English Premier League 2018/19: Manchester City vs Tottenham Hotspur - Three Observations
The third match in 10 days between Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur did not quite live up to the second one (although probably no match could live up to the drama served up in that one!) , but it was still an intriguing affair, with City emerging victorious at the end of the ninety minutes. Here are three observations from the match:
Pochettino Gets His Tactics Right:
Spurs won the first leg of the Champions League quarter final due to Pep Guardiola's iffy selection and tactical errors, while the second leg was decided largely due to poor defending and individual errors by both teams (not to mention some exceptional attacking play by Kevin De Bruyne and Raheem Sterling that almost changed the result). It's odd to say it about a team that lost, but ironically enough, Mauricio Pochettino did get his tactics spot on.
Spurs usually play with a high line and a high press, with their attackers charging down opposing defenders and goalkeepers to force errors. This time around, though, they were instructed to sit back, keep the midfield and the defence tightly packed, and wait for City to commit players forward. It worked a treat, with the home side finding it difficult to create clear-cut chances, while Spurs looked far more dangerous on the break. Spurs did come out and attack higher up the pitch in the second half, but created fewer chances. Even so, had their attackers been a little more clinical, they would have left the Etihad with at least one point, if not three.
City are Almost There
Manchester City play Manchester United at Old Trafford next weekend, but today was arguably an even tougher fixture. Tottenham are the better side, and with the mental toll of the Champions League exit in midweek, it would have been easy for City to drop points here. That proved not to be the case, and while City weren't at their free flowing best, they still did get the job done.
Manchester United, on the other hand, have now lost five matches of their last seven in all competitions and they barely defeated West Ham in the previous league match (the performance was so bad that Solskjaer himself said that they did not deserve to win). With the new manager bounce well and truly over, and performances steadily dipping over the past few weeks, it's difficult to see City having much trouble in the derby. Liverpool will probably win all of their remaining matches, but City are now the clear favourites to retain the title.
Tottenham's Injury Crisis Continues
The list of Spurs players currently injured include Harry Kane, Hugo Lloris, Harry Winks, Kieran Trippier, Serge Aurier, Moussa Sissoko and Erik Lamela. It meant that Spurs started the match with their reserve goalkeeper, four central defenders, no specialist right back and Dele Alli in a deep-lying midfield role, while they ended the game with Danny Rose playing in midfield.
Although Spurs have managed well in the past with their injuries, the semi-finals of the Champions League is still to come, and the race for the top four will go down to the wire. Pochettino will have no choice but to overwork his already depleted squad, and hope that the players have enough in them to last until the end of the season. Otherwise the decision to not buy any players during the last two transfer windows will come back to bite them.