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Manchester City vs Tottenham Hotspur: Tactical preview | Premier League 2019/20

  • This article goes over the tactics that Pep Guardiola and Mauricio Pochettino could use in their very important match against on Saturday.
Modified 17 Aug 2019, 18:28 IST
Tottenham Hotspur v Manchester City - Premier League
Tottenham Hotspur v Manchester City - Premier League

Manchester City will host Tottenham Hotspur on Saturday, the 17th of August. This will be the second meeting of two top six teams in this Premier League season. The game will be a fascinating tactical battle between two of the most masterful managers in the league. But, before we dive into the tactics of the match, let's first take a look at the previous games of both teams to get a better understanding of the tactics they may use.

Spurs vs Aston Villa

Mauricio Pochettino lined up with a narrow 4-4-2 diamond with Harry Winks being the defensive midfielder. In front of Winks, Moussa Sissoko and club-record signing Tanguy Ndombele were deployed. At the tip of the diamond was a surprising pick in Erik Lamela, who made his return after a lengthy injury.

Dean Smith used a 4-1-4-1 with Jack Grealish, John McGinn, and Conor Hourihane as the midfield three.

Spurs vs Villa lineups
Spurs vs Villa lineups

Tottenham's game plan was to outnumber Villa's midfield, win the midfield battle and spread the ball out wide to the overlapping full-backs or to the space between the defenders for one of the strikers. This plan didn't work for the first 70 minutes because of the compactness of Aston Villa's players. Villa tried to defend as narrowly and compactly as possible and deny any spaces that Tottenham wish to exploit.

Another reason for this was that Erik Lamela, who was deployed as the attacking midfielder, isn't used to playing in a central position. The Argentine was drifting out wide more times than the system required. This created a huge gap between Tottenham's midfield and attack. In addition, Moussa Sissoko, who was supposed to be the side's pivot between the defence and attack struggled to find passes forward and passes into space that Tottenham could exploit.

Yellow rectangle shows the gap between midfield and attack
Yellow rectangle shows the gap between midfield and attack

Pochettino solved his team's problems by introducing his star player Christian Eriksen, who started the game of the bench due to fitness reasons, into the fray. Eriksen occupied the spaces between the midfield and defence of Aston Villa and was able to spread passes forward and create chances for his team, which they struggled with for a large part of the game.

Manchester City vs West Ham

Pep Guardiola lined up his side in a 4-3-3 with new signing Rodri, David Silva and Kevin De Bruyne, who came back from a lengthy injury, as the midfield three. Also, Gabriel Jesus stepped in to replace Sergio Aguero who lacked match fitness.

West Ham lined up in a 4-2-3-1 with Michail Antonio, Manuel Lanzini and Felipe Anderson as the attacking midfielders behind new signing Sebastian Haller.

West Ham vs Manchester City lineups
West Ham vs Manchester City lineups

Manchester City's game plan was passing the ball out from the back using Rodri and getting the ball to one of their wingers. After the ball got to the wings, the other winger would get in the box and the fullback would overlap, while the opposing fullback would tuck in to create a back three.

The winger or one of the midfielders would underlap, while the other midfielder would make a late run into the box. This created very dangerous crossing opportunities as Manchester City were able to attack with a lot of players and get into good crossing situations by isolating a player and letting him have a free cross.

Man City
Man City's game plan vs West Ham Manchester City v Tottenham Hotspur - Premier League

In the first half, Man City had a hard time bypassing West Ham's press as they pressed hard and well. When City tried to play the ball out of the back, Sebastian Haller pressed the centre back that had the ball while the wingers cut off passing lanes to the fullbacks. Lanzini had an important role as he pressed Rodri who was the link between defence and attack for Manchester City.

The two defensive midfielders of West Ham pressed City's midfielders and prevented them from exploiting spaces as they usually do. As the game progressed, West Ham's players got tired and their pressing wasn't as sharp as it was before.

Man City tried to win the ball as fast as they can and catch West Ham out of position by playing a high compact line.

Manchester City vs Tottenham Hotspur preview

Manchester City v Tottenham Hotspur - Premier League

Premier League 2018/19

First, before we dive into the actual tactics, let's have a look at the tactics that both managers may use in the game.

Pep Guardiola is likely to stick with the same lineup, with just a couple of expected changes. As for the personnel, Bernardo Silva could replace David Silva and Sergio Aguero will replace Gabriel Jesus, as both of them are fit for the game.

Mauricio Pochettino could line up with the same team from the last game as Guardiola will play with a midfield three and Pochettino will want to win the midfield battle and outnumber the City midfield.

Another reason that Pochettino will use the narrow 4-4-2 diamond is that he is missing two key players in Heung-Min Son and Dele Alli. Pochettino is expected to make a couple of changes in the lineup by bringing in Christian Eriksen in place of Erik Lamela. New signing Giovanni Lo Celso could replace Moussa Sissoko, who had a bad game against Aston Villa. Lo Celso will bring creativity and dynamism to Tottenham's midfield. Jan Vertonghen could be introduced back to the lineup as he seems fit to play.

City vs Spurs Lineups
City vs Spurs Lineups

Now, it is time for the tactics. Defensively, Pep Guardiola will be looking to play a high line and keep his shape as compact as possible allowing them to win the ball as soon as they lose it. With Tottenham having a four-man midfield it will be hard for City to press their midfield as they could easily pass the ball between City's midfield. Because of this, Manchester City will have to bring their wingers more narrow to cut passing lanes to the fullbacks while applying pressure on Tottenham's midfield.

Spurs could press like West Ham did in City's last game because City struggled to play out of the back. Tottenham's strikers will press the ball carrier while cutting off passing lanes to the fullbacks. Christian Eriksen will press Manchester City's main man in midfield, Rodri. He has been integral to Manchester CIty's buildup. Tottenham's two central midfielders will have to stick to City's two midfielders and prevent them from making the underlapping runs that they usually do.

Harry Winks will play an essential role for Tottenham because he will have to provide cover to Tottenham's fullbacks. The system only allows Tottenham to have one player out wide so Harry Winks has to provide cover on the wing and prevent City's fullbacks from overlapping. One thing that Tottenham have to be wary of is the balls that City will play in behind their defence. City will be looking to play these kinds of balls because they have very fast wingers that can exploit those spaces.

How Tottenham
How Tottenham's defence should look

In terms of attack, Manchester City should look to use the space in behind Tottenham's defence as they can use their pace advantage if they fail in progressing the ball out of the back. If Aguero is introduced back to the lineup, he should be allowed to roam from his position, support the buildup and draw defenders to allow space for his teammates. This will cause huge trouble to Tottenham's defence. Apart from what was mentioned Man City should stick to their game plan against West Ham as it was very successful.

Tottenham will be looking to win the midfield battle and exploit the space left behind City's defence. The North Londoners have a very creative midfield that will be able to progress the ball and spread it out wide or to the strikers. The pace that Tottenham's fullbacks and strikers have will benefit them when they try to exploit the space behind City's defence.

It is set to be a thrilling tactical encounter at the Etihad.

Published 17 Aug 2019, 18:28 IST
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