Fernando Llorente celebrates the goal that made the score Man City 4-3 Tottenham on the night to put Spurs through to the Champions League semi-finals.

Man City 4-3 Tottenham: diamond issues solved by Llorente

The diamond formation proved both a gift and a curse until Fernando Llorente made the score Man City 4-3 Tottenham to put us through on away goals.

The best knockout match in Champions League history took drama to a new level with the help of VAR as it ended Man City 4-3 Tottenham.

Tottenham played in to Manchester City’s hands by using a narrow diamond. However, the formation equally threatened City’s centre backs through the use of two rapid forwards. Injury to Moussa Sissoko forced Mauricio Pochettino in to a reshuffle, which solved the diamond’s issues, but created new ones. However, it was Fernando Llorente who put Spurs through from a familiar corner routine.

Narrow diamond torn apart

Mauricio Pochettino’s decision to go with the diamond formation seemed a curious one. Tottenham’s flat midfield four had shut down Man City’s dangerous wide forwards in the first leg and seemed to be the way to go again.

However, Pochettino may have been influenced by Man City dropping Fernandinho for Ilkay Gundogan. Pep Guardiola went ultra aggressive with twin number tens Kevin de Bruyne and David Silva to complete his central midfield trio. Three excellent ball players. Pochettino probably didn’t want to be overrun and so countered with four central with Christian Eriksen constantly picking up Gundogan to stop Man City playing through him.

Whilst the theory was sound to stop Man City dominating the centre, it allowed their wide forwards acres of space. Raheem Sterling and Bernardo Silva had room to use their speed and quick dribbling to isolate our full backs. Three first half goals were the result as the narrow diamond was torn apart.

Man City exposing the wide spaces

Man City racked up three first half goals from quickly moving the ball out to their wide forwards in space. The narrow Tottenham diamond was exposed, as was the mobility and fitness of Victor Wanyama at the base of it.

Within four minutes Man City had the early goal they craved. Kevin de Bruyne’s run took him past Wanyama, which drew in Moussa Sissoko. Raheem Sterling was left free out wide with Kieran Trippier tracking David Silva’s inside run.

Narrow Spurs concede space to Sterling to open the scoring during Man City 4-3 Tottenham.

Narrow Spurs concede space to Sterling to open the scoring.

Isolating Trippier one-versus-one, Sterling cut inside and unleashed a curling shot across the goal and in to the far corner. Trippier was like a rabbit caught in the headlights, neither challenging Sterling nor forcing him on to his left and down the line. Man City was ahead. Spurs’ hard work from the first leg had been quickly undone.

Man City’s second saw a similar pattern. Wanyama’s positioning and mobility was once more exposed at the base of the diamond. The Tottenham full back was also drawn infield by a run from one of Man City’s twin number tens. Space was therefore afforded to the wide forward who scored.

The mobility of Victor Wanyama saw David Silva and then Sergio Aguero expose the space around him at the base of the diamond. Danny Rose tracked the run of twin number ten, Kevin de Bruyne. Bernardo Silva was therefore afforded acres of room out wide.

Narrow Spurs leave space out wide for Bernardo to score during Man City 4-3 Tottenham in the Champions League.

Narrow Spurs leave space out wide for Bernardo to score.

Rose tried his best to recover and get out to Bernardo. However, an unfortunate deflection took the ball past a helpless Hugo Lloris.

Man City’s third of the night dismantled the diamond once more. Victor Wanyama conceded a free kick as Kyle Walker blew past him. From the resulting dead ball, Man City sprung Bernardo. His neat flick found an overlapping Kevin de Bruyne who had space against our narrow back four. On the other flank, Raheem Sterling had stayed wide against an equally narrow Kieran Trippier.

Man City get down the side of narrow Spurs again to score during Man City 4-3 Tottenham in the Champions League.

Man City get down the side of narrow Spurs again to score.

Kevin de Bruyne didn’t even need to lift his head to know that Raheem Sterling would be arriving at the back post. The pass from de Bruyne was exquisite and played to perfection. It was a classic Man City move with Sterling arriving to finish. Three goals all from the space that the narrow diamond was conceding to Man City’s wide forwards.

Tottenham’s twin attack

The defensive issues of the diamond had been targeted and destroyed by Man City. However, from an attacking standpoint, the diamond punched at the Man City weaknesses.

The Man City centre back pairing of Vincent Kompany and Aymeric Laporte often looked on different wavelengths. The pair was also left to fend by themselves by their aggressively attacking full backs. As Tottenham played two rapid dribbling players up top, Kompany and Laporte were given no end of first half trouble by their speed. As a result, Spurs grabbed two vital away goals.

Lucas Moura provided the break out speed and dribbling to get at the Man City centre backs. Son Heung-Min the deadly finishes.

