Dele Alli scores to make it Spurs 2-0 Man City in the Premier Leaugye clash at White Hart Lane.

Spurs 2-0 Man City: rapid transition play

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.

Tottenham man-to-man press with Lamela free during Spurs 2-0 Man City..

Tottenham man-to-man press with Lamela free.

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.

Danny Rose's aggressive forward pass tries to find Son's run during Spurs 2-0 Man City.

Danny Rose’s aggressive forward pass tries to find Son’s run.

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 out-to-in runs were difficult to pick up during Spurs 2-0 Man City.

Son’s out-to-in runs were difficult to pick up.

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.

Tottenham offsides during Spurs 2-0 Man City.

Tottenham offsides, Spurs 2-0 Man City.

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.

Spurs regain the ball with Man City's CBs split during Spurs 2-0 Man City.

Spurs regain the ball with Man City’s CBs split.

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.

Lamela doesn't hesitate to pass the ball forwards after winning it during Spurs 2-0 Man City.

Lamela doesn’t hesitate to pass the ball forwards after winning it.

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.

Son Heung-Min picks out Dele Alli's forward run to make it Spurs 2-0 Man CIty.

Son Heung-Min picks out Dele Alli’s forward run.

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.

Walker aggressively runs forward after winning the ball back during Spurs 2-0 Man City.

Walker aggressively runs forward after winning the ball back.

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.

Spurs subs

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.

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17 Responses to Spurs 2-0 Man City: rapid transition play

  1. Joel 4th October 2016 at 7:34 pm #

    Good report until i read you gave Christian Eriksen MOtM?? Eh? I thought he had a pretty poor game even if he joined in the pressing but that was all he did. Would have given it to our CB’s, Son for his tireless running and even hold up play or Wanyama who was very solid indeed

    • ashleycollie 4th October 2016 at 7:49 pm #

      Disagree, Joel, look at the game again more closely — most people don’t — CE was at the fulcrum of everything, more in the middle, and he’s started doing what Carrick used to do for us. Not full blooded tackling, but nicking the ball off the opponent, much like Lamela does. Both can be pests, and it adds to Wanyama/Sissoko/Dier’s more tough tackling. CE also tracked back more as he was playing that central position. I’m sure he’s one of the first midfielders Poch puts down on his line-up. Anyway, all good, COYS!

      • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 4th October 2016 at 9:29 pm #

        Spot on, Ashley. Was first to a lot of loose balls or picking up broken down passages of play. Thought his passing to escape City’s press or to get attacks moving through the middle third was exceptional.

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 4th October 2016 at 9:18 pm #

      Every player was good and I thought Alderweireld and Wanyama stood out, but Eriksen was just superb, Joel. His passing was brilliant. It often helped us escape City’s press and often got attacks quickly moving. He was also first to every loose ball, gobbled it up and straight on the attack. 16 ball recoveries, 7 more than the next best, Wanyama with 9. Thought Eriksen’s performance, was spectacular in its pure simplicity.

  2. ashleycollie 4th October 2016 at 7:45 pm #

    Mark, well put. The formation, with only one DM is interesting, we’ve done it now for 3 games, as Poch noted, and he says he likes the formation. It puts an onus on the sole DM to work his butt off, and also on the front 5 to play defense from the front by doing that press and rapid counter-attack. Later, Dier came in to shore it up with 2 DMs, again. Also Son as the ostensible #9, false 9, is also a fascinating option. It’s very different than with Kane/Janssen, with more speed. Just great to have options, and a stronger squad. COYS!

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 4th October 2016 at 9:22 pm #

      Very true, having a number of formations and options is the step we need to take this season. Looks like we are well on the way to achieving it.

  3. Paul 4th October 2016 at 8:40 pm #

    Just think what trouble we’d have been in last season without Dier, Dembele and Kane. Last weekend, against the probable champions, missing these three barely seemed to matter at all.

    Not only have Spurs bought well over the summer, but almost every player has discernibly improved under Pochettino. I think that’s even more important than Pochettino’s tactical flexibility.

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 4th October 2016 at 9:42 pm #

      Very good point, Paul. Poch is building a strong squad that will give us strength in depth to compete on multiple fronts.

  4. shubes 4th October 2016 at 9:50 pm #

    Great work as always Mark how much do you think Poch used the tactics Diego simeone used against Pep last season in the Champions League.

    What surprised me was how long it took PEP to bring in from gundogan two offer that passing option in deep midfield.

    Going forward do you think that Poch will abandon the plan b of using Vincent Janssen and continue with this false nine approach.

    Funny this is the best I have seen us play against Stellar opposition since the Inter Milan game wear Bale called a taxi for maicon

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 5th October 2016 at 12:46 am #

      It’s tough to say as City under Guardiola are different to his Bayern side. Also, the Celtic and second half of the Manchester derby also have plenty of clues as how to play City.

      Going forward I wouldn’t rule out seeing Janssen used like he was earlier in the season or Son as false nine. Poch now has options and different set ups to attack different types of opposition. It all means we aren’t as reliant on the starting XI of last season who were pretty much nailed in to start every game.

  5. shubes 4th October 2016 at 9:54 pm #

    Also agree Eriksen was man of the match his movement and passing of the ball was Luka modric esque and he is still only 24 incredibly that deepa midfield spot is not his best position but I think it speaks volumes to the way Poch has demonstrated that that he can elicit good performances from the same player playing in different positions

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 5th October 2016 at 12:49 am #

      Yep, that is one of the key things about Poch. I hope he can get Sissoko to the extent level, as he’ll be an absolute beast of a player if Poch can.

  6. Matt 4th October 2016 at 11:27 pm #

    Much to admire in this game but what excites me is the 4-1-4-1 gives us options against the “bus parkers”. The combination of added speed (sissoko and son in particular) width, and having to deal with 4 AMs movement I think will lead to less draws against those tactics. Also reduces our dependence on Moussa, who I rate massively, a bit.

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 5th October 2016 at 12:53 am #

      Spot on, Matt. We have a couple of systems now that reduce the reliance on 1 or 2 key players. It’s the next step in the evolution of our young side.

  7. ashleycollie 5th October 2016 at 3:02 am #

    Matt, we are going to be facing a lot of bus parkers (Stoke upcoming, like Monaco at Wembley, with others to come), so we are going to need more options like 4-1-4-1 to help break them down. Moussa Dembele, unfortunately, cannot be relied up to play two games in a row, we all love the guy, but he’s our new sick note, and it’s too bad. Wanyama was a huge buy for us, and perhaps Sissoko more in the middle, too, if needed. COYS!

  8. shubes 5th October 2016 at 4:52 am #

    This is why it is so important for the gaffer to control/influence recruitment as much as possible..not slating the DoF

    My one fear given how reliant we are on a our fullbacks how long can Tripper and Davies still give us what we need…walker esp has developed into possibly the best right back in the world…simply less brain farts

  9. Matt 5th October 2016 at 8:08 pm #

    Ashley you’re right about wanyama. His athleticism makes him ideal for that single holding role. And with CL both he and dier will get lots of game time. Who would you play in a 6 pointer at the end of the season given the choice?! Not sure I know currently. Nice problem to have….