Son Heung-Min scores to make it Man City 2-2 Spurs in the Premier League match at the Etihad Stadium.

Man City 2-2 Spurs: resilience, reshuffle and right-sided raids

A resilient performance sees us reshuffle the pack then attack down the right to finish Man City 2-2 Spurs at the Etihad.

Resilience is a key trait of our team under Mauricio Pochettino. In seasons past we would’ve folded. This Tottenham team has a bend but don’t break mentality. The pack had to be reshuffled several times. However, fighting back from two goals down to finish Man City 2-2 Spurs showed the mental toughness that Pochettino often refers to us building.

The game revolved around Pep Guardiola’s aggressive selection and our ability to respond to it. The Man City coach went with an extremely attacking 4-3-3 that saw Yaya Toure as a holding midfielder. Ahead of him it was all about speed and guile. Kevin de Bruyne and David Silva provided the crafty through balls. The fleet of foot Raheem Sterling, Leroy Sane and Sergio Aguero the pace. They used this not only with ball, but also to cause us tremendous problems without it.

Man City pressing

Guardiola paid us an enormous compliment after the game. He said that Tottenham were the best team in the Premier League if allowed to play freely. Guardiola obviously didn’t want to let that happen so swarmed us every time we got the ball. He used his front three to match up on our three centre backs and closed them quickly.

Guardiola not only wanted us to stop playing the ball out from the back, but also sent in a wave behind. Yaya Toure backed up Silva and De Bruyne, as the trio compressed any space in the middle of the park.

The objective was to restrict us from playing through to Dele Alli and Christian Eriksen. Our two number tens have overrun teams between the lines recently, seeing us beat Chelsea and West Brom. Man City wanted to stop this by overloading Mousa Dembele and Victor Wanyama. They fought manfully to be fair. Dembele went on several mazy runs, evading three or four challenges, but the press was ferocious. So much so, that Eric Dier was moved in to help after 20 minutes as we shifted to a back four.

Most interestingly was their harassment of Hugo Lloris. Pep is no stranger to a keeper’s ability to kick having shunned Joe Hart for this reason. Man City sought to restrict and close down Lloris at every opportunity to force him in to kicking errors. This saw him shank and miss hit a few, giving the ball away in our half or for throws.

Kevin Wimmer exposed

Kevin Wimmer was in for the injured Jan Vertonghen and he was clearly targeted.

Wimmer has struggled in a back three. At Arsenal in our 1-1 draw, his positioning was errant, movement slow and tackling often reckless. He picked up an early yellow card at the Emirates and did the same here, then almost picked up a second.

Man City were clearly after him as they tried to steal Pablo Zabaleta in to the spaces off and around him. Danny Rose was occupied by the wide forward on the right, allowing Zabaleta to pop up in surprising positions around Wimmer. It saw Zabaleta gain several chances to score, but his finishing was off.

Balls over the top

Man City have two methods of chance creation. The first is from through balls in to the penalty area that leads to shots or a position to cut the ball back or play a short cross. The second is from the early ball over the top of a high line.

We were conceding chances from both, but the ball over the top was causing us real issues. The problem was not only Man City’s speed, but also their use of players in offside positions to stretch the playing area. Aguero, Sane and Sterling would station themselves in inactive offside positions. They would then suddenly turn and steal in once the ball had gone through down another channel.

It was very prevalent in the first half, particularly from Sergio Aguero. It would also be a factor on their opener.

Man City takes the lead

This tactic of having players loitering in offside positions to stretch our back line worked for Man City on their opener. It ended up being a gift from Hugo Lloris, as he fluffed a headed clearance. However, Sterling and Aguero stretched the left side of our back line deeper through their positioning. This allowed Sane to run past Kyle Walker, with Danny Rose playing him onside across the field.

Sterling and Aguero gain an advantage as pass goes to Sane to score during Man City 2-2 Spurs in the Premier League.

Sterling and Aguero gain an advantage as pass goes to Sane.

As soon as the pass went from Kevin de Bruyne, City not only had Sane running, but also Aguero and Sterling. The latter pair had now gained an advantage on our back line through a better starting position and would now be onside.

Hugo raced from his line and it looked as if he could’ve punched the ball at the edge of his box. He took no chances though and went for the header. It barely grazed his head, glancing the ball on to Sane’s arm and dropping perfectly for the forward to tap in, Man City 1-0 Spurs.

They continued with this tactic of loitering players in offside positions, creating other chances. The biggest of these was for Raheem Sterling. Kyle Walker pushed him in the back as he raced through, putting him off enough to shank the shot. Referee Andre Marriner gave nothing and Walker breathed a sigh of relief as Guardiola went ballistic on the sidelines.

