Manchester City's thrilling 3-3 draw with Tottenham means Pep Guardiola's side has now dropped six points in their last three Premier League games. The game was high-octane and began with City penning Spurs in their own half. However, Spurs were able to snatch a lead via a Son Heung-min goal against the run of play as a result of a deft counter-attack which originated from a City corner.
Just three minutes later though Son found himself on the score sheet again but this time in favour of the home side as he unluckily kneed the ball into his own net from a City free kick. Phil Foden gave City their first lead of the night to make it 2-1 after some brilliantly incisive football in the penalty area.
Spurs played a better second half than the first, and their efforts were rewarded in the form of a Giovani Lo Celso goal from the edge of the box to equalise in the 70th minute. Jack Grealish thought he had ultimately won it for City after scoring City's third from a few yards away, however, his ecstasy was short-lived and cancelled out by Kulusevskis' decisive equaliser to make the scoreline 3-3.
The ending of the game was controversial. City were in the process of transitioning with Erling Haaland at the helm, and despite being fouled in the process, the referee Simon Hooper played the advantage as Haaland was able to let off a pass into the path of Grealish. Grealish was ostensibly set for a one-on-one with the Spurs goalkeeper but Hooper called play back to the original foul as he believed that an advantage didn't accrue for City.
It was ultimately a game of drama, goals, a surprising lack of goals from Haaland, and a valiant effort from Ange Postecoglou's Spurs. Here are four things we learned from today's feature game.
Postecoglou's in-game approach was very risky
Spurs' tactical approach in this game was risky, to say the least. Spurs have made it habitual to not compromise their ultra-attacking playing style regardless of who they face in the league, and this produced some drawbacks in today's game against City.
One drawback to this approach was the fact that in pressing City they not only pressed them high up the pitch, but they committed their fullbacks to the high press, which meant that once City were able to bypass Spurs' pressure Jeremy Doku and Foden were in acres of space on their wings and were constantly able to isolate the opposing defender. This, for example, resulted in Doku almost sending the ball into the top corner after quickly shifting the ball away from his opposing defender inside the box in the first half.
Another drawback to Spurs' tactical approach was their buildup play. Throughout most of the game, Spurs were building up in a three with Yves Bissouma as the central centre-back; Ben Davies and Emerson Royale were on either side of him. This proved to be a struggle for Spurs as a lot of the time the wide CBs in possession were left with little option in terms of an out ball or a midfield teammate to drop deep to receive the ball as the City press was so suffocating.
It was a lack of options for Bissouma which drove him to try to dribble through City's press himself but was unsuccessful and relieved of the ball, the turnover resulting in City's third goal. Emerson was also subject to the same fate as Bissouma in that the first half saw him give up possession on the edge of his own box, and he was very lucky that Haaland seemed to have forgotten his shooting boots at home today.
Whilst it could be argued that Postecoglou is deserving of some praise for his persistence in his total football style against all-comers, it can also be said that Spurs were very fortunate not to have been down and out in the first half due to the quantity of chances they were conceding as a result of their persistence in playing this way.
Second half attacking tweak from Postecoglou helped Spurs sustain attacks better
Bryan Gil didn't come out in the second half and it was a decision that ended up paying dividends for Postecoglou. Whilst Gil was instrumental in Spurs' first goal, he didn't do anything else noteworthy and Walker had complete control over him on Spurs' left side. Postecoglou recognised that he needed a more direct threat on the left to cause Walker problems so that is why moving Brennan Johnson to the left was such a shrewd move.
Johnson already had the beating of Josko Gvardiol on the right side of the pitch and he transferred that same potency to the left. It was early in the second half that Johnson had already provided a shot on target by cutting in from the left, and it was late in the half when Johnson successfully beat Walker to the byline to put in a good cross which was met by an even better header from Kulusevski, who after being shifted onto the right wing by Postecoglou was able to affect the game in the attacking phase more than when he was originally in the central attacking midfield position.
On the surface, these tweaks may seem rudimentary, but in football it is very common that even the simplest of tweaks can have the biggest of impacts, and that was evident today.
City regularly exploited the spaces behind Spurs' midfield line
City regularly took advantage of Spurs' high press and played through their pressure with ease at times due to the immense quality in possession that they do have. Once City bypassed the press there was always a diagonal switch of play to the wide players that was available, and a lot of the time city's wide players were left isolated with their opposing defender, which favoured Doku and Foden.
City weren't particularly in any sort of rush to cut through Spurs' press either, as they were more than happy to simply circulate possession between players in their defensive line to tire out the Spurs players, and it became clear in the final minutes of the first half that the Spurs forwards were, in fact, tiring due to the intensity at which they were pressing against City's masterful passing in their buildup.
City's defence for the goals they conceded could've been better
Whilst some credit should rightfully go to Spurs for the goals they scored, it isn't far-fetched to suggest that City could've defended some of the goals better. The first goal was avoidable and probably would've been avoided had an actual defender been in Doku's position. Still, it is debatable whether Doku could've been stronger in that duel with Son. What isn't debatable however is that Ederson really should've saved the shot, especially seeing as the ball slipped through his arms underneath him, meaning that ordinarily it was a standard save to make.
Nathan Ake didn't cover himself in glory for Kuluseviski's goal either. The ball from Johnson was decent but because it was floated in it had to be attacked, and in attacking the ball Kulusevski battered Ake in the process. The amount of time Kulusevski had to run at Ake was concerning too, as no City players seemed to anticipate that runs would be made from the right side of the box - all the City players seemed to be solely focused on what was happening on the left side of the box.