Tottenham Hotspur 1-5 Manchester City
It would be unfair to criticise Tottenham Hotspur for not playing a conservative system at home however when you look at the talent in Manchester City’s forward line you really feel the game was lost by Tim Sherwood’s system choice prior to kick-off at White Hart Lane this evening.
Tottenham Hotspur continued with the 4-2-3-1 system the club has been using for the majority of the season however as we have seen since Tim Sherwood’s arrival as Head Coach Nabil Bentaleb was deployed as a holding midfielder. Christian Eriksen and Gylfi Sigurdsson were positioned as part of the attacking midfield trio with both players interchanging between a central and left wing position throughout the match.
Manchester City started the match in control, Aguero’s early chance after just four minutes should have been the warning Spurs heeded however Manchester City continued to break through the host’s midfield with such ease. This was a direct result of the positioning of Bentaleb in relation to Dembele. Bentaleb has done nothing wrong, he was right to drop slightly deeper in order to perform his duties as a holding midfield player however this left Moussa Dembele on his own in the middle of midfield which is fine if a) you aren’t facing Manchester City’s Yaya Toure and Fernandinho or b) if you have a more mobile holding midfielder able to cover the majority of the space.
Dembele on his own could not contain the forward runs of Toure and Fernandinho and the two bypassed him with ease before moving the ball onto either Navas or Silva who were entrusted with the task of creating chances for the as ever impressive Sergio Aguero. Eriksen and Sigurdsson really needed to work much harder to drop back into the space and help Dembele out yet neither appeared willing to do so although in fairness to the players this is something which should have been thought of by Tim Sherwood prior to the match.
The lack of numbers of midfield for Tottenham also rendered any sort of pressing game within their own half impossible and Silva and Navas both benefitted from time on the ball which allowed them to pick the perfect pass. David Silva’s assist for Aguero and City’s opening goal was a perfect example of this.
Tottenham did show they could be a danger going forward with Adebayor’s first run in earnest against Martin Demichelis making the experienced Argentine look out of place, however Tottenham simply could not keep hold of the ball long enough to bring Adebayor into play.
Half-time saw Sigurdsson drop into the middle of midfield as part of a midfield three with Capoue and Bentaleb as Tim Sherwood recognised how his side had been completely overrun for the majority of the opening forty five minutes and Tottenham instantly improved. There was more control about their play and the hosts held much more of the ball and looked as if they were going to get back into the match. Danny Rose’s sending off and the resulting penalty really ended the match as a contest as it is impossible to play against a team as well organised and rich in quality as Manchester City are with less men on the pitch.
The match was over as a contest from this point and Manchester City as you would expect kept the ball well and treated the remaining half hour as a training exercise. Tottenham by no means disgraced themselves this evening and will perhaps feel aggrieved with regards to the sending off however the real mistake was made before the game in trying to outplay a team as strong as Manchester City with only two in midfield.