Spurs 1 Man City 5: between the lines, inside channels and decisions

Another mauling saw us again finish on the wrong side of the score line, as it finished Spurs 1 Man City 5 at the Lane.

This time the game hinged on a string of key decisions as City led 1-0.

There was no doubting that they were the much better team at this point. However, we had just started to come in the game after looking like rabbits caught in a truck’s headlights for much of the first half. Dawson had seen his effort ruled out, but then Rose was dismissed, which led to a complete capitulation.

City were bossing the game prior to the sending off and they were doing it by getting players between the lines, whilst Aguero and Dzeko superbly ran the inside channels.

Tottenham set up and tactics

Tim Sherwood lined us up in a 4-2-3-1 formation, but the key area was playing two box-to-box players at the base of midfield.

Les Ferdinand’s comment about Claude Makelele indicates that we probably won’t see a defensive midfielder anytime soon. I’ve talked in many posts about the space between our lines of midfield and defence and they were apparent once again here without a destructive player.

Tim Sherwood went with a central trio of Moussa Dembele, Nabil Bentaleb and Christian Eriksen to obviously get extra bodies in to this zone. Without a natural holding player, this meant that all too often City could get Silva and Navas in-behind our midfield. This really negated the point of having three players in there to congest this space, as they weren’t an aid defensively, but they also struggled to get forward and attack.

After Tim Sherwood’s words of being aggressive and giving City something to think about, I’m surprised he didn’t match them like for like with a 4-4-2 of his own.

The formation didn’t then help the tactics, although these were hindered by Man City’s pressure to regain the ball.

We were looking to find Emmanuel Adebayor with early passes to feet so that we could work off him. The problem was that Martin Demichelis was moving high to stop the ball getting to him and Vincent Kompany was sweeping round behind. This meant that Adebayor was much less of a factor. When he did receive possession he really could only lay it backward due to the pressure.

We were also looking to work the ball wide to get in to crossing situations, but City were pressing us hard once the ball went out in to the full back areas.


City ball recoveries, Spurs 1 Man City 5.

This meant that we struggled to get forward in to crossing positions, as both full backs were stopped getting forwards. Gylfi Sigurdsson and Aaron Lennon in the wide positions ahead of them being virtually non-existent also didn’t help them.

The one bright light was Danny Rose having some joy getting in to areas where he could cross. However, as looked at in the Tottenham tactics for Spurs vs Man City, the space was in the City left back zone due to David Silva drifting. With Aaron Lennon only receiving the ball 19 times and Kyle Walker just 28, we failed to make strides in this area and were actually pushed back by Clichy going forward.


Spurs fail to cross from the right.

Man City between the lines

City’s pressure and control of the ball allowed them to get between the lines and this is where many of their chances came from prior to the sending off.

The main protagonist was naturally David Silva, who drifted inside from his starting position on the left to pull the strings and create overloads wherever he could.

This was often in the wider areas as he linked well to spring Jesus Navas down the right, whilst also his full back Gael Clichy on the left.


David Silva passes received, Spurs 1 Man City 5.

Silva not only highlighted the space between the lines, but was aided by the strikers running the inside channels. The two factors combined to see City create a host of chances in the first half.

Aguero and Dzeko run the inside channels

Before he went off with an injury, Sergio Aguero was running the channels expertly and using his pace to take him away from the slower Dawson and Chiriches.

The problem for our centre backs was that both Dzeko and Aguero were splitting them by constantly trying to position themselves in the gaps between them.

This started from the opening minutes as Fernandinho got free between the lines and played a first time ball in to Aguero. Man City like to hit a striker early with the ball to move the play quickly up a level and they did that here, but both centre forwards were in the gaps between the centre backs.


Aguero and Dzeko split the CBs as Dzeko gets between the lines

Aguero span and torched both Dawson and then Chiriches with his pace before firing a shot against the post.

Soon after this warning, the opening goal followed.

This time it was David Silva predictably in space between the lines, popping up on the left. Dzeko and Aguero were already looking to run the inside channels when the Spaniard received the ball.


Silva between the lines as Dzeko and Aguero set off.

As he lays it off, Aguero is running free through the inside right channel, as Chiriches gets caught looking at the ball and Dawson is unable to get round on the cover.


