Spurs proved their title credentials once again after an impressive performance while the citizen’s season hangs by the thread after back to back home defeats against fellow title rivals.
Toure played in a more advanced role flanked by the silky Silva and the erratic Sterling. Kompany was back in the starting line up for the Citizens while Spurs named an almost full strength line-up with the exception of the injured Vertonghen.
City target the spaces
Pellegrini clearly understood his team’s strengths and knew his team could not match Spurs for their work rate and their ability to retrieve the ball especially with players like Silva and Toure. Hence, City went about targeting the spaces and cutting off supply routes instead of pressing the man in possession. Knowing Spurs are more likely to play out the back, the City midfielders especially Fernandinho, Fernando and Sterling were with the players more likely to receive the ball rather than on it.
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City target the spaces
Toure as an attacking midfielder
Toure’s switch to the No.10 role meant that Silva moved outwards drifting in from the right. Defensively, this had its own repercussions. Silva’s inability to track back freed up the Spurs left hand side and gave an out ball for Alderwireld and Wimmer who were failing to play out from the back. There was a lack of balance in City’s midfield with both Toure and Silva not helping out defensively. City’s covering of the spaces coupled with Silva’s inability to track back meant that Rose was the free man more often than not.
Long balls more concentrated to the left side towards Rose.
However, Spurs failed to take advantage of this as Rose was unable to pick up a teammate each time he centred. Tottenham ended up having just a single shot on goal in the first half. Toure as an attacking midfielder had worked better defensively than if he was playing in the double pivot in midfield. The Citizens also enjoyed better attacking returns than Spurs in the first half with Sterling getting in behind a couple of times. Spurs did not manage to get in behind the City defence even once in the first half. Pellegrini’s game plan was working and City had fared better in keeping the midfield tight than against other tougher opposition.
City could afford only one midfielder not tracking back which was Toure. Silva’s defensive inability meant that he was switched to the left-hand side of midfield at the beginning of the second half. This proved that the amount of freedom Rose was given in the first half was not pre-meditated and Sterling was moved to the right to counter this threat. The midfield imbalance still existed, just that it was shifted from one side to the other. This did not work as expected, as a ball from Rose hit Sterling’s elbow while tracking back. A penalty was given rather unjustly and Spurs took the lead.
Toure in the double pivot
Pellegrini threw caution to the wind and put Toure back in the double pivot, throwing Iheanacho on in place of Fernando. This worsened the balance in midfield, with only Fernandinho disciplined enough to carry out the necessary defensive work. The unjust penalty decision lifted the crowd who roared into action which in turn transmitted to the players on the pitch. Iheanacho managed to pull one back for City. City had managed to move up a gear more due to psychological exuberance rather than tactical astuteness with their midfield waiting to be exploited. The lack of players in City’s midfield finally gave way for a Tottenham winner. Ironically it was Toure himself who lost the ball in the middle of the park, leaving a big gap in the centre for Lamela to run onto who slid in to Eriksen beautifully to score the winning goal.
Yaya Toure as can be seen from the image below failed to contribute anything defensively in the game. He attempted to make 4 tackles and made 0 blocks and 0 interceptions in the entire game
Toure with 4 failed tackles, 0 blocks and 0 interceptions
Yaya Toure is not the player he once was and is a big liability defensively in the double pivot, especially against superior opposition. Pellegrini’s persistence to play Toure in this role had already cost them dear against title contenders Leicester last week and Arsenal last year. Against Spurs though, it seemed that the city manager had finally learned the lesson and decided to play Toure in an advanced role. But the decision to play Silva and Toure together caused a massive imbalance in City’s midfield. Their opponents on the day proved that with balance comes superiority. Silva’s attacking influence means that the player City have to sacrifice is Toure. Pellegrini has a tough call to make to get that balance right in midfield. With crucial games coming thick and fast, City might be left with no trophies come the end of the season, if they fail to correct this imbalance.