Tottenham tactics: Spurs vs Man City preview

After ten days without a match, we’re back to Premier League action this weekend with Spurs vs Man City at White Hart Lane.

Earlier in the season we succumbed 2-1 to The Citizens after taking the lead at the Etihad. Edin Dzeko, the serial scourge of Spurs in recent years, fired home David Silva’s excellently executed chipped pass with just three minutes left to play.

So what can we expect and what should be the Tottenham tactics for Spurs vs Man City this time?

Man City set up and style of play

Last season, Roberto Mancini set his team up in a 4-2-3-1, but this term we’ve seen him become the new ‘Tinker man.’

The Italian has experimented with three centre backs – a formation he switched to midway through Man City 2 Spurs 1 at the Etihad. He’s also gone with two strikers up front with one dropping off in a similar nature to Man Utd’s loose 4-4-2 formation. When Mario Balotelli was there, we saw him line up with Edin Dzeko and Carlos Tevez in a 4-3-3. However, in recent matches Mancini has reverted back to a 4-2-3-1, so we can probably expect to see Man City line-up that way again here.

Their style is very much to retain possession and move the ball through the formation with short, neat passing in to the final third. The key to their play is the in the double pivot of Gareth Barry and Yaya Toure. The Englishman mops up in front of the defence and moves the ball either quickly out to left back Gael Clichy or inside to the Ivorian. When Toure is in possession, he is equally adept in driving forward with ball at his feet as he is in delivering it to the attacking quartet in front of him.

Once those four have the ball, they can create chances from pretty much anywhere, but the most common form is via a through ball, as we’ll look in a minute.

Man City could well be without Sergio Aguero on Sunday after his recent run of excellent goal scoring form. More importantly, they could again be without David Silva, the chief orchestrator of their through ball passing and supplier of the winner when we played at the Etihad.

Without these two who have been in and out of the line-up for parts of the season, Carlos Tevez has been the most consistent performer. Whether he plays off the front or up top on his own, the Argentinean is a constant nuisance dropping deep and working the channels.

If we look at Man City’s last away match in the Premier League against Man Utd, we can see just that. Tevez moves very wide to receive possession when the ball is crossing halfway and midway inside the United half. Once it moves up to the final third, he is looking to receive the ball played in through both the inside left and right channels, something we have to be wary of here.


Carlos Tevez passes received, Man Utd vs Man City.

Even without Silva and Aguero, Man City have a number of weapons of which Carlos Tevez might be the most dangerous.

Spurs vs Man City chance creation

Man City have been extremely narrow this season. As a result, much of their chance creation has come from through balls.

If we look at their last away match in the Premier League, then we can see just this against Man Utd. James Milner opened the scoring from a short ball laid back in to his path by Samir Nasri. Sergio Aguero won the match after a fine run and shot, but the initial pass was played through to him by Yaya Toure.

A couple of games prior, away to Aston Villa, Man City created a vast number of chances, but the majority were again from through balls and short cutbacks inside the area.


Man City chances created against Man Utd and Aston Villa.

The Tottenham tactics for Spurs vs Man City need to work on slowing down the number of chances they can create through here.

The key is crowding the middle of the pitch. Wigan did a good job with their three centre backs in midweek, as did Everton with Darron Gibson and Leon Osman aided by their wide midfielders tucking in. Whilst we won’t play with three centre backs like the Latics, retaining extra midfielders in this area may be the way to stem the flow.

Press for success

Teams that have had success at home against Man City have pressed them high up the park.

Everton are a team that prefers to tackle and they engaged City early in possession during their recent 2-0 win at Goodison.

Southampton under Mauricio Pochettino are a side that pressure to force interceptions and did an excellent job in their 3-1 win at St. Mary’s. Note the high number of interceptions towards the left back zone, something to consider for when we look at where Man City concede chances next.


Everton and Southampton pressed Man CIty high up the pitch.

Man City concede chances from wide

Man City are strong in the middle with Vincent Kompany, Matija Nastasic and Joleon Lescott available to play centre back. However, they have been conceding most of their chances from wide areas this season. Pablo Zabaletta on the right has been more secure than Gael Clichy on the left – something Southampton targeted in their win.

The reason for this is that with the lack of width from their forward players, the full backs are trying to get up the pitch and so are vulnerable if possession is lost.

If we look at both the Everton and Southampton matches, we can see how chances were created from in behind both full back zones. Gael Clichy’s left back area was slightly more vulnerable than Zabaletta’s on the right.


Everton and Southampton chances created against Man City.

The Tottenham tactics for Spurs vs Man City here need to focus on moving the ball quickly wide to expose the areas behind the full backs.

The team news that Aaron Lennon is doubtful for the match will be a big blow if he is unable to play. Without the diminutive winger we’ve struggled for width as Clint Dempsey moves inside from that flank. If Gareth Bale is fit enough to play, we may do well to move him back to the left here in a 4-3-3. This would push Pablo Zabaletta back, whilst also allowing Bale to attack any space in behind.

Spurs vs Man City outlook

With us sat just outside the Champions League spots, it’s not an ideal time to be playing a resurgent Manchester City team. On the flip side, they could well be without Sergio Aguero and more importantly David Silva, which could see them struggle to slide in those balls through the channels.

In the match at the Etihad, they tried to play a number of longer balls to Aguero running in-behind our high line. We may see that ploy again here, with Tevez the target this time.


Man City 2 Spurs 1: City looked to get in behind the high Tottenham line.

What we have to do is press and break up City’s passing rhythm. Both Everton and Southampton have shown this to be successful in their recent victories on home soil and we must do the same.

With Zabaletta and Clichy pushing forward, chances will come through their full back zones. Depending on whether Gareth Bale and Aaron Lennon can play will have a huge impact on the outcome of this match. We’ll certainly lack the necessary width to take them on without them.

Spurs vs Man City could well be a very tight tactical encounter decided by the odd goal in three.

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

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6 Responses to Tottenham tactics: Spurs vs Man City preview

  1. hamid khan 19th April 2013 at 11:33 pm #

    Mark, top staff as usual. Can’t help but agree. Missing Lennon will be a blow (I shall not rant about Levy and Townsend here) as we are a team that play better with natural width. Only other factor as a bit of fatigue for man city, 3 games in 7 days, hopefully may take its toll if we press them all over the pitch. Oh what I would do for a fit Sandro! Head says your right, but heart, just, just retains a glimmer of hope……

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 20th April 2013 at 1:12 am #

      There is always a chance they’ll be tired, they didn’t look to be anywhere near top form against Wigan. It’s a shame the Latics were in also in an FA Cup Semi-Final at the weekend as well, so were probably also suffering a hangover from that. Motivation is also another factor with City in a limbo position – comfortably in second but no chance of finishing first.

  2. Chris 20th April 2013 at 1:10 am #

    Ick, horrible picture at the top – I’m sure I wasn’t the only one shouting for _someone_ to go close down Silva as he looked for an opportunity to play a ball into the box. Ahh well.

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 20th April 2013 at 1:34 am #

      Haha – a decent pic of Caulker’s goal was difficult to come by.

  3. lunarsea241 21st April 2013 at 4:28 pm #

    After the win: ‘We spoke at half-time about it,’ Bale said. ‘They don’t really play with wingers, they’re quite compact in the middle, so the gaffer said at half-time there was more room outside and it proved a good move.’

    I reckon this AVB fella should read your blog ;)

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 22nd April 2013 at 2:53 pm #

      Haha, thanks :)