Tactical Triumph for Andre Villas-Boas As Tottenham Defeat Man City


Andre Villas-Boas enjoyed a tactical triumph as Tottenham recovered from a goal down to beat Manchester City 3 – 1 in the Premier League at White Hart Lane. The match was almost identical to the match in Manchester in November when City’s manager Roberto Mancini’s switch of tactics brought City success with two late goals.

Tottenham lived up to their motto against City. [photo: Jav The_DoC_66]

In the preview blog I mentioned that Villas-Boas would be keen to avenge the loss brought about by a tactical switch made by his opposing manager at the Etihad Stadium. The change caused Spurs’ downfall in a match where they had looked capable of taking some deserved points. On that day, Spurs took an early lead and City were at sixes and sevens throughout the first half. A second half substitution, introducing Maicon on the right of midfield and switch to 4 – 3 – 3 left Tottenham struggling and lacking in ideas on how to stop City’s progress. The inevitable happened with City scoring twice to take the points. Roberto Mancini had put one over his young managerial opponent.

At White Hart Lane, it was City who scored the early goal and who looked more in control. Tottenham were totally committed but in their desire to do well their play was over anxious. They did threaten the City defence on a few occasions but hadn’t the control to take advantage of the situation. It was the same in the opening minutes of the second half, with neither side able to make an impression.

It was at this point, with 30 minutes to play, that Villas-Boas made the bold decision to make the switch. He replaced Scott Parker with Tom Huddlestone and Gylfi Sigurdsson with Lewis Holtby. He changed to a 4 – 3 – 3 formation which allowed Mousa Dembele to play further forward and threaten the City defence while Huddlestone used his passing ability to play the ball behind the City defenders who for the first time looked vulnerable and under pressure. Gareth Bale had also moved out to wide right from the more congested central area he had patrolled for the first hour.

Clint Dempsey scored Tottenham’s first goal [Photo: Jav The_DoC_66]It took a while to bring the rewards but it brought about an instant change in the game. Spurs realised that they could now put City under pressure and with the arrival of the third substitute, Jermain Defoe for Emmanuel Adebayor, the visiting central defenders had to cope with a striker who was constantly on the move. There was a build up of forward movement from Spurs and with 15 minutes they had their first reward.

  • A City clearance was picked up by Kyle Walker who played Bale in behind the two City defenders who had been marking him. Bale took the ball into the area and put in a cross to the far post where Clint Dempsey was waiting to score his third goal in two games. Now Tottenham, roared on by a capacity White Hart Lane crowd, had belief.
  • Four minutes later, Holtby picked up a loose ball in midfield, which previously had all been won by City, and played a through ball for Defoe to run on to. Defoe took it into the left of the area and fired a shot across goal and past Joe Hart.
  • Three minutes on and it was Huddlestone who played a perfect ball into the area where Bale had run on and his clipped shot left Hart floundering.

Steffen Freund congratulates Gareth Bale [Photo: Jav The_DoC_66]Villas-Boas’ tactical switch had been so effective that Tottenham saw out the final minutes without the need for the usual back to the walls defending. He roamed every inch of his technical area and had pulled a master-stroke while his more senior and experienced opponent, Roberto Mancini, sat motionless on the bench powerless to respond to the game changing tactics employed by Tottenham’s young coach.

The result was vital  for Spurs and has restored belief in the Tottenham camp who have experienced a stressful few weeks. It’s the first step and Villas-Boas knows that there’s more to come. In his post match interview on Teamtalk.com, he said,

"“It is very important. We can’t say how significant it will be until the end of the season…..Arsenal play Manchester United next week and that is an important fixture. We have to continue getting as many points as possible and see if the decisive fixture is that game against Chelsea.”"

Well done Tottenham, well done Andre Villas-Boas, well done the supporters. Next up – Wigan Athletic on Saturday – more of the same please.