Hugo Lloris saves a shot during Man City 3-0 Spurs in the International Champions Cup match in Nashville, Tennessee.

Man City 3-0 Spurs: lesson in possession

Owning the ball and dictating the tempo saw a one-sided score of Man City 3-0 Spurs in our International Champions Cup match.

Central to both Pep Guardiola and Mauricio Pochettino’s footballing philosophies is ownership and control of the ball. The Manchester City boss was so determined to dictate the play that his team suffocated Spurs and recycled possession with ruthless efficiency. The game ended Man City 3-0 Spurs as Guardiola laid down a marker for the new season.

Spurs shape

Both managers lined up their teams in interesting shapes. Pep Guardiola stepped away from his famed 4-3-3 and went 3-5-2. Mauricio Pochettino opted for a 4-3-3 formation as he sought to combine Eric Dier, Mousa Dembele and Harry Winks in a midfield trio.

Mauricio Pochettino 4-3-3 formation during Man City 3-0 Spurs.

Mauricio Pochettino 4-3-3 formation.

Dembele and Winks played ahead of Dier as almost twin number eights. The objective for their distribution appeared to be to attack the Manchester City left side.

To achieve this aim, the ball was often moved out to Kieran Trippier for him to attempt crosses towards Harry Kane and Dele Alli in the box. Equally, Christian Eriksen was buzzing around the inside right channel looking to play through balls. Eriksen’s pass to release Harry Kane for a glorious 1v1 against the Man City keeper on the stroke of half time summed up his play perfectly.

Man City pressing

It’s a given that Pep Guardiola teams will press the life out of the opposition. Man City was no different here. The Citizens used their 3-5-2 shape extremely effectively to maximise their abundance of speed and guile.

Speedy twin strikers could press our centre backs, supported by rapid wingbacks pushing up from wide. This quartet of players gave our defence little time on the ball.

If Man City didn’t recover possession in their initial closing down, they would force a backwards pass. This created the opportunity for someone else to move in and press. Frequent turnovers were caused as we tried to continually play out from the back, often needlessly inviting more pressure.

Rushed and poor passes became the order of the first half, along with regular kicking errors from Hugo Lloris. Our goalkeeper does many things well, but accurate distribution when under pressure continues to be a weakness.

Man City takes the lead

Inside the vortex of relentless pressing, David Silva and Kevin de Bruyne were the guile that fashioned the chances. The duo were able to play balls through the inside channels or release wingbacks Kyle Walker and Danilo down the outsides.

Pressing, along with the use of Kyle Walker’s leaping ability and the quick-feet of David Silva fashioned Man City’s opener. Regaining possession from our throw in, play ended up with Nicolas Otamendi. He wasted no time to swing a long ball out for Kyle Walker. Using his spring against the less athletic Ben Davies, Walker could nod the ball down for David Silva to burst on to.

Silva’s slightness meant that as Mousa Dembele recovered, the sheer force of the Belgian sent the Spaniard toppling over to win a free kick. The move was very Spurs. You could almost see Toby Alderweireld playing the initial raking pass for Kyle Walker’s leap and Christian Eriksen bursting on to it last season. Pep has been watching.

Kevin de Bruyne sent in the resulting free kick. An unfortunate flick off the head of Christian Eriksen saw the ball drop invitingly for John Stones to head in to the corner of the net. Similarly to PSG, Tottenham were behind early once again.

Spurs long ball

Spurs persistence with trying to play out through the Man City press was becoming increasingly futile. When we did play the long ball to simply go over multiple layers of it, we troubled and turned the Citizens’ defenders.

Both Dele Alli and Harry Kane are more than capable in the air. The pairing did win a healthy share of any long kicks out. However, it was a ball across the turf that presented our best chance of the half. Jan Vertonghen pinging a first-time pass straight up to the feet of Harry Kane, dissecting two layers of Man City pressure.

