Tottenham tactics: Man City vs Spurs opposition scouting report

A return to action in the Premier League sees us embark on a tough away trip to the Etihad for Man City vs Spurs.

After qualifying for the Champions League there in 2010, we’ve failed to come away with a point on any of our subsequent trips.

Those were against Roberto Mancini’s teams, but the Citizens have installed a new manager this season in Manuel Pellegrini. So what can expect from his new-look side and what should be the Tottenham tactics for Man City vs Spurs this time?

Man City set up and style

At home, Manuel Pellegrini likes to set his side up in a 4-4-2 formation, with the intention firmly on ball retention and recycling play. This is done to attack the opposition through exposing the space in-behind or through a defence with short, neat passing.

He deploys a back four where both full backs like to get forward. In front of them Fernandinho and Yaya Toure act as a screen to clog the central areas and win possession back. They are always available for a pass when City have the play and keep the ball moving, typically trying to shift it to the wide positions.

The choice of his wide midfielders usually dictates how Pellegrini wants to control the match. In order to overload the centre he’ll go with Nasri and Milner, as both play narrow. If he wants to stretch teams and use a player to get in-behind to fire or whip in crosses then he’ll go with Navas.

As we’ll look at in a minute, their goal is to play in Sergio Aguero and Alvaro Negredo with either short crosses or through balls down the channels.

Sergio Aguero

City’s biggest threat is enjoying a fantastic season in Pellegrini’s system and Sergio Aguero can hurt teams in different ways.

He can play slightly deeper and look to link the play, then arrive later in the attack, often unmarked, as he did to score twice against Man Utd.

Or, he is deployed up top with Negredo to burst past the Spanish striker and attack the space in-behind with his pace, just as he did against Everton.


Sergio Aguero passes received against Man Utd and Everton.

In both roles, he really does stretch teams with his lateral movement, often coming out wide to receive the ball during the build-up play. This gives the opposition centre backs a problem as to whether to track him or pass him on.

With our high line, we’ll probably see the Aguero who bursts past Negredo to attack the space in-behind. This was something we saw in Man City vs Spurs last season when they, and Aguero, were frequently caught offside.

That was under the orders of Roberto Mancini, but doing this against us this season is no secret with most teams playing this way against us.

Aguero could well be in a personal duel with Hugo Lloris racing from his line on Sunday afternoon.

Narrow or Navas?

As highlighted above, City are very narrow when they deploy Samir Nasri and James Milner in the wide positions. This would indicate that Manuel Pellegrini wants to overload and gain control in central areas.

He went with this pair away at Sunderland last weekend.

Samir Nasri moving inside from his starting position on the left was a key feature of the game. As was James Miner doing the same from the right until the introduction of Jesus Navas on that side.

Nasri received a whopping 102 passes spread across the entire pitch. However. he only took the ball in-behind the full back after the introduction of Jesus Navas and Nasri had moved over to double up with the Spaniard down the right.


Samir Nasri passes received: Man City vs Sunderland.

Pellegrini had introduced Navas with City requiring a goal, Sunderland sitting deep and his team lacking any width whilst being stifled in the centre. The Spaniard immediately stretched the Black Cats defence, putting in several good crosses – both low and high – as City searched for an equaliser.


Jesus Navas passes received: Man City vs Sunderland.

Whether Pellegrini goes with Navas or Milner on the right will signify his intentions of which areas he is looking to control. Nasri’s wandering inside from the left could cause headaches for Kyle Walker, who does have problems picking up ‘indirect opponents’ that drift in to central areas.

On the flip side, Gus Poyet’s 4-3-3 caused City Problems all game with his three central midfielders giving Sunderland a foothold in the middle of the park.

The Tottenham tactics for Man City vs Spurs here could well see AVB go with a powerful central trio as well. As we saw earlier in the season, Sandro, Moussa Dembele and Paulinho would offer this, but they also don’t offer as much creativity going forward.

How Man City create chances

Man City are a similar beast to us in that they are looking to hit a runner either through the inside channels or to get in to short crossing or pull back situations.

The difference is that the Citizens are extremely effective at maintaining possession and recycling the ball as they move it much quicker in the final third. Firstly due to the nature of their players having a better understanding having played together for a while. Secondly, as they have two strikers to aim for, this stretches out the opposition’s back four and creates more space.

In their last two matches they have beaten opponents with each method of creating and scoring.

Against Everton they went through the inside channels with passes to hit a runner directly.


Man City chances from open play against Everton.

In the 7-0 detonation of Norwich in their last home Premier League match, City combined the through balls with the short cut backs and crosses once inside the area. Three of their goals came from this method.


Man City chances from open play against Norwich.

The Tottenham tactics for Spurs vs Man City here needs to see us try and defend this attacking method that is very familiar to us. The Citizens have scored the most goals in the Premier League at home this season and so far the only team to stop them at the Etihad were Bayern Munich in the Champions League.

Pep Guardiola’s men that night deployed a 4-3-3 formation that pressed City high up when not in possession. Along with that, Philipp Lahm was dropping from his berth at the base of midfield to create a back three as the full backs jetted forward. This allowed Bayern to have 3v2 against City’s strike force, but also an extra man in the centre of midfield as Lahm moved back and forth between the lines to control the game.

The Tottenham tactics for Man City vs Spurs might see us do something similar with Sandro. This would allow us to get forward in wide areas, a zone in which Man City can be exposed, which is what we’ll look at next.

Where Man City concede chances

As alluded to above, and how we beat them 3-1 at the Lane last season, Man City can be exposed through the full back areas, particularly the left back zone. Both the slightly more reliable Gael Clichy and the less sure Alexander Kolorov have played here but both can be beaten.

The only two teams to score at the Etihad in the Premier League have had success through here.

Manchester United were thumped 4-1 by City, but did create their chances through Alexander Kolorov’s left back zone. Everton were also beaten, but again fashioned their opportunities and goal through here.


Man Utd and Evrton chances created at the Etihad against Man City.

The Tottenham tactics for Man City vs Spurs here should see us also attack this zone. The more touchline hugging Aaron Lennon may be a better choice than the infield cutting Andros Townsend on this occasion.

Man City vs Spurs outlook

This will be a difficult trip to a side that are on fire at home.

We can expect Sergio Aguero will be looking to run in-behind our high line. Manuel Pellegrini’s choice of wide players will show whether he wants control in the centre or to stretch and attack down the right through Jesus Navas.

We may do well to follow Bayern’s example and press Man City early, whilst deploying a player like Sandro to move between the lines of defence and midfield.

Attacking the left back zone will be key to any success going forward, but we may just come up short like last season.

Man City vs Spurs prediction: Man City 2 Spurs 1.

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