Gary Neville and Jamie Carragher provided expert analysis on Tottenham’s dreadful performance against City on SkySports Monday Night Football programme. They highlighted a number of issues from the City game but many of them have been evident through the season and HotspurHQ have said so in match reports and in post-match comments.
When television pundits are able to identify problems within a team’s formation or tactics, when a humble fan can see it, why did the manager, coaching staff and players at Tottenham not take steps to rectify the problems before they fell to a humiliating 6-goal defeat.
**My thanks to King Luka on COYS messageboard who gave me permission to use his post outlining the thoughts of the ‘two wise men’.
1. Poor attitude by the players: Highlighted by Gary Neville, showed right at kick off that the players weren’t even ready with Vertonghen tying his laces and Kaboul, Sandro and Dawson all messing about with their socks.
2. Poor tactics by AVB: Highlighted initially by Neville in regards to the defensive split of the centre-backs being too large and the 2 fullbacks being too far up the pitch (Walker was stood beside Lennon for the second goal). Left the slow CBs isolated. Says AVB goes too much by the textbook with regards to the two centre-backs splitting as this is how everyone sees Barca play so think its the correct way to play including AVB who does not have the players at his disposal in CB to play this way; they are simply too slow.
[Kyle Walker is frequently the most forward player on the right hand side of the pitch and if play breaks down and Spurs lose possession, he is sometimes unable to get back even with his pace and Spurs are wide open on that side of the defence. It's the same on the left, when Jan Vertonghen or Kyle Naughton move forward, if we give the ball away or a pass is intercepted, they haven't the pace to recover their defensive position. That's why I want to see Vertonghen return to his rightful place in central defence. Danny Rose, like Walker, has the pace to make it back on occasions.]
3. Poor tactics again from AVB: Highlighted by Carragher. He showed what Liverpool, Southampton and Real Madrid all do when playing a tough away game directly from kick off. They play the ball back to their centre-back who then plays a diagonal ball to one of the taller players who runs onto the smaller fullback ie Ramos to Ronaldo. He said it’s complete stupidity to pass back to the keeper and that every team in a tough away game should look to break forward from the off.
[That was a very sloppy start to such an important game - a series of errors gifting City the early goal Spurs knew they couldn't afford to concede. It was so similar to the goal conceded at Arsenal a few seasons back - players not fully focused or concentrating. The game plan must have been to keep it tight at the back in the early stages and take it from there. Within 14 seconds Spurs had shot themselves in the foot and as we've said on more than one occasion, there's no plan 'B'.]
4. Too slow a tempo: Highlighted by both, we have become too predictable in our build up, too slow. Carragher said that we were his toughest away game under Harry because we played at such a high tempo and were always passing and moving. Now we hold onto the ball for too long and it’s too easy to defend against.
[This has been a failing all season. Spurs play passes sideways and backwards rather than forward. While they are doing this the opposition are getting back into position so denying Spurs any forward movement or space to play in. Teams allow Spurs patient possession in midfield and wait to pick up on a misplaced pass before counter-attacking with Spurs defenders out of position, too far up-field in attacking positions from which they are unable to recover.
When City collected the ball in midfield they ran straight for goal with players pouring forward in support to give the player in possession different options for a pass.
Teams happily allow Spurs to dominate possession but it's usually in the middle of the pitch and doesn't cause them any problems in defence]
5. No natural number 10: Highlighted by Neville. Said that Holtby isn’t one, Siggy isn’t one and Eriksen hasn’t proven to be one. A top number 10 needs to score 10 goals and assist 15 a season, we don’t have that.
[It was a strange decision to completely change the attacking midfield three against City and bring in Lewis Holtby who has excelled in that role in the Europa League and midweek games but has struggled to make a telling contribution in the Premier League. Lennon, Holtby and Lamela were all light-weight when the strength of Mousa Dembele who played there for Fulham could have been of greater use. A position still to be filled.]
6. No width or balance to the team: Highlighted by both: Completely imbalanced left hand side, everything is too narrow, therefore, too predictable.
[Spurs have often played with two wingers and/or attacking full backs but it isn't providing the required width as Andros Townsend, Aaron Lennon and Erik Lamela tend to cut in to the already congested central area. Lennon and Townsend have both been used on the wrong wing limiting their opportunities to get to the bye-line to deliver crosses into the box. England have made better use of Townsend this season than Spurs have managed.]
7. Soldado’s movement is shocking: He doesn’t run into the space enough, just stands there being marked. They both said he is completely the wrong striker for us.
[Roberto Soldado has looked an isolated and forlorn figure as Spurs lone-striker. He has been criticised for not making runs but in his defence, the player on the ball hasn't been looking to make a telling forward pass for him. They've often passed sideways trying another intricate movement or taken a shot from distance which hasn't troubled the goalkeeper. There have been times when Soldado has been looking to make a run behind the defence but has been left frustrated when the ball wasn't played towards him. There has to be an understanding between midfielder and striker to time the pass and run to perfection or the off-side flag is going to be raised. Jermain Defoe knows all about that and also about the lack of service that has Soldado struggling to match his scoring feats in Spain.]
There’s plenty for AVB to work on in the coming days which is why I have advocated that he keeps his first choice team at home this week rather than take them to Norway. He should also send Steffen Freund to oversee the team against Tromso so that he can personally supervise the preparations for this weekend’s game against United, his number one priority at this moment in time as there must be a vast improvement in all aspects of the team’s performance.