Kane laid the ball off to Christian Eriksen. The Dane immediately dinked it through the opening for Kane to run on to. However, one-on-one against the Man City Keeper, Kane lifted his shot too high. It whistled just over the crossbar, a huge moment in the balance of the game.

Strategic switches

The match followed this similar pattern until each manger made changes.

At half time, Michel Vorm was introduced for Hugo Lloris. This could have been to give Vorm 45 minutes of action. However, being the only change, hinted that Pochettino wanted a better player with the ball at his feet under pressure.

On the hour Pep Guardiola also started to make his changes. Samir Nasri became the pivotal and most influential of them, as he began to pull the strings.

Samir Nasri pulls the strings

Shipped out on loan by Pep last season, and with his Arsenal heritage, Samir Nasri played with a point to prove. The Frenchman replaced Kevin de Bruyne and his through passing unlocked a tiring Tottenham defence.

Nasri was constantly looking for the runs of Sergio Aguero and Raheem Sterling in-behind our high back line. He started a move that saw Aguero ping a shot off the base of the post. Nasri then released Kyle Walker to fizz a dangerous cross right through our six-yard box.

Nasri’s introduction also coincided with Mauricio Pochettino’s shift in shape. The boss had gone to a back three himself, but with the introduction of Georges-Kevin Nkoudou, moved Ben Davies to left centre back. Nasri seemed to pick on this pair to increase Man City’s lead.

Raheem Sterling doubled City’s advantage by running beyond the slow to recognise Nkoudou. Ben Davies was then no match to stay with Sterling, as he ran on to Nasri’s through ball to scuff home, wrong footing Michel Vorm in the process.

Samir Nasri releases Raheem Sterling to score during Man City 3-0 Spurs in the International Champions Cup match.

Samir Nasri releases Raheem Sterling to score.

Nasri then ensured the game was wrapped up at Man City 3-0 Spurs as he set himself up against Nkoudou and Davies once more. Drawing the pair in, Nasri laid the ball perfectly for Demeaco Duhaney to run on to. Duhaney squared and after a series of shots, Brahim Diaz had the easiest of finishes.

Samir Nasri plays in Demeaco Duhaney during Man City 3-0 Spurs.

Samir Nasri plays in Demeaco Duhaney.

Kane and Janssen

The introduction of Vincent Janssen indicated that Mauricio Pochettino was trying to solve the problems Man City had posed through their pressing and possession. Usually a replacement for Harry Kane, the pair played together in a 3-5-2 with some initial signs of success.

With Kane and Janssen up top, Spurs started to gain traction from long balls up to them. These overcame the Man City press and used their considerable size and aerial strength.

Vincent Janssen saw two good chances come his way. The first was from a long Eric Dier pass. Janssen just stumbled, prompting a moment of indecisiveness as Ederson Moraes slid out. As a result, Janssen neither took the ball round the keeper nor dinked it over him, wasting the opportunity.

Ben Davies would play the next pass that Janssen took well out of the air. Flicking the ball over the keeper as he spun towards goal, Janssen was in. However, a recovering dive by the goalie saw him fist the ball away for a corner.

Davies goes long to beat the presssure to find Janssen during Man City 3-0 Spurs.

Davies goes long to beat the presssure to find Janssen.

The pairing of Kane and Janssen definitely had an effect against Guardiola’s set up. They couldn’t impact the scoreboard though. The match ended Man City 3-0 Spurs to conclude our USA International Champions Cup Tour.

Man City 3-0 Spurs overall

Much of this game was controlled by Man City’s ultra fast pressing and recycling of possession. At times Spurs struggled to get out by continually trying to play through the waves of pressure rather than take the easy option of going long. This was admirable, but ultimately futile.

Switching to a 3-5-2 and moving the ball much quicker over distance to Kane and Janssen definitely unsettled Man City’s back line. It’s difficult to assess its true impact, as at this point a number of substitutions had been made. However, having experienced a tidal wave of pressing at the Etihad and struggling against similar teams such as Liverpool last season, it did show that Mauricio Pochettino is still searching for answers.

