Manchester United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer might be finding it hard to get much right of late but he was quite on point with his suggestion that Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City are prone to tactical fouls.
The Catalan took grave offence at the charge and bristled with righteous anger before their clash at Old Trafford:
“I never prepare a game in 10 seasons as a manager thinking about these kind of things, never… When a player wants to attack, we have to be honest.
“Of course there is contact, there are fouls, but when it happens (it is because) you arrive late and that is why there are referees, to make yellow cards or red cards or whatever they decide.
“I prepare to do our own game, that is what I want, knowing, of course, the opponent, but I never said I’m going to do that to punish them or cancel them by making fouls. Never.”
Whilst he denies it, here is Mikel Arteta instructing David Silva, Kevin De Bruyne and Ilkay Gündogan to make [tactical] fouls if there is a transition [for the opposition]. He repeats his command.
Guardiola may feign ignorance but he is very controlling of his tactics and… pic.twitter.com/P71z2EOoSR
— UtdArena. (@utdarena) November 14, 2018
Although City has conceded lesser fouls than all other Premier League teams, Opta (via Football365) suggests a different metric to measure their on-field indiscretions. Judging by the meagre possession stats of opposition teams when they come up against City, a fairer index of the club’s sly ways is fouls conceded per minute when they are not in possession of the football.
At 0.299 fouls per minute, the Manchester club is leading the table in fouls out of possession.
To put this into perspective, of the 3060 minutes played by City this season, the team has been without possession for only 973 minutes. That’s roughly 32%. In this time, however, their players have committed a whooping 291 fouls.
The statistic isn’t the least bit surprising given Guardiola’s tendency to play on the press. This requires the team to play quite a high line, exposing them to counter-attacks. It seems only natural that his players clock up the fouls in the small period(s) when they do not have the ball.
Small mercies for the Norwegian one supposes.