Tottenham Hotspur should be lauded for continuing to play out from the back, where, despite some nervy moments against Manchester City, they did enough to steal a point at the Etihad.
There is something all the best football teams in the world – Barcelona, Real Madrid, Bayern Munich, Manchester City – do, and that’s play out from the back, no matter how intense the press. All those squads build from defence to offence, often in cutting fashion. For better or worse, it appears that part of Mauricio Pochettino’s new project is a commitment to build from the back.
Tottenham kept giving the ball away against Manchester City, struggling to retain possession for any length of time. It was either a case of Rose playing a bad ball, Lamela spurning possession on the turn, or Eriksen and Kane getting their wires crossed. The unforced errors were numerous, and evident from the off. City completed 550 of 607 passes for a 91% rate, while Tottenham only completed 421 of 506 passes for an 84% success rate.
Despite the pressure and constant loss of possession, Tottenham stayed committed to knocking the ball around the back. In fact 76% – 387 of the 501 – of passes attempted by Spurs came from the back six, including Lloris. Davison Sanchez and Toby Alderweireld combined for 200 of those 387 passes, or 40% of Tottenham’s passes. Though those numbers are often seen from squads with a propensity to knock it around, particularly against stiff competition.
Sanchez led all Spurs, completing a 95% of his 74 attempts and Harry Winks completed a second best 92% on the fourth most passes, 48. Tanguy Ndombele, Alderweireld, and Kyle Walker-Peters all completed over 86% of their passes on the day.
Ultimately, Tottenham’s obsession of playing from the back put themselves under quite a bit of duress, but the defence held firm in the second half, and more importantly, the commitment to build from the back never waned. If Tottenham is going to go to the next level, they are going to have to be able to build from the back against the best teams in the world while keeping their composure.
Spurs ability to do that against City is a testament to how close this team is to accomplishing their ultimate goal. While they didn’t slice right through the City defence, Spurs maintained possession, providing enough for attacking impetus for an all-important draw. That commitment and early success bodes well for what Spurs want to achieve this season, because if they can withstand the pressure from City at the Etihad now, they will certainly be able to inflict their will upon inferior sides in the future.