Chiriches gets caught ball watching as Aguero goes behind.

A few minutes later and Silva was able to get free between the lines once again, as was Sergio Aguero. Gael Clichy bombed forward on the overlap as the Argentinean ran in through the inside left channel this time.


Silva between the lines as Aguero runs the inside channel.

Clichy was able to get to the by line to play a shorter cross, which has a much higher chance of completion, as Aguero is completely unmarked between the lines.


Aguero wide open between the lines.

Hugo Lloris made a spectacular save to claw the header away, but the chance again highlighted City getting between the lines and the strikers running the channels.

Christian Eriksen’s set piece delivery

Man City really had a tight grip on this game until Aguero limped off. Then Spurs came back in to the mach and it was through Christian Eriksen’s set piece delivery.

First up, his corner was almost prodded home by Emmanuel Adebayor. The ball bounced at his and Vincent Kompany’s feet, but squirmed in to the hands of Joe Hart. The chance left Adebayor with his head in his hands, as any kind of decent connection would have ended up in the back of the net.

Next, after Danny Rose was fouled out wide, Eriksen’s whipped in free kick saw Michael Dawson volley home. But, the goal was ruled out for offside.

Eriksen’s balls in to the box really were on point. Nabil Bentaleb flicked on a corner, which was missed at the back post. Then in the second half, the Dane got the assist his delivery deserved, as Etienne Capoue smashed home his corner to give some hope of some type of comeback.

Rose sees red

Man City were in the ascendancy at 1-0, but there was always a chance Spurs would get back in to the game. That was until Danny Rose saw red for his tackle on Edin Dzeko.

Rose was seen to have won the ball and the referee initially didn’t give anything until instructed by his linesman. A penalty was harsh, the red card even harsher.

Yaya Toure converted the penalty and then City started to create chances from hitting runners in-behind in the full back zones. This was due to us going to the stable 4-4-1 formation that most teams down a man revert to. However, we also went extremely narrow in an attempt to clog the centre and force them out wide. An invitation they duly accepted.

Pablo Zabaleta got round the back in order to pull the ball back for David Silva. His shot cannoned back off the post, but Edin Dzeko was there to hoover up the rebound.


Zabaleta gets in-behind in the left back zone.

Then, after Kompany hit Dzeko with a long, quick forward pass, the Bosnian found Stevan Jovetic running in-behind in our right back zone to make it 4-1.


Jovetic gets in-behind in the right back zone.

The fifth duly arrived from a corner, but only after Jesus Navas had got round the back to force the set piece off Kyle Naughton.

Spurs 1 Man City 5 overall

The sending off at 1-0 did render the game almost irrecoverable, but City were in control well before then.

The frustrating thing was our central midfield allowed them to do so with two box-to-box players at the base. This led City to find the gaps between our lines of midfield and defence, giving them time to pick out the strikers running through the inside channels.

Going down to ten men will allow excuses, but the first half performance was flat. Especuially after the up-beat talk about ‘attacking them in areas they’ve not been attacked in a long time‘ prior to the match.

City’s ball retention and pressing in the wide areas did restrict us. But were we also in awe of this goal scoring machine and got caught on the back foot from the off?

Final score: Spurs 1 Man City 5.

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2 Responses to Spurs 1 Man City 5: between the lines, inside channels and decisions

  1. AnythingButPenalties 30th January 2014 at 10:30 pm #

    Nice article.

    It seems so obvious to play a holding midfielder why didn’t Sherwood see it that way?

    As you say Rose was our one attacking outlet but this gave City space on our left. Navas topped the crosses and key passes (with more than double the next best) and was a constant thorn in our side.

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 31st January 2014 at 11:37 am #

      I think he likes to play two box-to-box players in there to give added attacking impetus. This is fine against mid or lower table teams, but against the top teams, especially those which move the ball between the lines quickly, is an extremely risky game. Man City get away with it as both Yaya and Fernandinho are extremely storong, quick and powerful, but only one goes forward at a time whilst the other covers – usually Fernandinho.

      Teams have had success against them eg Watford and Cariff both scored twice, but City just has too much power up top – Aguero, Silva, Navas, Dzeko, Negredo + Yaya’s runs from deep – so they will just outscore teams 90% of the time.