Final score: Man City 3-0 Spurs.

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18 Responses to Man City 3-0 Spurs: lesson in possession

  1. anotherwisemonkey 30th July 2017 at 6:22 pm #

    Great write-up, Mark.

    I’m concerned that we’ve conceded a number of goals this summer by teams exploiting the space behind our high defensive line. We were punished for this at Wembley last year, and I consequently had expected Poch to explore playing a lower-block during this tour with an eye to employing that method against top teams at Wembley. This has not happened, and I’m concerned we are going to stick with our philosophy to our detriment. Are there other ways of overcoming this issue?

    Walker showed us what we will miss next season, and what a good weapon he is for City. I rate Trippier, but he does not have the dynamic athleticism of Walker.

    I’m concerned that Lloris’ poor distribution is now common knowledge and teams are exploiting this. Do you think Poch could play Vorm against high-pressing teams to combat this problem?

    I know pre-season games mean little in terms of form, but the manner in which we are conceding goals is alarmin, given our tenure at expansive Wembley next season. If we were at the Lane, I wouldn’t be half so anxious.

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 30th July 2017 at 7:13 pm #

      Good points Anotherwisemonkey. Yes our high line has been exploited. It comes down to two factors for me. Firstly, fitness. We’re in preseason and some of the lads have only been back 14 days so are not in match shape. Secondly, opponents have got much faster. Teams like City have added a ton of speed – Walker and Danilo are rapid. Sterling, Gabriel and Aguero are no slouches.

      We do also need to adjust field position. I’d like to see us play slightly deeper against teams like City and Liverpool and hit them with more long counter attack balls. I think 3-5-2 with Kane and Janssen is the answer. Go long to them and work off the knockdowns. Then we have wingbacks to deliver crosses and Eriksen for through balls. Both strikers are capable of bullying central defenders, which should force these aggressive pressing teams back, especially as, Vincent Kompany aside, City and Liverpool’s centre backs aren’t that good at defending! So we should force them to defend rather than letting them push up and camp on the halfway line.

      Trippier doesn’t have Walker’s athleticism, but Kyle Walker-Peters does, and he can cross. I really think Trippier is a stopgap for 1 season while KWP gets used to playing at this level.

      As for Hugo, I can’t see Poch dropping him as he’s the captain. Also, the issue with Vorm is that he’s not a great shot stopper, so what is gained in distribution is lost in everything else. Hugo does need to work on his kicking under pressure, but it looks like it’s something that will always haunt him.

  2. Peter 30th July 2017 at 8:21 pm #

    A 3 men midfield with Dembélé, Winks and Dier doesn’t work. They even weren’t good enough at KAA Gent in the EL… For some reason there isn’t any balance, direction or leadership in it. We need a player like Kovacic or Barkley in CM (Barkley would also be a backup for Eriksen as CAM). And pace everywhere: striker, wingers and full backs… At Wembley we should play with 3 CB all the time…

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 30th July 2017 at 10:10 pm #

      It would be good to know if Poch was playing that trio because he thought it’d work against City or if he was playing them solely for game minutes under their belts?

      I’m not sure we’ll sign too many. A back up or alternative to Eriksen is required. Other than that I really see youth getting its chance. Maybe Poch knows we’ll not get the necessary points at Wembley to challenge for the title and so will use this season to blood the youngsters so they are ready for the new stadium.

  3. Peter 30th July 2017 at 10:53 pm #

    Interesting point of view about the season at Wembley… I wouldn’t mind, just hope we get in the top 4 to keep our star players. Or have a good CL campaign… The more I think about, the more I’m convinced we will sign Barkley: transformable into a CM, possible back up for Eriksen as CAM, 1 year of his contract left (Levy…), young, almost certainly more game time for him than at another top 6 club,…

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 30th July 2017 at 11:58 pm #

      I think a number of our players will stay loyal because of several factors. Firstly, they know what the long term project is all about and will want to stay and be part of it, plus play in the new stadium. Secondly, the manager. Keeping Poch is crucial to avoiding an exodus. The money maybe better elsewhere but the grass isn’t always greener. Thirdly, as Levy said the other day, talent brought through is likely to be more loyal. Finally, a number of ex-Poch players haven’t excelled outside his system, so why leave a good setup that suits them and plays attractive football?