The role of Dele Alli was also pivotal. Dele had been caught out by the speed of Kyle Walker and Bernardo Silva on the Man City right. Dele just wasn’t quick enough to get out from his narrow position on the edge of the diamond in time to help his full back. However, his attacking sense to sniff out a goal scoring opportunity helped on both Tottenham first half strikes.

Son Heung-Min levelled the game up at 1-1, but Dele’s initial burst gave Man City problems. Vincent Kompany was drawn out of the back line by Dele’s movement. Space was therefore created behind him for Son Heung-Min.

Kompany gets drawn to Dele, creating space for Son to score a goal during Man City 4-3 Tottenham in the Champions League.

Kompany gets drawn to Dele, creating space for Son to score.

Aymeric Laporte then deflected Dele’s through ball perfectly for Son in the space that had been created to drive home the equaliser. Spurs were on level terms at 1-1 so quickly after going behind.

Dele’s burst forward then gave Kyle Walker a problem as he was outnumbered with Son also arriving. Walker’s moment of hesitation gave Son the opportunity to cut inside and unleash a curling drive in to the top corner of the net. Tottenham ahead, flipping the match on its head.

Sissoko injury forces a reshuffle

The score was at Man City 3-2 Tottenham and the match had become out of control for both teams. Each side was attacking the other’s weakness that was being afforded to them by their own overly aggressive attacking strategy.

An injury to Moussa Sissoko pushed Mauricio Pochettino in to a reshuffle. With very little on the bench, Pochettino introduced Fernando Llorente and went to a 4-4-1-1 formation. The move solved a number of issues that the diamond had, particularly the width one. Pochettino put Christian Eriksen and Son Heung-Min on the flanks to help solve the problem of Man City’s wide forwards.

However, the shift in formation also created new problems. Son was moved away from the front where he had caused so much damage. What’s more, the slower and less mobile Fernando Llorente was introduced up top. As a result, the rapid and sprightly attacking verve of Son and Moura was instantly suppressed.

Kevin de Bruyne between the lines

The shift in formation created another big problem. Installing Dele Alli and Victor Wanyama as a central midfield partnership opened up space between the lines for Kevin de Bruyne. Dele was often trying to push up, which left Wanyama with more ground than his limited mobility could cover. Kevin de Bruyne benefitted and took over the match.

De Bruyne had already unleashed a venomous shot that was spectacularly turned away by Hugo Lloris before he delivered another devastating blow. Spurs were caught off balance as Christian Eriksen had been forward attacking. Dele therefore had his left wing position to cover and was caught with three Man City players in the space behind him.

Man City players between the lines with Dele caught out by Eriksen's non-recovery during Man CIty 4-3 Tottenham in the Champions League.

Man City players between the lines with Dele caught out by Eriksen’s non-recovery.

Kevin de Bruyne received the ball, span and slid in Aguero to fire home at Hugo Lloris’ near post. Man City was ahead in the match and on aggregate.

Guardiola’s tactical error?

Following the Aguero goal, Pep Guardiola made a change to shut down the game, but it actually allowed Spurs to regain a foothold.

Man City’s twin number tens of David Silva and Kevin de Bruyne had been enjoying the space afforded between the lines by Dele and Victor Wanyama. Wanting to shut down the game, Fernandinho was introduced for David Silva.

The move by Guardiola coincided with Mauricio Pochettino going back to the diamond. The change got Christian Eriksen reinstalled at the number ten position, which then forced Fernandinho backwards.

The change also got Son running in-behind once more as he had done in the first half. It was from such a move that Spurs won a corner.

Danny Rose took the resulting dead ball and aimed for an overload at the back post. Spurs had run Fernando Llorente, Toby Alderweireld and Victor Wanyama in to this zone in order to overload Man City’s zonal marking. Ederson got fingertips to a well-angled delivery, forcing another corner.

The second corner saw Kieran Trippier deliver an even better ball as Spurs ran the overload towards the near post this time. A classic Pochettino corner routine. Kyle walker got the deftest of flicks on the delivery, which caused Vincent Kompany to momentarily freeze. Llorente ran off Benjamin Mendy to rise up and deflect the ball in to the net with his hip.

Wanyama and Llorente head for the near post to create an overload with Toby Alderweireld during Man City 4-3 Tottenham in the Champions League.

Wanyama and Llorente head for the near post to create an overload with Toby Alderweireld.

Llorente wheeled away in front of the jubilant away fans, making the score Man City 4-3 Tottenham to put us ahead on away goals. However, VAR threatened to kill the celebrations. A lengthy and nerve-wracking check revealed no infringement and Tottenham had the lead in the tie.

VAR saves Eriksen

In response to the goal, both managers made changes. Pochettino this time was the one to try and preserve the lead. Ben Davies came on to create a full back double-up on the left with Danny Rose. Davinson Sanchez was subsequently introduced to create a back five.

