart and innovative trainer known for his excellent communication. City are more durable defensively and offensively, despite not being the biggest side. Vicens clearly offers something.
“The secret of set pieces is about the shooter – with a good shooter you have a chance,” Guardiola said. Foden was the evil taker on Saturday. Could he succeed Kevin De Bruyne?
“When Kevin is there, Kevin is the taker,” retorted the Catalan. “But it’s good for Phil. He’s so young, I hope he can stay here for the rest of his life.
So to Foden. A mesmerizing display in a role, central midfielder, which his manager says is not his calling now but will be in the future. He will succeed De Bruyne.
Pep Guardiola hopes his side’s set piece can push them to the title this season
“He can play winger on both sides, striker and attacking midfielder in the pockets,” Guardiola added. “Over time, he will be more able to play in the middle. He always does all the actions at high speed and sometimes you have to take a break.
Pausing is the ability to slow down a game. Stopping and observing the runners, knowing when to speed up. To know when to hit the walls.
“He has the energy of youth and maybe the winger suits him better at the moment, but at the academy at 15 he played Kevin’s position and he played very well.
“I always talk about David Silva; sometimes he slowed the pace to pick up the pace and Phil’s pace is always high. It’s good because it’s aggressive and you need it, but sometimes you need a little more in this position. It’s just a matter of time.