Postecoglou’s tactics work a treat against Man City as Spurs’ debated plan leads to deserved draw

Jason Soutar
Tottenham head coach Ange Postecoglou applauds the fans after a draw against Manchester City.
Ange Postecoglou applauds the fans after a draw against Manchester City.

Do not kid yourself, Tottenham played the right way against Manchester City on Sunday, and doubting Ange Postecoglou’s game plan when it worked very well is a strange way to go.


Standout Premier League fixtures often disappoint. There is nothing worse than getting yourself all excited for the big match of the weekend, only for it to be utter pants. Thankfully we have Ange Postecoglou, whose teams always deliver, no matter what.

A lot has been said about how the big Aussie sets his team up. It’s naive when it doesn’t work and it’s a breath of fresh air when it does. Either way, it makes writing 16 Conclusions (soon come, my friend) pretty easy and always provides a juicy narrative.

Going at Manchester City was always going to be risky, but hearing Jamie Carragher and Gary Neville criticise the bravery on the ball when playing out from the back was infuriating. You can park the bus or go the other way entirely, Manchester City getting chances will happen regardless. And the fact Spurs got themselves a point shows the plan worked.

While Spurs have earned their flowers, City showed a lot of complacency and produced one of their worst second-half performances of the year. Minutes 45 to 60 were dominated by Spurs, who benefitted from the half-time change which saw Bryan Gil – who struggled on the ball in the opening 45 – go off for Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg.

This switch gave Spurs more steel in the middle of the pitch and saw Brennan Johnson switch over to the left flank to get chalk on his boots, keeping Kyle Walker wide and providing less support for Manuel Akanji in the middle. It helped Spurs play through City, which is exactly what Postecoglou bravely set out to do.

Bemoaning Spurs’ philosophy while all of their chances came from sticking with it was narrow-minded and Neville and Carra both fell into that trap on commentary duty. They would have been wrongly smug if Dejan Kulusevski did not get an equaliser after Yves Bissouma had a brain fart near his box.

READ MORE: I should hate Spurs manager Ange Postecoglou but I don’t. It’s weird and I don’t like it…

Postecoglou’s well-executed gameplan was nearly overlooked because Bissouma decided to ignore a simple pass out wide, instead running directly into sky-blue traffic. He was caught out and Jack Grealish scored to go 3-2 up. His error on the ball did not come from the philosophy he has been taught but from being sloppy and maybe over-confident. As I say, it was a bit of a brain fart. Nothing more, nothing less.

There was relief from a neutral standpoint when Kulusevski towered over Nathan Ake to continue his record of scoring in every appearance at the Etihad, as the post-match analysis would have been hitting all of the wrong notes if City had won thanks to Grealish’s 81st-minute strike via Bissouma’s mistake.

Postecoglou and Spurs also benefitted from the fact that Pep Guardiola’s side always seem to struggle against the north Londoners.

You can be European champions, Treble winners, even the greatest Premier League team of all time, but if your bogey team is Tottenham Hotspur, you need to be asking serious questions.

Dejan Kulusevski celebrates scoring a late equaliser.

The former Celtic manager made the relevant tactical tweaks and played the right way. Heung-min Son’s sixth-minute opener confirmed what we already knew: that we were in for a treat.

The Spurs captain scored an own goal three minutes later and then Erling Haaland missed a chance you’d expect him to convert with his eyes closed. Scoring as often as he does and still missing so many big chances defies logic. Bloody robot. Meanwhile, Jeremy Doku was doing his thing against Pedro Porro, hitting the bar and post with a shot.

Phil Foden put the hosts ahead for the first time in the game after some lovely passing inside Spurs’ box and then Julian Alvarez struck the post. It could and should have been four at half-time with Postecoglou’s team wide open, which was a big contributing factor to Hojbjerg coming off the bench.

Spurs were asking for trouble at times – which is natural in Postecoglou’s system, regardless of the opponent – but Gio Lo Celso’s equaliser off the post was both beautiful and well-deserved. City hitting the woodwork and seeing it bounce on the goalline or ricochet out wide, while Spurs’ helps the ball hit the back of the net was fitting for this manic fixture over the years.

It could have been a different result had Simon Hooper not bizarrely blown up with Grealish running in on goal, but our take would not have been any different.

Hooper clanger aside, the quick turnaround under Postecoglou has been remarkable, especially considering how different they were attempting to play under Antonio Conte last season.

It is undoubtedly an exciting time for Spurs, who need to give Postecoglou a few transfer windows to bolster his squad with their lack of depth already being massively exposed.

City, on the other hand, are going through a bit of a blip, which means a hammering is just around the corner. It probably won’t come on Wednesday without Grealish and Rodri at Aston Villa. Luton Town at the Kenny a few days later could be a bloodbath.

West Ham at home on Thursday night is a good opportunity for Spurs to get back to winning ways. Winning is quite important in football and they haven’t done that in a while, in fairness.

Either way, Ange’s style of play might look silly at times but doubting the way they played against City makes no sense. It is the wrong narrative and it felt important to emphasise that.