Our worst result in the Premier League for some 17 years, as it finished Man City 6-0 Spurs at the Etihad.
We barely showed up and Man City were ruthlessly efficient in what they did. Here are 5 keys to the capitulation.
1. 2v2 at the back
The trouble started right from the kick-off as both Alvaro Negredo and Sergio Aguero were playing 2v2 against our centre backs.
The problem manifested itself on the opening goal as Negredo charged forward to close down Hugo Lloris. The Frenchman’s shocking clearance went straight to Aguero who was sweeping up behind the rushing Negredo.
It showed how wide Dawson and Kaboul were going to split as Aguero charged straight through the opening with the ball.
Admittedly, Dawson and Kaboul hadn’t expected the shanked clearance. But the distance between the pair and the width of the pitch they were going to have to cover with our full backs jetting forward was going to create problems.
Both centre backs were also under pressure from the two strikers. Not long after the opening goal, Kaboul had to hoist a hopeful ball downfield as Negredo closed in with Dawson covered.
The noticeable thing missing was a player to transition the ball forwards because the back two were under pressure. Occasionally Sandro dropped in to take the ball from the centre backs, but all too often this just didn’t happen.
The problem was compounded as Lewis Holtby found himself coming ridiculously deep to receive the ball just prior to the second goal. As Lloris punted another failed clearance forward, which came quickly back, Holtby found himself as an emergency centre back between the split Dawson and Kaboul. He was left wrong side of Aguero and City went 2-0 up.
2. Aguero and Negredo
Sergio Aguero with his two goals shone, but Alvaro Negredo was the star and key to City’s sweeping attacking play. The Spanish international was doing much of the dirty work up front and was allowing those around him to prosper from his workhorse attitude.
I looked in the Tottenham tactics for Man City vs Spurs at his link up play with Aguero. The Argentinean has played both deeper than Negredo to act as an extra midfielder, such as he did against Manchester United. Aguero has also operated by bursting past the Spaniard in order to take advantage of his ability to run in-behind.
Here, Aguero was playing the latter role, as Negredo was coming short, allowing the Argentinean to spin past and get beyond him and in to space.
We got an early warning after the opening goal, as Negredo flicked the ball round the corner for Aguero to get in. A duff attempt at a chip over Hugo Lloris was saved.
Another example of his hold up play was to spring Yaya Toure to race beyond our defence and square for Aguero to make it 4-0.
Negredo was acting as the focal point for the ball in to the attack. Nowhere was this better demonstrated than on his goal, where he received a straight ball that bypassed our entire midfield from Fernandinho.
His spin and shot in to the top corner were a fitting reward for his dogged display, also highlighting City’s directness and quickness in transitions.
3. Quick transitions
With Aguero and Negredo pressing our centre backs, the rest of the City players were sitting back waiting for the resulting clearances downfield. Once these were mopped up, the speed to transition the ball forward was frighteningly quick. This exposed the space between our midfield and centre backs. It also stretched Dawson and Kaboul across the pitch, with our full backs often caught too high up.
Both centre backs were often pulled out to defend the wider players, just as Michael Dawson had to engage Samir Nasri in the image above. This left an overload in the centre, with the full backs and Sandro having to race back – just as the Brazilian did in his goal saving tackle on Nasri.
The number of times our midfield was bypassed bordered on the ridiculous.
City’s ability to transition the ball quickly forward took our players out of the game and gave their runners – Nasri, Navas, Aguero and Negredo – the chance to work in space.
4. The switch to 4-4-2
Andre Villas-Boas had been talking about us practising a possible switch to a 4-4-2 formation in training. The change to this system at the start of the second half meant that the protection for our centre backs was even worse, as we were now a man light in midfield.
This allowed Alvaro Negredo even more space to work in – as was highlighted above when Yaya Toure burst past him to cross for Aguero to make it 4-0. It was also a contributing factor to the ease with which Fernandinho’s pass took our entire midfield out of the game and found Negredo to spin and fire a fifth.
5. Attacking our left back
Jesus Navas got City’s scoring underway, but his play to expose Jan Vertonghen saw him strike twice and create another for Aguero.
I looked in the Tottenham tactics for Man City vs Spurs at how the Citizens play narrow when they have James Milner and Samir Nasri out wide. However, when Jesus Navas gets the nod, City suddenly become a much more expansive team.
Here Pellegrini went for Navas and the idea was to stretch us across the pitch to create gaps for his strikers and to get the ball forward quickly in transition.
Whilst the first goal was a freak event, the rest of the match saw Navas’ speed light up the slower Vertonghen. As a result, City created a number of chances from our left back zone.
Jan’s air kick on the sixth was a goal in garbage time, but highlighted City’s willingness to get the ball forward in transition. It also showed Navas speed to get past Vertonghen and in-behind.
Man City 6-0 Spurs conclusions
This game threw up more questions than answers for Andre Villas-Boas and the boys.
City were quite happy to let us have possession in front of them, knowing we would struggle to break them down with our slow movement of the ball.
There was very little incisiveness in the final third and the key to beating City – attacking their left side – was barely probed. Walker’s cross for Lamela’s miss-hit effort back across the goal was an early indicator of where the City weakness lie. It turned out to be our best chance in the game.
City’s speed in transition to get forward was ferocious, whilst their two strikers up against our two centre backs caused no end of problems.
It’ll be interesting to see how we respond when we face another team with a twin-pronged attacking duo when Man Utd come to town on Sunday.
Final score: Man City 6-0 Spurs.