No straight camera angle on the TV replays made it tough to tell whether Sterling was off or onside? What wasn’t in doubt was that Aguero and Sane were in offside positions to try and stretch our backline as Aleksander Kolorov stepped forward with the ball.

Aguero, Sterling and Sane start offside to get back onside during Man City 2-2 Spurs in the Premier League.

Aguero, Sterling and Sane start offside to get back onside.

Hugo slips up

Hugo Lloris has saved us countless times, but he had a shocker here. Man City’s press was targeting his kicking, which was often wayward. His poor attempted clearance had gifted them the first goal. He then went on to fumble the ball at the feet of Kevin de Bruyne to make it Man City 2-0 Spurs. We’d dug ourselves in to a huge hole, most of it of our own making.

Spurs right-sided raids

At 2-0 Man City began to tire. Their relentless press had clearly taken its toll and having the advantage on the scoreboard they dropped off. This saw them start to concede more space, especially between the lines with Yaya Toure as their defensive midfielder. Combine this with Aleksander Kolorov at left centre back and they were in trouble. It saw us open up the spaces and score twice from the right.

Our twin number tens of Christian Eriksen and Dele Alli have burst in to form since going three at the back. The new formation allows them to overload opposition defences between the lines and the pair now had more space to operate.

We got back in to the game through just this. Man City dropped off, affording both Alli and Eriksen to get in between the lines. Toure, Silva and de Bruyne were caught, meaning the Man City centre backs were pulled out.

Alli and Eriksen get between the lines to create Dele's goal during Man City 2-2 Spurs at the Etihad Stadium.

Alli and Eriksen get between the lines to create Dele’s goal.

Nicolas Otamendi was dragged towards Dele Alli and was now out of position. Aleksander Kolorov was caught watching the pass drift out to Kyle Walker, unaware of Alli and Eriksen racing in to the space behind him.

Kyle Walker was in acres on the right with everyone inside being drawn towards the ball. He once more delivered a pinpoint cross for Dele Alli to swoop in for another decisive header at the back post, 2-1.

With the tide turning, we had to make another switch. Toby Alderweireld, supplier of the initial pass to Dele Alli for our first goal, had to come off. Harry Winks replaced him and he started to dictate the midfield with Man City now conceding space.

Sterling was denied a penalty and then seconds later we were level. Once again, Man City failed to pick up Dele Alli and Christian Eriksen between the lines. They also, surprisingly left Harry Kane unattended between their centre backs.

Alli and Eriksen between the lines once more create a goal for Son Heung-Min to make it Man City 2-2 Spurs at the Etihad Stadium.

Alli and Eriksen between the lines once more.

The ball went to Eriksen who had been floating in space towards the right. This drew Aleksander Kolorov out from his centre back position and Gael Clichy across. Kane was free to now flick the ball around the corner for the arriving Son Heung-Min to sweep home. Suddenly, from a position of nowhere, it was Man City 2-2 Spurs.

Eriksen drifts to find Kane free and Son to score to make it Man City 2-2 Spurs at the Etihad Stadium.

Eriksen drifts to find Kane free and Son to score.

We looked to have the upper hand, but Man City almost took the three points at the death. Gabriel Jesus slid home Kevin de Bruyne’s short cross to the back post, but was offside. By the skin of our teeth a point had been preserved.

Man City 2-2 Spurs overall

A resilient and fighting performance to somehow take a draw from what should’ve been a Man City win. Once more we struggled against a team that pressed us high and quickly. Liverpool are the other team that has given us problems with the speed of their press, but even Bournemouth have adopted this practice to unsettle us. It’s a problem we still need answers for.

Given how much Mauricio Pochettino had to reshuffle, the result was even more impressive. He was quick to address the fact that our back three wasn’t working and to move Eric Dier in to midfield. He was also quick to hook Kevin Wimmer at half time. Pochettino then had to deal with the loss of Toby Alderweireld and we finished with a makeshift centre back pairing of Dier and Wanyama.

A good result given the context. For all of Man City’s troubles, they have been strong at home. Only Chelsea has won in the Premier League at the Etihad this season. That was with good fortune as Man City should’ve been 2-0 ahead had Kevin de Bruyne not missed an open goal.

It was a performance that highlighted this group’s resolve under Mauricio Pochettino. Had Hugo not had an off day, then who knows what might have been?

Final score: Man City 2-2 Spurs.
Spurs MOTM: Victor Wanyama.