Pep Guardiola went ultra aggressive as Leroy Sane made a front four. Guardiola then sent up both his centre backs as Fernandinho and Kyle Walker finished as a makeshift defensive pairing.

The moves by both managers restricted the game to the Tottenham half. As soon as Spurs tried to clear the ball, it quickly came back.

Spurs willingness to play out from trouble almost cost the tie. Wanyama and Dele had been caught doing so before Christian Eriksen was to almost cataclysmic effect.

Eriksen trying to shield the ball and then subsequently attempting to be too clever saw Manchester City hoover up possession, sweep in and score. Raheem Sterling raced away celebrating the winning, knockout blow with the rest of his team mates. Spurs players sank to the floor knowing that the game was up. Eriksen had made the most ridiculous of errors with the chance to clear his lines.

However, love or loathe VAR it stepped in to do what it was created for. It quickly cleaned up the issue, but equally added even more drama to what was already one of the great Champions League evenings. Aguero was shown to have received the ball in an offside position, missed by the linesman. The emotions of each team flipped in an instant. Spurs off the canvas, Man City slunk down to it.

Man City, to their credit, continued to battle in the seconds that remained. However, it was Spurs that could’ve iced the tie. Son Heung-Min running in-behind once more took a touch when a first time shot could’ve seen him complete his hat trick.

A corner was won though, which wound up the final few seconds with the score at Man City 4-3 Tottenham and Spurs going through on away goals. As Mauricio Pochettino shouted “finish, finish” while indicating time had surely ran out, the referee blew his whistle.

An elated Spurs team celebrated in front of a jubilant away support, which moments earlier had thought that this season’s Champions League journey was over.

Man City 4-3 Tottenham overall

An incredible game for not only the drama, but also each manager’s willingness to attack the opponent.

Mauricio Pochettino’s diamond was a disaster defensively, but in attack it hit Man City’s weaknesses to cause maximum damage. Likewise, Pep Guardiola used his wide forwards to destroy the diamond formation, but left his defence exposed two versus two against the speedy and nimble Son and Lucas Moura.

Injury to Moussa Sissoko forced Mauricio Pochettino in to a reshuffle that slowed us down from open play, but created a real threat at set pieces. Ultimately, a dead ball situation won the day and Fernando Llorente became the hero on one of the greatest nights in Tottenham Hotspur history.

Final score: Man City 4-3 Tottenham (Agg: 4-4). Spurs win on away goals.
MOTM: Kevin de Bruyne.

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15 Responses to Man City 4-3 Tottenham: diamond issues solved by Llorente

  1. YouShubes 18th April 2019 at 2:40 pm #

    You saw more than I did… I was watching between my fingers a lot… they attacked our weak link, us their’s….

    Funny thing the VAR sterling goal not an issue if Eriksen did not attempt his risky pass… Either he was mentally drained as to expected or we have much more to learn about the dark arts…

    Wanyama was often outnumbered in midfield.

    KDB man what a talent.

    Silva should have get a yellow for the cheap shot on rose with the shove into the hoardings…what with travel there and travel back this Saturday will be interesting…

    Think we should go 352….Sanchez as the RCB though

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 18th April 2019 at 3:52 pm #

      Eriksen is someone who is always going to try and play rather than just send the ball downfield or knock it out for a throw halfway inside their half. He got caught then tried to work his way out and ended up making a horrendous error that he luckily got away with. He knew it from his comments afterwards so hopefully its a big learning point about game management.

      Saturday is a really quick turnaround after such a physically and emotionally draining match, especially as it is the early kick-off. I really think we should make wholesale changes to freshen up the team, especially with Brighton on Tuesday. The Brighton game is much more winnable and they will be fighting for their lives, so it won’t be easy and we’ll need everyone fresh and fit, not having played two punishing games with City. That could really derail our top four bid. I thought the Sissoko injury was one of those muscle fatigue ones from just playing too much at too high an intensity and I don’t want to see the same thing happen to anyone else. We are down to the bare bones already. Therefore, I would like to see us go with the 4-4-1-1 that gave man city issues at our place, just with a much changed line-up resting as many players as possible from last night.

  2. Sam 18th April 2019 at 4:43 pm #

    Totally agree regards Saturdays game, and another great write up with lots of fascinating insight. What a game. What a result. Just incredible. Let’s hope we have our midfield back sooner rather than later. Mark, I’d love to read your thoughts on our first leg with Ajax considering Son’s (not to mention Kane’s) absence.

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 18th April 2019 at 4:56 pm #

      Our midfield is becoming painfully thin. I’ll put together a post on Ajax before the game. Not going to be easy without Son and Kane for the first leg, especially with it being at home where we’d like to establish a lead!

