We return to action with a trip to the Etihad for Man City vs Spurs in the Premier League.
Going to the Etihad off the back of an international break doesn’t bode well. Last season’s 6-0 humiliation also came after our lads had been away representing their countries and we return there this Saturday once again.
So, what can we expect and what should we have learnt about Manuel Pellegrini’s men ahead of Man City vs Spurs this time?
Pellegrini’s pull effect
Many pundits love to talk up Manuel Pellegrini’s system as a 4-4-2 and how he is bringing England’s favourite historical formation back. The Chilean does send his charges out with two strikers, but his system is a 4-2-2-2 and it is designed to pull the opposition in different directions.
The two players at the base of midfield go in opposite ways. Yaya Toure forward and Fernandinho in behind him to cover.
Ahead of them, David Silva and James Milner both drift inside looking to not only get on the ball, but also to create a numerical advantage in the centre of the park. This is done to counter teams that have three men in central midfield looking to overrun the supposed 4-4-2.
The full backs, Zabaleta and Kolorov, get forward and seek to cross the ball, supplementing Milner and Silva’s inside movement.
As the first pair, Toure and Fernandinho, goes back and forth, whilst Silva and Milner are drifting in and out, Aguero and Dzeko up top naturally go in different directions.
Aguero is looking to run in-behind or latch on to through balls to use his pace and power dribbling ability. Dzeko often comes towards the ball to hold it up and link the play. Then when it goes wide, he is a real threat on crosses or short balls pulled back to him from inside the area.
Manuel Pellegrini really only has a couple of choices to make.
Firstly, how aggressive he is with his left back? Aleksander Kolorov is a much more attacking choice than Gael Clichy who is better defensively.
Secondly, does he use James Milner to drift infield or does he play with a natural winger in Jesus Navas? The Englishman is very good defensively and can put a mean ball in to the box, but Navas has pace to burn, stays wide to hug the touchline and is a very good crosser of the ball.
City creating chances
Man City look to create chances in a couple of different ways.
The first is through the quick ball looking for Aguero running in-behind, just as we can see here on his strike against Liverpool.
The second is to look for short, neat through balls. These are either straight in to the box or for a runner in-behind in the full back zones. From there, they can play a short, chipped cross or they can cut the ball back across the penalty area. This is what Samir Nasri does here after being played in-behind Liverpool full back Alberto Moreno.
Man City’s two ways of chance creation can be seen in more detail here against Liverpool.
Whilst Stoke were also attacked through these areas.
The Tottenham tactics for Man City vs Spurs on Saturday need to try and limit the space in-behind to stop Aguero’s runs. This will also minimise the area that the likes of Zabaleta and Kolorov can get in to supply crosses and cut back passes. This is easier said than done with someone like David Silva pulling the strings.
Where Man City concede
Whilst Man City are an offensive juggernaut, they are also susceptible to conceding goals.
Teams that have had success against them have dropped off, sat deep and played on the counter. This means that they can swiftly transfer the ball forwards to get quickly at the City centre backs or in-behind in the full back zones as they are caught forward helping the attack.
Stoke were a prime example, being the only team to leave the Etihad with a win this season. Mame Biram Diouf ran from his own half with the ball, as he quickly broke on City’s central defenders to give the Potters a 1-0 win.
Chelsea also played heavily on the counter attack, as they almost snatched three points at the Etihad. Their goal came as they broke swiftly forward and then crossed from the left back zone, an area that is vulnerable with Kolorov playing there.
Whilst Liverpool didn’t take any points, they certainly gave City a scare. They also created from quick passes forwards on the counter to either get at the centre backs or in-behind in the full back zones to cross.
In City’s last Premier League game, they looked in control, but struggled to break down a deep-sitting Aston Villa side for 82 minutes. The Villains also had some excellent chances on the counter, with Kieran Richardson wasting the best of the lot.
City’s set up and style makes them susceptible to counter attacks, but you can also get through their defence if you time your runs.
On a counter or break, their centre backs will often retreat and use the edge of the penalty area as a guideline of when to stop and play offside if the man on the ball has his progress checked or cuts back inside. Just as they do here with Andreas Wiemann who is forced to stop his forward run by going back inside.
If you can get runners through the inside channels at the right moments, then they are susceptible to being caught out.
These are the kind of through balls that players like Erik Lamela are very good at making. His no-look pass against Nottingham Forest to Harry Kane was a prime example of this.
If we can break quickly against Man City, then getting runners through the inside channels to beat their defenders playing offside is a real possibility.
Man City vs Spurs outlook
We’ve not won or even taken a point at the Etihad since the famous 1-0 win that secured Champions League football in 2010.
Mauricio Pochettino has a decent record having one win, one draw and one loss in his three encounters with the Citizens. The positive results came in home fixtures, whilst the defeat was on his only trip to the Etihad, a 4-1 thumping.
With teams having success playing deep and compact, then looking to hit on the counter, I would expect us to go with a similar set up to what we did at the Emirates. A 4-4-2 with two banks of four sat deep to take away space between the lines and in-behind, whilst the two up top look to get out on the counter attack could be another good plan.
Nullifying City as long as possible is the order of the day; otherwise this could be another long afternoon!
Man City vs Spurs prediction: Man City 3 Spurs 1.