      I think Poch will be able to take Barkley to the next level. The sticking point right now is Everton’s valuation of him, which is ridiculous. As we get closer to the deadline the price will come down, if Everton don’t sell him elsewhere in the meantime. However, the Toffees know we have money to spend from the Walker sale, so even Levy will have a tough time negotiating this one.

      • Shuban 31st July 2017 at 4:19 pm #

        Apart from Lallana I cannot think of anyone that does well after leaving Poch (in the UK at least)

        For me Barkley lacks the Sheringham brain/Football IQ that Poch demands of all his players. His reported wage demands annoy me as he has not done enough to warrant earning more than Dele or Eriksen. I hope Ally Gold is wrong as I think that Georgiou kid has something about him. This Check Trade trophy will be a good proving ground for a lot of our kids.

        There is a culture that Poch has created similar to when SAF allegedly remove Giggs from a party where a lot of the players look up to him as a father figure…All the players Jan, Hugo, Dembele and Eriksen aside got their chance under Poch… Keeping him is key to our future success

        • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 1st August 2017 at 9:48 am #

          Barkley certainly won’t get his wage demands, not from Levy, and he has to earn them by showing that he is at the level or better than what we have. Poch will also demand that he is someone who buys in to the team concept. We’re not at home to lone wolves or mercenaries.

          I like what i’ve seen in limited time from Georgiou, but Poch spends enough time watching and having his team work with the youngsters that his judgement is better than anyone. I’d have liked to have seen him get some time against Man City, but maybe his lack of appearance is telling.

      • Theking65 1st August 2017 at 4:50 pm #

        As a city supporter, who was there when Hutchinson header your equaliser, Villa scored a world class goal and Steve Perryman was man of the match I would say things are actually looking pretty go for Spurs..
        Its a friendly, end of.
        You have two players to replace, TWO!. That’s it, another forward, or and replacement full back and then its top 4,,,again. Your are now an established top 4 team, with a new stadium coming and clearly the best local recruitment system in London.
        The age of your core players, means you are set for around the next 5 years at the very least. I would steer clear of Barclay, but go all out for Aurier as he is a great full back and then maybe Rashford, when he gets fed up Jose, because it will happen.
        all the best.

  4. Toby4eva 31st July 2017 at 9:34 am #

    Thankfully some sanity reappears in this crazy, bloated world of football!

    Great to see you publishing again Mark.

    A fellow THFC supporter and close friend calls me the “Glass Half Full” man on all things Spurs prognostication.

    So, naturally I’m not worried about Kyle leaving to strengthen an already formidable foe, half the team either injured or recovering or not fit, no quality (oops – make that any) signings likely, no stadium – and the prospect of fighting on four or five fronts this term.

    As the say in Nashville – it’s all good.

    Barkleygate is getting a bit long in the tooth though…

    The next 13 days can’t go quickly enough.

    We really have to beat up Toon to get a lingering and rancid taste out of our mouths – and get three in the bank and go into the Chelsea game on top of the table.

    Playing the other (albeit more formidable) Barcodes a week prior is an inspired piece of planning!

    Great to have you back boss.


    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 1st August 2017 at 9:41 am #

      Thank you Toby4eva. Good to be back! We will be really up for the Newcastle game. I can imagine Poch is still seething from the 5-1 defeat, as will the players, and can’t wait to put it right. I expect to see a reaction and that will get our season going from day 1. Chelsea up afterwards, what better motivation to open the season!

