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Do dominant Man City need depth in January? PLUS: Lukaku delivers for Chelsea, Conte’s Spurs taking shape

Despite the coronavirus pandemic causing postponements around the Premier League, the Boxing Day fixtures that went ahead still offered plenty of drama and talking points. From the nine-goal mayhem between Manchester City and Leicester, to Romelu Lukaku ‘s game-winning turn for Chelsea , there was lots to discuss. Also: Antonio Conte’s Tottenham are starting to take shape.

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It’s Monday, and Gab Marcotti reacts to the biggest moments in the world of football.

Jump to: Man City are different | Lukaku delivers for Chelsea | Conte’s Spurs take shape | Can Barcelona really sign Ferran Torres? | Arsenal, Aubameyang drama continues For better or worse, Pep Guardiola’s Man City are different… but do they have enough depth?

Did Manchester City switch off vs. Leicester on Boxing Day, or are the goals they conceded just a by-product of the way they play?

The above question is inevitable after a rip-roaring game that scaled the heights, and plumbed the depths, of what is possible in a football match. With 25 minutes gone, City were already 4-0 up and it would have been five if Bernardo Silva ‘s sublime stroke of genius hadn’t caught Raheem Sterling unprepared.

The first half on Boxing Day — against a depleted Leicester City , sure, but still an XI with plenty of quality and experience — served up whatever adjectives you care to muster. It was beautiful, balletic, breathtaking… you name it. It had those magical moments any coach in any sport dreams of: when the whole becomes greater than the parts. (And when the parts are as high-quality as City’s, then the whole is even greater.)

But you can’t ignore what happened after the break. Not just the 11 minutes during which City got caught three times on the counterattack and conceded three times, but the other opportunities Leicester had — including the Kelechi Iheanacho finish that came off Ederson ‘s head — as well.

Leicester’s first two strikes were very much a function of the risks City willingly take by committing men forward and gambling to win back possession straight away. In those situations, an unsuccessful gamble that leaves you out of position or an accurate ball through your press can have disastrous consequences. It’s the price you pay for playing the way Pep Guardiola plays and most of the time, the risk-reward makes it worthwhile: You generate so much at the other end, while, at the same time, you do more with less defensively. There’s a proactive, front-foot nature to what they do that keeps opponents off balance.

Brendan Rodgers spotted this at half-time (and four goals down), and reacted by changing the defensive shape to be more compact and launch more men forward on the counter. He was rewarded, but in most games, that won’t work, and even when it does, City create so much that it […]

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