Tottenham Hotspur put on a dazzling display to halt Manchester City’s unbeaten run. Previous to the their trip to White Hart Lane, City had won all six of their games, yet an own goal from Aleksander Kolarov in the ninth minute followed by a Dele Alli strike half an hour later changed that. Spurs are currently the only team unbeaten in the league so far and with 17 points are witnessing their best start to the season since 1960. Tottenham were also afforded the luxury of a missed penalty from Erik Lamela.
Questionable line up paid off
Tottenham were still without Mousa Dembele after he picked up an injury in their clash with Sunderland two weeks ago. The same match saw Eric Dier substituted off with an injury and Harry Kane stretchered off the pitch. Dier was the only player of the injured trio to feature in the game as he made an appearance off the bench. The exclusion of Dembele and Dier was some what surprising as it was expected that the two would be fit for todays game after the club announced they only suffered from cramp in the clash against the Black Cats.
With the importance of this clash all three players were expected to be big misses. Instead Victor Wanyama started along side Dele Alli, a partnership which hasn’t been as successful in previous games, usually as Dele would drift higher up the pitch, into his more natural position, leaving his partner exposed to attacks. Yet as the game progressed Spurs changed from their usual 4-2-3-1 formation, to a 4-1-4-1 and subsequently saw Christian Eriksen drop into the role Alli was expected to fill while Alli continued to play higher up the pitch. This change had a huge impact in Spurs controlling the midfield as it allowed Eriksen to continue to dictate Spurs’ play while Alli’s spontaneity and creativity exploited gaps in City’s defence.
In addition to this 12 of the 14 players that featured in the Premier League clash travelled to Moscow for their midweek fixture, something, which many believed would have a negative impact on the Lilywhites. Kyle Walker and Moussa Sissoko returned to the line up for the clash at White Hart Lane, while Vincent Janssen dropped to the bench.
The exclusion of Janssen, who is still to settle into life in North London, saw Heung-Min Son start in the number nine position. At first glance this seemed like a risky move from Pochettino. With Son in such good form playing on the wing moving into a central position could have easily disrupted this. However, with the Argentine expecting a difficult midfield battle playing a false nine worked out as beneficial for the Lilywhites, as it left them with an extra player to implement the high tempo press which saw them control the game. On top of this with Janssen not finding himself in scoring positions and Son having netted five goals in Spurs last six games in all competitions, with chances expected to be limited having a more clinical striker makes sense.
Going into the season Spurs’ strength in depth looked worrying however today’s game proved otherwise.
Spurs strangle City
The Lilywhites were straight out of the starting blocks as they suffocated City with their high intensity play. Within the first minute of play Spurs saw to chances at goal, although neither were clear cut it showed that Spurs were only in the game to win. In the first half Tottenham had a desire to get the ball forward quickly creating the high tempo that startled City, fast but intricate passes to work their way up the pitch left City chasing the game.
Spurs epitomised the saying ‘attacking is your best form of defence’ through their willingness to break City’s lines. Eventually this put The Sky Blues under pressure as a purposeful cross from Danny Rose was met by Kolarov and hit the back of the net. The first twenty minutes of high tempo play also allowed Spurs to send a message to the Manchester City players as their aggressive style of play indicated that they were not going to let City walk over them nor let them control the game. The high intensity play meant that City hardly got a touch of the ball in the first half as they could not implement their passing game. However as the pressed wore off later in the game City started to claw back, yet a solid defensive performance left them little chance to score.
Tottenham were also well disciplined in holding their shape, which allowed them to press their opponents in key areas but also aided their dominance in midfield.
Finally a lot of Tottenham’s attacking threats came through their fullbacks Danny Rose and Kyle Walker. The two exploited City’s fullbacks with their speed and aggression, which was aided by the amount of space left from Guardiola’s decision to use inverted fullbacks. Tottenham were reliant on Rose and Walker to fuel their attacks and this was shown by the fact that centre-backs Jan Vertonghen and Toby Alderweireld didn’t not pass to each other throughout the whole game but instead more commonly linked up with their respective full back allowing Spurs to launch more attacks.