Manchester City had a lot of problems to deal with in the first weeks of the season so their performance in Tuesday’s win over Marseille was exactly what they needed.

In some incomplete levels, City saw City lose points in three of its first five Premier League matches, and there were no ready forwards in France after Sergio Aguero and Gabriel Jesus were injured.

Pep Guardiola’s team responded with A great show in a comfortable 3-0 win Which brought them top of Group C, and in addition to the score, there were a lot of positives throughout the field.

No problem this time versus five in the back

The graphic on the left shows where Marseille got the ball back - only two successful tackles (green triangles), ball interceptions (blue) and ball recovery (yellow) took place in Half City.  In contrast, 37% (23/62) of City's successful challenges occurred on the Marseille run, including when Kevin De Bruyne (17) seized the edge of the home side to set his team's first goal.
The graphic on the left shows where Marseille retrieves the ball – only three successful tackles (green triangles), interceptions (blue) and retrieval (yellow) occurred in Half City. In contrast, 37% (23/62) of City’s successful challenges occurred on the Marseille run, including when Kevin De Bruyne (17) seized the edge of the home side to set his team’s first goal.

I was really touched by the intensity of the entire City team against Marseille, and I think the way they went after the French team had a lot to do with the front three.

Raheem Sterling, Ferran Torres and Phil Foden set the tone from the start with their energy, whether with or without the ball, and their dynamism helped put themselves in the game from the start.

Yes, Marseille sat down and five were deep in defense, so there was a lot of match in their half, but what was noticeable was how fast he would spin whenever City lost possession.

Average position drawing
To what extent City paid the five-back to Marseille? During the first half, the average center touch of the eleven Marseille players was inside their half of their stadium. In contrast, even City center-back Aymeric Laporte (14) and Robin Dias (3) were near the center line.

They reacted quickly and recovered the ball due to the pressure they put into Marseille – and they scored their first goal by making a foul on the edge of the home side.

It was very different from the way they had fought for a lead against a similar formation in the first half of their draw with West Ham at the weekend – when both Foden and Torres were on the bench.

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Heat maps of Man City vs West Ham (left) and Marseille (right)
Heat maps for possession of City in the first half of their match against West Ham (left) and Marseille (right). City had 66% of the ball before the break against the Hammers and 68.2% against Marseille – but they worked at a higher altitude on the field against the French side.

No false nine for Torres

Seeing Torres lead the streak this time was a surprise, because I thought Sterling would get the job – and the Spaniard wasn’t a fake Nine – his role was something different, which was a little unexpected.

Pep told him to go stand on the shoulder of the Marseille defense and to use his speed to try to get behind their defense when he could.

It made perfect sense with Kevin de Bruyne on the field, because with nine fakes falling deep, the opponent’s defense could be pushed upwards, reducing De Bruyne’s space to operate.

Instead, having someone quickly play as the number nine actually extended the play and gave De Bruyne more room for a foray around it.

Screenshot showing Man City's squad against Marseille: Ederson, Walker, Dias, Laporte, Zenchenko, Gundogan, Rodri, De Bruyne, Stirling, Torres, Foden

Torres did well in an unfamiliar position, and the only thing I felt was lacking was the delay play that City would get from Aguero or Jesus – although he improved on that in the second half.

I’m not sure his being in that position would be seen as a long-term answer, but it certainly worked against Marseille.

I actually think Guardiola will mix things up with his attack while he’s without Aguero and Jesus for the next few weeks, whether it’s with Sterling in a role similar to the one Torres played here, or the liar Nine.

In the past, Pep De Bruyne has been used more in attack alone, or alongside Bernardo Silva, so he has plenty of options.

The British Pound, for example, can play anywhere across those three fronts. Pep regularly plays his left turn so he can storm from the inside to his right to the end, or make room for his back to drive widely around.

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He’s very good at that, but I enjoy seeing him on the right against Marseille and it was a fruitful evening.

Kevin de Bruyne passes against Marseille
De Bruyne made 58 assists against Marseille, with 47 successes (green arrows), including his assists (blue arrows)

De Bruyne was also a pleasure to watch, on his first debut with City since October 3.

Without him, they wouldn’t be as good as usual in recent weeks, but when he’s totally fit and plays that way, they don’t have to worry about attacking.

Great team performance

City’s defense has been seen as a suspect for a while, but they were so comfortable in the first hour or so on Tuesday that center-back Emeric LaPorte and Robin Dias could have put on slippers.

It took Marseille until the last half hour to figure out how to get past City’s pressure but when they did, Laporte and Dias were ready.

Dias put in two really important headers in the clearing when dangerous balls were placed in the City area, and that was a really good sign that he didn’t let his concentration levels drop after this easy hole in the match.

The graph shows the UEFA Champions League Group C: Manchester City I, Porto II, Olympiacos III, Marseille IV
City are 13th in the Premier League after two wins, two draws and a defeat in their first five matches, but they top their group in the Champions League after beating Porto 3-1 and Marseille 3-0.

Every City player had that kind of focus, and there seemed to be a really nice balance for the entire team.

Once they realized that Marseille was not knocked out of their half of their stadium, Ilkai Gundogan and Oleksandr Zinchenko were allowed to advance and join the attack.

He turned out to be a very impressive team performer. In total, 760 of the 821 City’s passes have succeeded, indicating how good they are, collectively as well as individually.

You have to remember that Marseille had lost their previous ten matches in the Champions League, so this was a match City were expected to win – but they made it look so easy.

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Michael Brown was speaking to Chris Bevan from BBC Sport.

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