  5. Matt 31st July 2017 at 5:15 pm #

    To your Kane, Janssen targets I’d add Son. A simple ball over with someone fast to run on works wonders. Expect to see that from Mourinho a lot next year. Which is one mf my worries as a team we aren’t her than Som and arguably Rose, devoid of pace. Lots of quality and strength but unless N’Koudo has a breakthrough season we have only one fast player in front of the defence. I’d like to see Barkley to give us dribbling ability and cover Ericsson (maybe longer term, Moussa) an athletic RB as a minimum. On a positive note it seems Janssen is starting to look like he’s offering a bit more.

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 1st August 2017 at 9:55 am #

      Son would be a different kind of threat, but equally worth a try. He does need a partner when up top, as his appearances as a sole central striker have shown us. Both Kane and Janssen offer hold-up presence, whereas we know from watching Son as a striker, he isn’t capable of winning aerial balls or using his body to hold the ball up, so he would need Kane or Janssen alongside him. He would be dangerous running on to flick ons or balls over the top though.

      Barkley would be a nice addition, Max Meyer too. For me, Barkley is more Premier League ready, but Meyer has more talent potential in the long term. He will need time to adapt and mature though.

      I’m honestly concerned Moussa Sissoko hasn’t been moved on and is going to still be with us next season!

  6. Graham 31st July 2017 at 10:29 pm #

    It’s early days yet lads. I’m confident enough in Poch’s football sense to be sure that he has spent the last few days evaluating our performance and setting plans to eliminate the errors. Citizens new guys were full of running and eager to impress their new bosses. Sterling also had one of his better games and he can blow hot and cold as we all know. Spurs jigsaw puzzle was not complete with Waynama, Son, Rose & Lallana all missing. We all know how Son can get those half chances on his day. Waynama is truly a giant in midfield so let’s not read too much into this.
    However, I am not sure we can endure another season without a proven striker to back up Harry.
    Granted Janssen looks a tad better but still way off what we require.Same for N’Koudo.

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 1st August 2017 at 10:03 am #

      Yes some of the players have only been back 2 weeks, so time between the City and Juventus friendlies gives the players a period to work on fitness and conditioning. Wanyama back will be important for the start of the season. Son is a big miss right now as we have very little speed to stretch teams.

      I’d like to see Janssen get another season to see if he’s figured out the Premier League. So, i’m not sure where we’d go to get a proven striker? If we signed someone, they’d have to be content with being a back up or rotation option to Harry Kane. They also need Premier League experience to hit the ground running, as we don’t need another striker needing a season to get used to the speed and strength required to play in the league. Without having to outlay upwards of £20 million, i’m not sure who or where this player is?

  7. Matt 1st August 2017 at 8:40 pm #

    Yep agree Mark, Son needs a Kane or Janssen. Just I think against Liverpool or City I’d start with Son at the expense of Alli or Ericsson. Probably Alli. Not saying he’s a better player but no one can play through a well executed press (which is why we do it!) so you have to make your intentions plane from the outset, not wait till you’re 2-0 down. Seems we may have unloaded Sissoko for a season at least 🎉

  8. Erik Zen 2nd August 2017 at 6:25 pm #

    Feels like we might have been worked out a bit so I hope Poch comes up with some original solutions. With pressing being all the rage, the teams that have insanely fast forward men and brilliant creative passers (Pool & now City) can murder our high line. I’m worried about those two more than the others at the moment. Real shame to have lost the speed of Walker, and hope Rose comes back as good as he was: those two were terrorising defences last year, and we’ll get some of our own medicine this year. There aren’t many people out there to buy within our budget who have PL experience so we’ll have to be patient in the first half of the season while some of the younger ones get up to speed.

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 2nd August 2017 at 9:26 pm #

      Liverpool and City do look dangerous this season as Klopp and Pep seem to be getting the players they want for their high intensity systems. Mourinho also looks dangerous as well as he is the opposite of these systems. He’s always given pressing teams a problem and will continue to do so with his counter attack approach. With the amount of money being chucked around, we need to compete in different ways and some alternative approaches will definitely cause other teams issues.