Two of the summers’ biggest Premier League spenders went head-t0-head at the Etihad as Manchester City took on Tottenham Hotspur. City came into the game with a 100% home record and 20 goals scored, Spurs on the other hand had conceded just 1 goal in their away games. City were the league’s top scorers as well with 28 while Spurs were struggling, having scored just 9 goals. Sergio Aguero alone had 8 to his name.
Man City 6-0 Spurs
Manchester City: Pantilimon; Clichy, Nastasic (Lescott 45′), Demichelis, Zabaleta; Nasri (Milner 77′), Fernandinho, Toure, Navas; Aguero (Javi Garcia 69′), Negredo.
Tottenham Hotspur: Lloris; Vertonghen, Kaboul, Dawson, Walker; Sandro, Paulinho (Dembele 61′), Lamela, Holtby (Adebayor 45′), Lennon; Soldado(Sigurdsson 61′).
Pressing their way to victory
Manchester City have had a ‘not-so-impressive’ start to the season, but at home they’ve shown the sort of form that is befitting of championship contenders. More than being tactically adept at home under Pellegrini, the City players have been more hard-working in front of the Etihad crowd, turning the stadium into something of a fortress. They’ve won all their 6 games at home, scoring 26 (13 coming in the last two games) goals and conceded just 2 goals.
The entire squads body language seems to change while at home, the entire side work harder in getting the right result. A large part of this inference is evident in their pressing strategy. Right from the attackers through the midfield and into defence, the players are seen pressing their opponents, trying to force an error. They maintain the quick tempo of the game in general, throughout the 90 minutes.
This was seen in today’s game as well, as pressing right from the start (literally) got City their first goal of the day, after just 14 seconds. Jesus Navas the beneficiary of some good pressure from the front two of Aguero & Negredo.
Experts have praised the good understanding between Aguero & Negredo, but their contribution to pressing on the final third of the pitch is often ignored. What makes them so special, especially Aguero, is his efforts in pressing the opposition. It makes him a complete footballers.
Tottenham had the players to play the quick game but City set the tempo of the game. Younes Kaboul, for example, was playing in his first start of the season and was regularly pressurised by the City players unable to keep up to speed. Tottenham weren’t given a minute on the ball and often resorted to long balls over the top, very unlike AVB’s approach.
It was essentially a two-on-two battle between the midfield players at the centre of the pitch. Yaya Toure and Fernandinho however, were more solid at the back and deadly going forward as compared to Paulinho and Sandro.
The big difference between the two pairs, Paulinho and Sandro were deployed to contain the City attack in the holding midfield role, while City’s pair of Yaya and Fernandinho had a more attack minded approach with a balanced system. Toure, as expected, was constantly looking to get forward allowing Fernandinho to move into a defensive role. Quite often, Fernandinho was simply positioned to stop any Spurs attack from developing, and quickly distributing the ball to a team-mate. On rare occasions though, the Brazilian midfielder looked to get up the field as well, with the Ivorian providing cover to his partner.
Fernandinho attempted an incredible 8 tackles, successfully winning possession from 5 of them. He also made 3 crucial interceptions to put a halt in Spurs’ attack. Yaya Toure made a typical driving run to set up Sergio Aguero’s second, running at the heart of Spurs’ defense.
The above image shows the good understanding between Toure and Fernandinho, as one took pressed forward, the other took a more deeper role.
This feature was not present in Spurs’ midfield. They were deployed with the approach of purely containing the City attack while attempting to catch them out with a quick attack. Needless to say this approach failed with City’s early goal(s).
Spurs have in fact often been riding their luck, hoping to get a positive result without looking convincing enough in attack. A solid attack was always going to put their defense under pressure.
Exploiting the hole, and failing to do so
As the game went on Spurs’ midfielders moved forward to attempt to muster up an attack, the two wing-backs as usual made attacking runs. Neither of the pairs made any telling contributions, but what this did result in was a gap being created in Spurs’ side, allowing Negredo to completely exploit it. He often received the ball in this area and was able to potently attack the Spurs’ defense.
Alvaro Negredo, as seen above, was deployed in the hole behind Sergio Aguero. The Argentine largely played off the shoulder of the last defender, while also moving wide to support the attack, this dragged the Spurs’ defenders towards him. This allowed Negredo to make attacking runs towards goal after collecting the ball in the space offered. This was a constant feature of City’s play with a 2 vs 2 clash as the Spurs full-backs were often drifting forward and leaving the two central defenders alone.
It was shocking to see Negredo given so much space at the middle of the pitch considering AVB prides himself on his tactical knowledge. But the large gaps in midfield were are constant feature and largely contributed to City’s swift attack.
Another place where Villas Boas got it wrong was the hole in his own attack. Deploying Lewis Holtby against a duo of the physical caliber of Yaya Toure and Fernandinho proved to be a mistake as firstly, they didn’t offer any space to exploit and secondly, someone who was more physically adept would have been the better option. Emmanuel Adebayor was brought on as a replacement for the young German and it did seem to help Spurs’ attack to a certain extent as he was able to hold play better allowing his team-mates to make some attacking runs.
But it was City’s solid midfield and defensive combination that didn’t allow any space or time in attacking areas that prevented the away side from conjuring up any chance. Soldado, as he has in many games, found himself alone upfront, completely isolated and the Spurs’ attack shut out.
The image above illustrate how City adequately covered the hole, covering the space and increasing the distance between the midfield and attacking third. A complete contrast between the two sides.
Where do they go from here?
- Manchester City climbed into 4th spot with this victory. Their home form has never been in doubt and it’s quickly becoming the most feared ground in England. But until they can put in similar performances in away games, they won’t be seen as genuine title contenders.
- Without getting too carried away, Spurs will have to gain some sort of consistency. They have been far from convincing this season, and despite being just a few points behind the final 4th spot at this stage of this extremely close Premier League season, they risk falling out of the running.
Over to you!
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