  3. Antonyj7 18th April 2019 at 8:30 pm #

    Am I wrong, surely this applies to Son

    49.04. Exceptionally, all yellow cards and pending yellow-card suspensions expire on completion of the playoffs. They are not carried forward to the group stage. In addition, all yellow cards expire on completion of the quarterfinals. They are not carried forward to the semifinals.

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 18th April 2019 at 10:48 pm #

      I think it’s poorly worded, but as Son got his second yellow before the completion of the quarterfinal then he misses the first leg of the semi-final. Big loss!

  4. Matt 18th April 2019 at 9:23 pm #

    Mark; if you can make sense of that match you can probably sort Brexit too. Great analysis! I agree, I know you’re not saying throw Saturday but I think we focus on Tuesday we need all those home games won. Very tight with Arsenal lucky win at Watford. Llorente; whatever his limitations, he is a real professional.

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 18th April 2019 at 11:01 pm #

      I think to play the players again could seriously damage them given what they’ve gone through with very little rest and turnaround. We did lose the game and getting any kind of result will be difficult at City whoever plays, so it’s a case of picking battles for me and appropriate rest and recuperation has to be more important for the run in we have with a semi final in 12 days added to the schedule too!

  5. Antonyj7 19th April 2019 at 5:39 am #

    You could well be right however from a legal standpoint the wording is unambiguous and could be challenged.

    As you say Son is a big and maybe critical loss.

  6. Zaph Mann 19th April 2019 at 7:15 am #

    Hi Mark, thanks for this analysis, I don’t always concur with you – but this seems spot on. Where we differ (perhaps) is on spatial, situational and emotional analysis of the games. You expertly pointed out the tactical switches here (better than the pundits – when they rarely attempt it). Also as Poch points out – a little lucky – this and other games could have gone either way.

    The issue now is with all-season squad depletion though injury seeming to continue will we be able to get enough point to re-qualify? It’s unlikely that we could win it. and we could finish 5th

    All in all – this has created great memories and momentum

    How can we get you on TV instead of the hopeless ones?

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 19th April 2019 at 11:10 am #

      Its jobs for the boys unfortunately. TV is dominated by ex-pros and will always be to give gravitas to a show. Its got to the point where its become too much and needs a channel to take a gamble. I can’t see this changing unfortunately as i would guess its considered too nerdy for main stream consumption.

      The squad is depleted and I believe we need to manage the minutes of key players to avoid more fatigue type injuries. I would make wholesale changes for the Man City game and prioritise other fixtures ie our other remaining league games and the semi-final. We lost at full strength versus City on Wednesday and we don’t have the squad depth that they do to turn it around inside 72 hours. I’d rest Dele, Eriksen, Son (even though he is suspended for the Ajax 1st leg), Sissoko, Vertonghen, Alderweireld, Rose, Trippier, even Lloris. The race for top four has to be managed for the longer haul, as we could well not only get beaten on Saturday by City, but also lose other vital parts when our squad is already overstretched.

      • ashley collie 19th April 2019 at 7:42 pm #

        “I’d rest Dele, Eriksen, Son (even though he is suspended for the Ajax 1st leg), Sissoko, Vertonghen, Alderweireld, Rose, Trippier, even Lloris” — Yikes, so who would you start, Mark, do we have enough somewhat experienced players to field a competitive team in midfield?

        • ashley collie 19th April 2019 at 7:47 pm #

          And Pochettino claimed “young players” could be given a chance over “experience” to avoid any further injury issues.

  7. ashley collie 19th April 2019 at 7:36 pm #

    Excellent report, Mark, thanks. We were jammed in at a our uproarious Greyhound bar, and it’s difficult to focus with peeps talking, enjoying, cheering, etc. I always see the game better up in press box or by myself. Anyway, I agree with your suggestions tor resting players on Saturday given our rapidly thinning squad, but Poch has a lot of cojones, and likes to match the best they throw out, so will he throw caution to the wind, and not rotate. I truly hopes he sees the wisdom of focusing on the PL home games starting with Brighton. COYS, what a grand finish to season.

  8. Mos 19th April 2019 at 10:49 pm #

    Hi Mark,

    It would send the wrong message to rest too many players.

    Personally I would go with (Experienced Spine while testing out a few players) 3-5-2
    Llorente Son
    Davies Foyth Eriksen Skipp KWP
    Vert Sanchez Alderwierld

    With Dele Moura and Rose being avail subs.

    I really am worried about RightBack as Trippier is woefully out of form. Would love to see KWP tested against Sterling/Sane.

    I think we could go and get another result. A Win/Draw would also mean City would need to Win vs United to stay in the race for the league.. if United drop points we should be comfortable to finish top 4. Might be overthinking a little.

    Really wish we kept Dembele but with our lack of healthy midfielders we should absolutly wrap Winks and Sissoko up until we face Ajax