Five Thoughts on Spurs 1-5 Manchester City

City's steamroller, an unsymmetrical approach and a deserved penalty. Daniel Storey has some conclusions on Spurs v City...

Last Updated: 30/01/14 at 08:41 Post Comment

1) Away Doubts Extinguished
It's a compliment to Arsenal that in beating Spurs on Wednesday night, Manchester City went top of the Premier League for the first time since mid-August. Having got there, it would be brave (or potentially stupid) to suggest that they will finish in any other position.

The evident reservation about City before Wednesday's match was the nagging doubt regarding their form away from the Etihad, where they have been disgustingly ruthless. Six victories in seven away games was obviously more than acceptable, but Leicester, Fulham, Swansea, West Ham and Blackburn were five of those opponents.

Those doubts were effectively extinguished during an opening half-hour in which the visitors were phenomenally dominant. Twelve shots in 30 minutes included a 14th goal in 13 games for Sergio Aguero, and both the Argentinean and his strike partner Edin Dzeko both had chances to extend City's lead. The penalty/red card double whammy effectively ended the game as a contest, but this was still a City side in almost complete control for 80 minutes.

The statistics are verging on obscene. 115 goals in all competitions before the end of January; this is a side scoring in record-breaking fashion. There have been eight occasions this season on which a team has scored more than five goals or more in a Premier League match - City are responsible for 50% of those.

You don't have to like City, but it's pretty difficult not to sit back and admire them. Sorry Spurs fans.

2) Rash challenge. Penalty
The decision from Andre Marriner five minutes into the second half will be much-debated, but was correct. Danny Rose's naivety to fly into a challenge from behind deserved nothing better, and slow-motion replays clearly showed him catching Dzeko's heel before making connection with the ball. Touching the ball does not mean that a foul has not been committed.

In giving the penalty, Marriner then had no choice but to send off Rose. Dzeko had a clear sight of goal, and ball at feet seven yards out. Given his shooting on the night (eight shots, two on target) it was far from goalscoring certainty, but clearly goalscoring opportunity.

I have little doubt that we will get a stream of mails regarding the double punishments in such incidents, and it is easy to sympathise with Spurs supporters and the neutral. But thems the rules, and Marriner applied them correctly.

Finally, on the live television coverage Michael Owen (don't get us started) seemed to criticise Marriner for not making the decision himself, instead choosing to consult his assistant. Thankfully, you're all bright enough to realise how idiotic that is, so I don't need to vent my spleen until I bleed all over my chair.

3) Sherwood Strategy Demonstrates Versatility
Spurs should clearly not lose heart from such a defeat. City have players of significantly better quality than Sherwood's side, and 'good team loses to great team' is nothing to sob over.

It may seem bizarre to praise the manager after such a defeat but, in fact, the underlying concern over Sherwood's management was a slight naivety against the strongest opposition - he at least demonstrated a versatility to change.

Speaking after the uncomfortable FA Cup defeat to Arsenal, Sherwood protested against any criticism of his tactics. Spurs' 4-4-2 system allowed Arsenal, who lined up 4-2-3-1, to dominate the midfield and they controlled most of the possession as a result."I didn't see us playing 4-4-2," was Sherwood's response. "We just had 11 numbers on the field and tried to rotate and fill up every area of the field. I don't know what you are saying about 4-4-2."

This time, against City's 4-4-2, Sherwood chose to utilise a 4-2-3-1 system, with Nabil Bentaleb and Moussa Dembele given the task of dealing with the City attack. The selection of the inexperienced Bentaleb can be debated, but faith placed in youth should not be criticised.

The formation may have been preferable, but Spurs could do little about City's early onslaught, as Pellegrini's side employed a similar strategy utilised by Tim Sherwood in his Spurs tenure. A high pressing tempo forced mistakes by the player in possession, or the necessity for a long ball forward to relieve the danger. Six Spurs players (Kyle Walker, Danny Rose, Christian Eriksen, Nabil Bentaleb, Gylfi Sigurdsson and Emmanuel Adebayor) gave more than a quarter of their passes away during the first half, and the fact that Aaron Lennon and Eriksen had less touches combined than five City players had individually demonstrates their lack of precision perfectly. City forced that issue.

4) Is Symmetry Overrated?
Traditionally, whenever we draw out tactical formations, we automatically lean towards symmetry. But, whilst two full-backs, two strikers and two wingers seems logical in our mind, could a deliberate lack of equilibrium and balance in attacking areas be a successful ploy?

It certainly appears to help City. Lining up with Yaya Toure and Fernandinho in midfield effectively leaves David Silva roaming into central areas in order to act as principal playmaker, and the pitch map of the match shows him operating around the centre circle.

Such an approach then leaves Jesus Navas as City's only winger, and the Spaniard benefited from being the only wide threat. Navas made ten crosses against Spurs, two more than every other City player combined, and created seven chances, more than double the total of any other player on the pitch.

It may seem to grate against our expectations, but City's lack of symmetry actually allows them to outnumber opponents in central areas and yet still have one primary outlet for attacking the wings. When that winger is as proficient as Navas, it becomes thoroughly effective.

5) Strength In Depth Highlights Financial Muscle
It was almost fitting that on the day Manchester City released their financial figures, their impressive strength in depth should be so palpably demonstrated.

City's most potent striker was removed with an injury before half-time. Their second choice remained on the bench through a lack of match fitness after injury. Midfielders James Milner, Samir Nasri and Javi Garcia all have knocks. £127million worth of players unavailable, and yet it barely registered.

There will evidently be a great deal of concern with Aguero's hamstring, and Edin Dzeko doesn't look sharp enough (yet) for a title tilt, but one of City's most impressive aspects is their ability to share around goals. Five goals and five different scorers against Spurs, and eight Manchester City players now have three or more Premier League goals. By way of comparison, Liverpool have three, Manchester United four and Chelsea and Arsenal five.

Take out City's three top scorers in the league this season, and they still have more goals than 14 other Premier League teams. That's the sort of statistic that makes the tag of title favourites justified. I guess that will happen if you can lose £400m in four years.

Daniel Storey - follow him on Twitter

Have to laugh at the "20 million pound player in every position" line. Our entire back 5 cost just over 20m. Hart was £2m after add ons, Zaba was £6m, Kompany £6m, Demichelis £4m and Clichy £7m.
- jimbomcfc

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