Rapid transitions cut the Citizens defence apart as it finishes Spurs 2-0 Man City in our Premier League clash.
Tottenham tore Man City apart with incredibly fast transitions. Speed was the name of the game here. The Spurs team wasn’t the fleetest of foot, but they moved the ball incredibly quickly. It saw two goals and a host of other chances that could’ve seen a more lop-sided score than the final one of Spurs 2-0 Man City.
Spurs speedy start
Spurs were at it from the off, trying to get in to Man City to unsettle them in two ways.
The first was through extremely aggressive pressing. Even this level of pressure was up a notch from what we usually see. It was a very detailed man orientated press that heavily focused on squeezing goalkeeper Claudio Bravo and the Man City centre backs. Whenever they had the ball they were immediately under duress. Forced to twist, turn, go backwards or surrender the ball.
The trio of Son Heung-Min, Dele Alli, and Moussa Sissoko initiated it. They went after Bravo, Stones and Otamendi. Christian Eriksen backed them up by monitoring Fernando, often leaving Erik Lamela and Victor Wanyama to sweep up behind. Lamela and Wanyama had an interesting job. They were often left to pick and choose whom they wanted to cover out of Silva and Fernandinho. They had the green light to go in should the initial press be broken or to drop off.
The second way was through rapid forward passing. Every time we had the ball, we tried to move it forward, quickly and aggressively. It was an attempt to hit Man City before they could get set defensively.
Son runs the channels
Our forceful pressing and passing was to the early benefit of Son Heung-Min. In his new role as a false nine, he ran the channels expertly to open the match.
We’ve seen Mauricio Pochettino’s love of the out-to-in run off the opposition full back during his reign at Spurs. Son has been a big exponent of this and he was at it again. With the defensively vulnerable Aleksander Kolorov and the ageing Pablo Zabaleta in the full back slots, Son was looking to expose them both. After just 30 seconds he peeled off Kolorov to fire a shot over the angle of post and bar. Minutes later and he was looking to run off the left back again as Danny Rose fired an aggressive forward pass his way.
Then he tried his luck off the other side. He ran in off Zabaleta to force a good near post save from Bravo.
Son’s positioning was giving Man City’s centre backs problems. He was drifting out wide and not always giving them a direct player to mark. It meant that they often had to let him go or pick him up late. This would be a factor on the opening goal.
Spurs quick transitions
The aggressive pressing to regain the ball and forward passing to push the tempo saw some incredibly fast transitions. The ball would be won back and immediately it was being pushed forwards. It saw us create chances, but also an extremely high number of offsides. A fair few of these came from balls played in our half, highlighting how much we were trying to play quickly forwards.
It was this quick regain and strike mentality that saw us open up a two-goal lead.
The opener came after nine minutes of scintillatingly fast-paced football. Man City were trying to play out through our press when Victor Wanyama made the choice to vacate his central position to steam out and dispossess Fernandinho.
When he won it, we had three players already around the ball to Man City’s one. Danny Rose was already on his way sensing the quick transition opportunity. Son Heung-Min and Dele Alli had moved in to the space between the lines. This gave City’s centre backs a problem. They were split from trying to play the ball out and so in bad positions to recover and mark.
The ball was swiftly moved to Danny Rose who fired a cross in to a dangerous area. City’s centre backs were not in great positions to deal with it, having been given little time to recover. However, Aleksander Kolorov ended up putting in to his own net as he attempted to clear with his weaker right foot, Spurs 1-0 Man City.
Excellent opportunist pressing and a quick transition to get the ball forward ball had seen us take the lead. A second would be added in similar manner as Spurs broke quickly once more after winning the ball back.
In-between the first and second goals, Man City had come more in to the game. Spurs had tired slightly after the initial frenzy and it allowed City to gain a foothold. They had been forced to play backwards and sideways by the relentless closing down. Now, they were beginning to play through our press as well as press themselves.
The second goal followed a brief passage of play where both teams were trying to press and close each other down. The ball was lost and regained by each side as they sought to rapidly win it back. It created a passage of play where the ball ping-ponged back and forth. It ended with Toby Alderweireld heading clear and Erik Lamela immediately pouncing to win the ball at the feet of two Man City midfielders. He instantly passed forwards to create the fast break.
Son and Dele were once more between the lines and ready to run. Lamela joined the pair as Spurs again had three players leading the charge on the fast break. They were straight at the Man City centre backs and bearing down on them.
The ball went forwards to Dele Alli who saw his pass deflected out towards Son. The speed of the break had seen both full backs, Zabaleta and Kolorov, drawn towards the South Korean.
Dele, not content with trying to make a forward pass, continued his forward run. Son picked him out with a sumptuous through ball that begged to be finished. Dele made no mistake and another rapid transition now saw the score of Spurs 2-0 Man City.
Transition play penalty
Two up and motoring, Spurs created the opportunity to kill the game with a third. Once more it came from winning the ball back and quickly transitioning it forward.
Kyle Walker was at the centre of several forward bursts. First, he looked to play a one-two with Moussa Sissoko, then Dele Alli. Each time he motored forward looking to create problems by appearing in attacking places where the defence wouldn’t expect him to continue his run. It finished with Sissoko’s aggressive, defence spitting pass trying to get him in through the middle of the back four.
The avenue was closed off, but Dele Alli picked up the second ball and surged through on goal himself only to be upended, penalty.
What followed was the only blot on the afternoon. Son and Erik Lamela grappling for the ball.
Lamela then had the antics of Claudio Bravo to contend with as the Chilean danced up and down his line trying to put him off. It seemed to work. Bravo standing way over on one side of his goal before shuttling back to the middle in a last second move appeared to affect his placement. Bravo saved and City were still in the game.
Man City in the inside left channel
The penalty miss, along with fatigue starting to set in, seemed to knock us off our rhythm. Man City came more in to the game as Pep Guardiola brought on Kelechi Iheanacho, Ilkay Gundogan and went to a 4-4-2 diamond. This made David Silva the focal point and he pulled the strings in the inside left channel.
Silva released Sergio Aguero twice through this channel, but on each occasion he saw his shot thwarted low down by Hugo Lloris. Silva also sprung Iheanacho through this lane to set him up 1v1 against our keeper. Lloris was once again equal to the task.
Guardiola was making good use of his bench, Mauricio Pochettino waited a tad long to make his changes. He made the right moves, but they should’ve come a bit earlier. Moussa Sissoko, who had put in a tremendous shift, had to go down in an exhausted heap before he was replaced. As Man City came more in to the match we needed a hold-up player up top instead of Son who was looking to run the channels. Vincent Janssen’s entrance came about ten minutes after it should’ve done.
It didn’t cost us though, as the game ended Spurs 2-0 Man City leaving us still unbeaten in the Premier League this season.
Spurs 2-0 Man City overall
Was this Spurs best team performance under Mauricio Pochettino? Maybe. Was this Spurs biggest statement under Mauricio Pochettino? Definitely. After doing well in a supposedly weaker Premier League last season, to consider ourselves as true title contenders this term, we needed to make a statement. Doing it against a Pep Guardiola coached team definitely did that. Man City are most pundit’s favourites for the title, this has said that we’re not going away in a stronger league.
The manner of the performance also made a statement. Our pressing was up a notch on where it usually is in speed and physicality. It was strong and tough, without going over the line like we did last season at Stamford Bridge. Our insistence on then getting the ball quickly forwards was consistently asking questions. It forced the Man City back line to immediately react, often from bad defensive positions. It was these rapid transitions that eventually paid off with two goals and a penalty.
Final score: Spurs 2-0 Man City.
MOTM: Christian Eriksen.