Tottenham vs. Manchester City: Three Thoughts and Player Ratings


Last Sunday, Tottenham lost 1-0 to Manchester City home at White Hart Lane. While the squad overall performed decently, they were unable to find the one moment of quality that City did in the 29th minute, as Sergio Aguero latched on to a David Silva through pass during a City counter and powered the ball past Hugo Lloris at his near post.

This was a very surprising game. I was shocked there was only one goal in it, as Spurs-City has been an incredibly open fixture lately. However, once City got their goal, they seemed to relax, and without their influential center midfielder Yaya Toure, In total, Spurs possessed 55% of the ball throughout the game.

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But Spurs never looked all that threatening after a 10 minute period to start the game when they managed a few chances. After that frantic period, the game slowed down considerably. While City did not have a ton of the ball, they seemed comfortable stifling Spurs’ attack without it. Even though Spurs attempted 87 more passes than City, 80 of those passes occurred in Spurs’ defensive and middle thirds of the field. In total, City averaged 33% of their total passes in their attacking third, while Spurs only managed 28% in that area. This demonstrates that City managed to dictate the game without having the ball by not pressing particularly hard when Spurs had the ball until they got close to City’s box. (All stats courtesy of Four Four Two.)

So, here are three more thoughts about the tactics of Sunday’s affair:

Three Thoughts:

  1. Fullbacks solid

While City were comfortable without the ball, they were never that threatening with it. Much of the credit here must go to the back four, who surprisingly looked very solid against Aguero and Silva. As mentioned above, Aguero’s quite brilliant goal came when Spurs had their center backs up field for a corner. Spurs’ defense never really allowed City to create many good chances, as they did a good job reading Aguero’s runs and tracking Silva as he fluttered around the field.

This strong play started in both full back positions. Danny Rose was arguably Spurs’ standout player. He did an excellent job defending against the threat of James Milner on City’s right, as he made 5 interceptions and tackles in his own half. He also demonstrated good awareness about going forward, and was able to create two chances off of crosses.

Eric Dier also played well at his less familiar right back role. While he did not make as many interceptions and clearances as Rose, he demonstrated good positional play as City were unable to attack down the left for most of the contest.

  1. Erik Lamela influential in roaming role

Another bright spot was the play of Erik Lamela. He looked decisive on the ball, completing 32 out of 41 passes, many of them forward, and creating 3 chances from open play. He moved inside frequently, leaving the right wing to Dier and trying to overload Fernando and Fernandinho in the middle of the park. Often, when things do not go well for Lamela early in a game, he loses confidence, and will either go forward far too often or lose his attacking impetus entirely. Here, Lamela looked calm throughout and was Spurs’ key player in attack.

  1. Can Lamela and Eriksen function together?

But Lamela’s role as fulcrum pushed Eriksen to the periphery. Eriksen sometimes, even when he is very involved, with drift out to either wing and play passes with the fullback, spreading the play. Here, Eriksen did the same thing. He sat in the middle and sprayed passes out wide, or ran out to combine with the wide men. I do not think that Eriksen was as bad as people indicated online. I think there is a perception among Spurs fans that Eriksen does not always seem very involved, and combined with that, Spurs fans recently seem to want to support Lamela more over Eriksen. This brings up whether the duo can play together. They both want to be on the ball a lot, although they employ different styles: Lamela is all-attack, never waiting a moment to move forward, while Eriksen is much more patient with the ball, and creates many of his chances through set pieces. I do think the two can function well together. They are both very technical, and with more wide play, the field will seem less crowded, giving each of them more room to operate. If Kane had put in one or two of his chances, the conversation about these two would be much different.\

So, here are the player ratings for Spurs:

  1. Hugo Lloris-5

Made a huge mistake on a ball over the top when he decided to come get the ball, missed, and almost drew Fazio a red card because of it as Fazio had to take down Aguero. Did a good job distributing the ball. Had no chance on Aguero’s wonderful strike.

  1. Eric Dier-7

Defended well, attacked well. Was a little wasteful with the ball, however he did create 2 chances while containing the dangerous threat of Silva and Kolarov very well, keeping the play in front of him and not allowing Kolarov to overlap too often with good positional play.

  1. Jan Vertonghen-6

Didn’t have a ton to do, seemed secure in dealing with Aguero. Made a ton of clearances as City played extremely direct at times. Very secure in possession. Was not at fault for the goal.

  1. Fazio-5

Not as secure as his Belgian partner, Fazio probably should have seen himself red carded after he clipped Aguero’s heels to prevent him from scoring. However, even with his lack of pace, he dealt with Aguero fairly well. Was much less consistent in possession.

  1. Danny Rose-8

Standout performance from arguably the most improved left back in the league. Dealt with the experienced, athletic presence of Milner very well while still moving forward down the left.

  1. Ryan Mason-4

Not Mason’s best game. He actually did a decent job on the defensive side of the ball, as he and Bentaleb were able to prevent many chances through the middle for City. However, he looked lost with the ball, not giving Bentaleb much support. They both missed on 7 passes, even though Mason attempted 19 less than Bentaleb. He was culpable for Aguero’s goal, as he naively tried to play a world class striker offside instead of going to close him down.

  1. Nabil Bentaleb-6.5

Very assured in possession and in defense as always. Went backwards a lot, but still completed 59 passes, 31 of them forwards. Was able to retain possession and move his side up the field. Bentaleb is a sure starter next season.

  1. Erik Lamela-7

Very improved performance from the Argentine. He was at the center of many of Spurs’ best moves, as he drifted inside to connect with Kane and his fellow midfielders. He demonstrated a good balance between ball retention and his natural impulse to turn up the field.

  1. Christian Eriksen-4.5

Not Eriksen’s best performance, as the drifiting of Lamela and Chadli forced him out of the middle. Was not able to really assert himself on the game. Was a key player in Spurs’ early offensive barrage, but after that he quieted considerably.

  1. Nacer Chadli-5

Did not display the same counter attack down the left with Kane and Eriksen that he has when he is on his best form. Should start next season, as he did contribute 10 goals, but wider play from Chadli should space out Spurs’ congested midfield while providing Kane with more service.

  1. Harry Kane-4

Couldn’t get the key goal that Aguero did. Looked good in the build up at times, creating a great chance for Mason at the end of the 1st half with a delightful chip pass. But Kane is relied on to score goals, and most times from only a few chances. Here, he couldn’t put any of his 6 shots in the net.

Next: Can Jan Vertonghen anchor Spurs' Defense?