Tottenham tactics: Spurs vs Man City preview

After what seems like the longest wait in Premier League history, tonight sees us return to action for Spurs vs Man City.

Much has changed since the mauling at the Etihad and we are now playing some good attacking football of our own.

This fixture is not only a serious test for the players, but one that will also push Tim Sherwood’s coaching abilities to the limit. So, what should we expect and what should be the Tottenham tactics for Spurs vs Man City this time?

Man City set up and style

Manuel Pellegrini lines his side up with two strikers and the intention is firmly on ball recovery and breaking forward quickly.

When in possession, City are looking to hit the front man early, which is usually Alvaro Negredo. This is often through a longer pass across the deck trying to find him in to feet as City looks to transition at pace.


Negredo holds the ball up before releasing Yaya Toure.

From here, they can get runners off him. This quite often sees Yaya Toure or Sergio Aguero bursting past looking for a through ball before the opposition’s midfield can recover.

If the opposition defence is back and City are slowed down, then play is recycled through moving it to David Silva and Jesus Navas. Silva drifts across the pitch looking to create overloads wherever he can. Navas operates as more of a traditional winger to stretch teams down the right.

The target is to then probe and look to play short through passes or to work the ball in-behind in wide areas for short pull backs or crosses. This involves Silva and Navas, but also brings both full backs in to play.

When they are out of possession, they press through their two strikers, looking to either force a turnover or a long kick downfield.

We saw this on our trip to the Etihad as Sergio Aguero and Alvaro Negredo looked to push up on Michael Dawson and Younes Kaboul.


Aguero and Negredo pressure Dawson and Kaboul.

This can often force a ball back to the keeper for a clearance, such as on City’s opener after 16 seconds, as Hugo Lloris shanked his kick straight to Aguero.

The system is designed to get the most out of City’s pace, whilst using the power of Negredo, Yaya Toure, Fernandinho and surprisingly Vincent Kompany. The centre back is a threat to instigate attacks by bursting forward with the ball as he moves out of defence.

Overall, the system of Pellegrini is very similar to that which Tim Sherwood has deployed when he has gone with two up top, as detailed in a recent post.

The dangerous Sergio Aguero

Of all Man City’s weapons, Sergio Aguero is the most fearsome and 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.

Against AVB’s high line, Aguero was always looking to run in to the space behind. However, here we could see him dropping between the lines, as that is where the gap is now. Tim Sherwood has set our centre backs up much deeper and seems to be prepared to give up the space in front of them and behind the midfield.

This may be a better tactic for Spurs vs Man City this time, as Aguero’s pace will see him outrun both Dawson and Chiriches if they push up.

Silva and Navas

Manuel Pellegrini uses his two flanks differently.

On the left he goes for a playmaker that drifts inside, but this gives license to his full back to burst past him on the overlap. On the right, he opts for a more conventional winger supported by a full back that often underlaps him.

David Silva is given almost a free role as he goes out in search of the ball, looking to create overloads wherever he can. This sees him pop up on either flank, as he makes the most of his drifting playmaker role.


David Silva passes received, Man City 4 Cardiff 2.

His job is to play through balls to either get team mates in through the central channels or he can often be found getting in behind to play short cut back passes.

He is such a difficult cover as he drifts across the whole pitch, meaning that one player cannot track him, as he’ll be simply dragged out of position. This then gives Aleksander Kolorov even more space as he fires forward from left back.

Jesus Navas on the other hand retains his width, as he looks to beat his man off the dribble and get in to crossing and pull back situations.


Jesus Navas passes received, Man City 4 Cardiff 2.

His combination play with Pablo Zabaleta has improved greatly as the season has gone on.

Earlier in the campaign, they just looked to be getting in each other’s way. This was simply because Navas needs space to execute his dribbles and Zabaleta was trying to bomb on. This ended up congesting the areas where Navas wanted to run. Now, Zabaleta is more restrained and calculated as to when he moves past the winger. He can often underlap him if Navas doesn’t look to take his marker on.

The Tottenham tactics for Spurs vs Man City will need to see us be aware of where David Silva is. Kyle Walker simply won’t be able to cover him across the pitch, so it will be a distinct test of our entire defence’s communication and ability to pick him up when he enters each player’s zone.

Jesus Navas is an easier cover in that he doesn’t drift, but Danny Rose will need some help to stop Zabaleta and Silva combining to get him in-behind.

If Tim Sherwood also goes 4-4-2 with Christian Eriksen drifting from the left as he has done, then Rose could well get overloaded as Jan Vertonghen did at the Etihad.


Man City chances created against us.

Man City creating chances

Man City creates chances in one of two ways.

Firstly, if they are able to transition quickly and move the ball to Negredo to get runners off him (as seen in the combination with Toure image at the top) then they will.

If this is not possible, then they will go in to their second phase of possession. This is to recycle the play across the pitch and look for through balls or to get in-behind in the full back areas for short crosses and cut backs.

Cardiff fell victim to both these methods in Man City’s last Premier League match.


Man City chances created against Cardiff.

In Man City’s last two away Premier League matches, both Swansea and Newcastle were caught by them getting in-behind in the full back zones.


Man City chances created against Swansea and Newcastle.

The Tottenham tactics for Spurs vs Man City need to see us slow down City’s quick transitions as they look to move the ball forward rapidly. This is something we failed to do at the Etihad and got punished.

In the second phase we need to congest the central areas by our midfield playing narrow. Then have the outside players shuttle out to help their full backs when the ball goes wide.

Interestingly, Hull’s three centre back system and wingbacks coped well with both phases of City’s attack earlier in the season.

Where Man City concede

Man City are extremely effective at playing their power game, but they are susceptible to conceding chances through their left back zone.

This is simply because David Silva drifts across the pitch. If the left back is caught motoring forward, then he can find it difficult to get back or can be left 2v1.

Cardiff scored a goal from here in City’s last Premier League match, but were also able to pelt the area with crosses. If they had a bigger target man than Frazier Campbell, then they may well have scored more.


Cardiff chances created and crosses against Man City.

Swansea also had some joy from getting in to crossing situations down the City left in their recent match at the Liberty. Whilst earlier in the season, Chelsea defeated Man City by fashioning opportunities through this zone.


Swansea crosses and Chelsea chances created against Man City.

The Tottenham tactics for Spurs vs Man City will see us prosper if we can get at the left side of City’s defence.

Aaron Lennon will be a key player if selected. He has the ability to get in-behind and in to crossing situations, but all too often can go missing in the big matches.

Spurs vs Man City outlook

This will be the toughest test yet for Tim Sherwood during his short time in the coach’s hot seat.

He says we have nothing to fear and will look to “attack them in areas they’ve not been attacked in a long time.”

This could well suggest that we’ll see a return to the twin striker approach with Adebayor and Soldado up top and a very open game.

Spurs vs Man City prediction: Spurs 3 Man City 2.

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