Mourinho Pleased with what Tottenham is Building Defensively

In the immediate aftermath of Tottenham Hotspur’s win Saturday evening over Manchester City, Jose Mourinho was pleased, particularly with the shutout.

Tottenham Hotspur struggled at the start of the campaign to win at home. Now Tottenham have won two straight and just got a shutout over Manchester City. The shutout was the product of some good work from goalkeeper Hugo Lloris and a lot of graft and spirit from the team.

Hugo Lloris Leads the Way

Hugo Lloris had an active day in the Tottenham Hotspur goal, even if he was not particularly stressed at any point in the match, he was consistently busy. Lloris made his first of five saves right at one minute as Ferran Torres found some space and unleashed a rocket straight at Lloris. Hugo made his last save at 90 minutes, reacting nicely to a Ruben Diaz header off a free kick.

That last save was the most dynamic of the match, but between those two saves, Hugo Lloris was steady and commanding for the Hotspur defense. Whether it was punching away a loose ball or jumping up to cut off the cross, Lloris and company dealt with all 10 City corner kicks without a serious shout at goal. As he has done all season Lloris did well coming off his line and did so enough to get City to stop trying to play in behind the Tottenham defense and start looking for longer shots and more crosses.

While Hugo Lloris has had busier days and has had to make more dynamics saves, Lloris did a great job leading the team and securing the ball to bring home the three points. Of course, a big reason Lloris was never really tested by the Sky Blue was the effort of the team defensively.

Tottenham Team Defense

Tottenham Hotspur were set up to defend and force Manchester City to get between a well drilled and disciplined defense. While some fans may not appreciate a more defense tact against a team like Manchester City, Jose Mourinho explained his approach clearly after the match.

“You try to play their way they are better than you. To beat them you have to play in a different way.”

– Jose Mourinho on playing Manchester City

Jose said, City play by keeping and hiding the ball, i.e. dominating possession. As an opponent if “you try to play their way they are better than you. To beat them you have to play in a different way.” In other words, you are not going to out possess City, so accept that and take another tact. Nothing his team was not going to get a lot of chances they knew they had to be clinical and knew they were in for a long day defensively.

The Tottenham defense was set up to allow for space in the middle of the pitch, where it left Rodrigo as the primary creator as opposed to Kevin De Bruyne or Bernardo Silva. By keeping the wide areas clogged, and leaving space in the middle, Tottenham could always close and cut angles to prevent the piercing pass. Beyond the amazingly disciplined positioning of the team, there was a clear safety-first mentality defensively.

Tottenham had 30 total clearances as a team with 15 of them coming from the center-half duo of Eric Dier and Toby Alderweireld. This no-nonsense approach does not do much for the possession game but allows for the team to stay organized and together. Given Tottenham knew they were not going to win the possession game, it was okay to clear the ball a lot. Even with all the clearances, Harry Kane still dropped deep often enough to provide Spurs enough hold-up play to have the possession needed to relieve pressure and keep City honest defensively.

Tottenham complimented the safety-first mentality on the back end with strong on-ball defense anytime the ball entered the attacking third of the pitch. Spurs were willing to concede a bit of space to the City defense but, if the ball got within 30 yards of the goal, the team would swarm defensively.

Tottenham had 24 tackles on the day, against only 13 fouls. This positive aggression defensively from Spurs was shared across the team and while not everyone had a clearance or a tackle every player contributed in some way. Heung-Min Son blocked a shot, Harry Kane had three tackles and a clearance, and Tanguy Ndombele had two tackles and an interception, just to point out a few of the efforts. Steven Bergwijn had a big contribution assisting Sergio Reguilón and Pierre Højbjerg, which HotspurHQ wrote about here.

Essentially, everyone used their inner Højbjerg and inner Alderweireld and Tottenham persevered through City’s passing. On the few occasions, Spurs did not win the header, Lloris had their back with the big saves. The first home shutout and second home win was another step for Spurs in a journey they are taking. This is a journey where Jose Mourinho, Harry Kane, and company are building something that in Mourinho’s words will “make Tottenham fans proud.” Masterclass wins like the one Saturday sure do, let us hope there are more to come.