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12 Responses to Man City 2-2 Spurs: resilience, reshuffle and right-sided raids

  1. David 22nd January 2017 at 5:22 pm #

    I recently told a friend of mine that the one thing I like about us this season was that we weren’t getting beaten that easly, not rolling over for teams

    I’d like to think that City lined up in a 4141 formation, the 4 behind Aguero really gave us problems, it was full of pace, and disrupted our play from the back. That we got away with a point given the circumstances was a miracle in itself. two shots on target, two goals… clinical when we needed it.

    Lloris is human too, can’t blame him too much. Wimmer was nervous abit given the magnitude of the game, and the pace of it, I still rate him. Rose and Walks as you said didn’t get their usual space. loved how Wanyama sliped into defence and holding his own. Elsewhere on the pitch, we tried our best.

    Almost lost my voice, never screamed so much for a draw, and even more when I realised after about 20 seconds that Jesus goal was offside.

    On to the next one.

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 22nd January 2017 at 6:03 pm #

      Two goals from two shots on target is clinical. Anything on target beats Bravo who is an exceptionally poor keeper. I was surprised we didn’t try and shoot on sight more.

      Agree that Wimmer is decent, but I think he has his uses ie mainly against teams with height or that attack aerially e.g. West Ham or Boro.

      Wanyama is really proving himself to be mr. versatility!

  2. shubes 22nd January 2017 at 5:52 pm #

    How do you feel we should deal with sides that look to press us?

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 22nd January 2017 at 6:18 pm #

      It depends on how they press. If the try to hem in by the sideline then I’d like to see us switch the ball more and send it across the field in one pass.

      Against other teams I’d like to see us go long from back to front. We have Alli and Kane who can win aerial duels. We also have the option of Janssen who is an excellent hold up player. It doesn’t have to mean route one though. Long balls can be struck in to space for quicker players to scamper after. Players like Sissoko have speed and height, so are an option. He is also physically strong and quite press resistant when on the deck.

      We’re not in a bad position in that we’re being bullied by pressing sides, but I feel we need to be more savvy against them, especially with a return vs Liverpool coming up.

  3. Matt 22nd January 2017 at 6:07 pm #

    Great insight Mark, and it provides an important perspective. Yes we rode our luck (and we had more than City) however even then that point had to be earned through flexibility in formation, mental resilience and two excellent goals. Against city playing well luck isn’t enough. If Toby is fit for our next premier game this will look like a decent weekend for us.

    That said, people are going to notice how we struggle under the press, including Hugo and you’re right we need a solution. I favour us starting with a 3 at the back still and I’d have gone with Davies personally, Wimmer needs a 4.

    One last reflection, I read today Wanyama actually only cost 9m, for me at 9 or 11m he’s been a remarkable signing.

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 22nd January 2017 at 8:26 pm #

      Great comment, Matt. Yes Wanyama has been brilliant. He is a ball recovery machine and has stepped up his game this season. His forward passing remains limited, but that is masked in the 3 centre back formation as it’s not needed. Dembele can run the ball forward and he has Dier and Alderweireld behind who can distribute the ball, so Wanyama can do what he does best.
      I’d have gone for Davies also. His experience would’ve been better in this type of game. He also is better on the deck which is how City attack. Wimmer I’d include against aerial teams, but I’d go Davies against technical ones.

      Toby is the big concern. If he misses more time then without him and Jan we are in trouble!

  4. Bretto 23rd January 2017 at 12:23 am #

    Great analysis Mark. Thanks. I was very surprised at how well we held up. A few years back it would have been another 4-0 or 6-0 drubbing. That is a testament to Pochettino and this team.
    I was also interested to see how much trust Pochettino has in Winks. I get the feeling that he is now Dembele’s replacement for the future. Holds onto the ball, not a great dribbler but does not get dispossessed and is very forward looking with his passing. I hope he can get a little more bulk in the next few years as he looks to be turning into a mini-Moussa!
    My biggest worry is that Toby will be out for a while. He is not only a good centre-back but reads the play and organises the back line. You can see when he is not in, that they sometimes look like headless chickens at the back.
    I also noticed that Otamendi was very, very physical at the back. It would be good to have a big bruiser to come on and occupy the centre-backs which would then free up Kane – like Poch used to do with Lambert at Saints.

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 23rd January 2017 at 10:24 am #

      Good points, Bretto. Yes Poch does trust Winks and continually brings him on for Mousa. I’m not sure how much this has to do with Winks being moulded for the role? Mousa’s dodgy hip not allowing him to play the full 90? a tactical change from a ball carrier to a passer? Or if it’s a combination of all 3?

      Otamendi is a physical centre back and a front foot defender that goes for the ball at the earliest opportunity. It can see him being a bit rash or impetuous but it seems to be the way they coach them in Argentina. Poch seems to coach our lot that way too.

