Manchester City 4-1 Tottenham Hotspur: Both sides press high but Spurs’ defence lets them down

High pressing

This game was a Premier League rarity – one in which both sides came to play with a high block; holding a high defensive line and attempting to close down the opposition in their own half. Manchester City attempted 16 tackles in Spurs’ half, completing 9 of them. Spurs attempted 10, completing 6.

Both sides’ opening goals came from this avenue. Aguero’s opener stemmed from Erik Lamela losing possession to Bacary Sagna in the final third. Similarly, Eriksen’s equaliser arrived as a result of Fernando losing possession at the hands of Ryan Mason in front of his defence.

Aguero and City profit from defensive errors

Although the scoreline implies a sound thrashing, Spurs were competitive up until Fazio’s sending off, and were unlucky not to draw level from the penalty spot through Roberto Soldado. What let them down was their defence, which looked completely unsuited to holding a high line.

Both centre backs were unable to cope with the pace and movement of the City frontline, particularly that of Sergio Aguero. Younes Kaboul couldn’t prevent Aguero from shimmying inside for his first goal and he made an appalling challenge on Silva for the first penalty. He was also embarrassed for pace by Aguero off a long ball on the half-hour mark, before being beaten again by Aguero in the box seconds later. Fazio did not fare much better, getting himself dismissed in the second half for a desperate tug on Aguero, who had outpaced him to a Navas cross.

This incident was one of the many occasions where City got in behind Spurs left-full Danny Rose. The highest successful pass combination in the game was Sagna to Navas with 30, twelve ahead of the next highest pairing. Eric Dier, at right back, was also bested on countless occasions by James Milner, who enjoyed yet another strong game, completing four dribbles and hitting the bar late on. Both City wingers finished with the joint most touches of the ball in the game, with 83 each, showing how often City looked to exploit wide areas.

City, on the left, looked to exploit the flanks; Spurs, on the right, looked to attack down the middle.

City, on the left, looked to exploit the flanks; Spurs, on the right, looked to attack down the middle.

Soldado

While Aguero will deservedly grab all the headlines, the much maligned Roberto Soldado also demonstrated that reports of his demise may have been premature.

Tottenham’s highest successful pass combination was between Soldado and Eriksen, with eight. The striker and number ten linked up extremely well today, most notably for the first goal when the former assisted the latter. A Soldado knock-down towards the end of the first half also allowed Eriksen to play in Lamela, whose shot was blocked by Fernando. Soldado also won the penalty that would have drawn Spurs level at 2-2. Unfortunately for the away side, Joe Hart saved it low to his right, an area to which the Spaniard had directed three of his previous four penalties. Hart must be doing his homework.

Midfield: Mason, Lampard and a stinker from Fernando

Both midfields featured an English player performing the box-to-box role – Mason for Spurs and Lampard for City. Despite being removed due to injury before half-time, the old-timer showed the young buck how it’s done, providing the assist for the first goal and winning the penalty for the second. No midfielder in the history of the Premier League has been more adept at the late run from midfield than Frank Lampard.

Ryan Mason was no slouch today in that regard either however – he made a great run to get on the end of Soldado’s through ball in the 8th minute, before shooting straight at Hart from point-blank range. He also arrived late for a stinging strike from the edge of the area just before half-time. If he improves his distribution – a pass completion rate of 72% is not good enough for a Premier League midfielder playing in an expansive side  – he could have a future at this level.

Etienne Capoue, predominantly playing as the deeper of Spurs’ double pivot, wasn’t too troubled by David Silva, as City mainly looked to go down the flanks. Fernando however, his opposite number, had an absolute nightmare. Dispossessed by Mason for Spurs’ opener, he went on to be robbed in dangerous areas a further three times, before eventually being replaced by Touré for the last fifteen minutes.

Fernando’s performance was a big part of the reason why Chistian Eriksen had such an impact on the game, allowing himself to be dribbled by the Danish number ten on four occasions. His failed headed clearance that led to Danny Rose’s cross and Hart’s save from Soldado was fittingly one of his last acts in the game. Fernandinho, who had been benched for this game following a poor run of form, fared much better when he replaced Lampard, finishing as the game’s top tackler with six.

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