      I would like to see Poch sometimes introduce a hold up player, specifically Janssen. I’d like to see him try Kane and Janssen in a 3-5-2 but so far we’ve only seen them in a 4-2-3-1 with Kane as a number ten. Poch used to use Dani Osvaldo like this behind Lambert, but I’d like to think there is something in going two up top, rather than playing one of them withdrawn.

  5. Toby4eva 23rd January 2017 at 9:40 pm #

    Not much to add guys – great read again Mark and astute responses.

    The key here was the result of course. I lapsed into “old-think” at 0-2 but my son remained philosophical. He has massive faith in Poch and this squad – my job as a father is done!

    At one stage the commentator simply intoned… “Toure, De Bruyne, Silva, Aguerro….”

    Gee they ooze class – and when in the groove they are pretty to watch.

    De Bruyne is special.

    It was unthinkable in previous years that we would have gotten out of there with a point. Yes we were fortunate with the penalty non-call, but fired straight back.

    The highlight of the game for me was Dele’s magnificently timed run and finish.

    Jury out on Wimmer – it will be interesting to see if he goes the way of Townsend and Chadli with Poch after that performance.

    We have to remember that he did an admirable job last year so there are coins in the bank.

    Toby will be ok I’d suggest – that was a smart call to come off when he felt a twinge.

    He will be at Anfield.

    Wanyama was sublime – I think we can be pretty comfortable that he can cover for Toby when (hopefully not) needed.

    Our captain eventually had to have a shocker for us. Who on earth made the call for him to wear a RED shirt?

    Never again!!!

    Looking forward, we can expect six from our next two.

    Chelsea have a big back to back next week that will decide the title.

    I think they have it wrapped up – but if we can average two points per game from here on in – we will be back in the Champions League later this year.


    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 24th January 2017 at 10:53 am #

      Yes this game definitely shows how far we’ve come. Wimmer has done well for us, albeit in a centre back pair, something about a three that just seems to throw him. These big games, especially against a team that has fast player movement, are just a bit beyond his level at the minute. Maybe he’ll get there, but thats twice he’s struggled against teams that use quick darting player movements – Arsenal and Man City – as opposed to physical power. He needs more experience, as centre backs generally mature later, which he’ll get playing the likes of Boro etc. I’m not concerned just yet and i’d def keep him, but i’d use Davies in these type of matches eg Liverpool away coming up.

  6. ashley collie 24th January 2017 at 5:32 am #

    Mark, some Qs. How would you combat the tactical strategy Pep tried — having players loitering in offside positions to stretch our back line — ??? BTW, Spurs use a lot of that quick one touch out of a press in training from videos, so they’re practicing for it. Let’s see if they try that cross-field pass or even more of the high ball to Harry and Dele. Also with Hugo, a superior goaltender, but he must be practicing kicks out of the press as well, right? Does Vorm seem to do it better, and if so, why not learn from him? Thanks mate for the time given to providing these insights. Cheers, Ashley!

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 24th January 2017 at 11:06 am #

      Hi Ashley. Some good questions. There isn’t much you can do other than drill the back line to move as a unit – whether this is to push up or drop in this situation. You can see from the graphic on the Leroy Sane goal how our line gets skewed with Rose much deeper than Walker. It’s just about having the whole unit push up or drop. It’s difficult to defend against as it creates concern, especially when the player in question is a lethal scorer such as Aguero.

      We do practice the passing out of a press and it does work – see our fourth goal against West Brom. However, that is West brom and this is a much more mobile press. I think we need to recognise the situation more and when to play out and when to switch or send it long. Ironically, there was a situation about 1 minute in where we are starting to be pressed and Alderweireld pings a long diagonal out to Rose. I thought it bode well that we’d recognised where the space was at the time, but this was the only occassion that it happened. We just got sucked in and started to make some awful turnovers.

      I can’t imagine why he wouldn’t be practising playing with the ball at his feet. It seems absurd that any Premier League goalkeeper wouldn’t be. You can see Hugo go through his checks when he has time on the ball. First one is to centre backs square. If they are marked he immediately looks for the chipped ball over the initial pressers to the full backs out on the flanks. If they are covered he looks for the short one in to Wanyama or Dembele. Failing that he goes long for Kane.
      But the long one is always a last resort.

      Vorm is much better with the ball at his feet and its why we picked him up in the Gylfi Sigurdsson deal. Interestingly, Pau Lopez also looks handy with the ball at his feet too, but i’m not sure if we’ll ever see him before his loan ends. Hugo could learn from Vorm, but its more about improving himself.