Tottenham 1 Manchester City 5 | Tactical Analysis

Tottenham 1 Manchester City 5 | Tactical Analysis

Manchester City went into last night’s game on a great run of, not only winning matches, but scoring a lot goals so most teams facing them would be fearful. Spurs had reason to be hopeful though, despite the brutal 6-0 defeat earlier this season, they had picked up 5 wins from 6 EPL matches and went into this game undefeated in the league under Tim Sherwood. Les Ferdinand made some comments in the media regarding defensive midfielders and how they are ruining the game and despite those comments Spurs set up in a 4-2-3-1 formation with Dembele and Bentaleb as holding midfielders.

Manchester City set up in their “4-4-2” formation and usually playing like this would mean that City would be outnumbered in midfield. The excellent thing about Manuel Pellegrini and the style of play he has brought to City, is that their formation is very fluid and allows for lots of movement and interchange of positions during the match. Most people think of the 4-4-2 as just straight lines but as we can see below, City’s in game set up is very different to traditional thoughts.

City In game formation

The picture above shows the shape that City usually has during the match and it doesn’t look like the advertised 4-4-2. The movement of David Silva has caused and will continue to cause opposition problems, and this in particular caused Tottenham no end of problems last night. The 3 players highlighted by the yellow triangle are key to how City plays and how they create so much space to attack. Some examples of their rotations will be shown.

The strikers of Manchester City work as a pair but usually one stays high and the other drops into midfield or runs into the channels. Last night Aguero stayed high and central at most times, and Dzeko was the one to drop into midfield and link play. In a previous match against Cardiff City, Dzeko was the striker who stayed high and central with Negredo providing the movement.

Dzeko wide to occupy marker

Early on Dzeko’s movement is allowing Silva to wander and find pockets of space to receive the ball. We can see Dzeko has taken up a wide position to occupy Aaron Lennon who has the job of marking the player on his side. Toure plays a short pass to Clichy, which triggers the run of Silva into the pocket of space and plays a first time pass in behind the defence for Dzeko.

Overload rondos to play out

 Again, we can see the importance of Dzeko’s movement, this time to create an overload and help the team play out and start another attack.

Sensational David Silva

The Manchester City squad is full of quality, but I think David Silva causes more problems than any other players in their team; if not more than any other player in the league. His movement, along with the movement of the other two players in midfield, tore Tottenham to pieces and they just couldn’t deal with it.

In the image of the Manchester City in game formation the three City midfielders were joined with a yellow triangle and they really played close together, with Silva having extra license to roam and find space. They constantly rotated to make sure one of them was free and from the first minute Silva was dragging Tottenham players out of position.

Silva drags Walker in field to create space

Very early in the match Silva showed how his movement can create space by coming inside and bringing the fullback, Kyle Walker, with him. This creates the space to play a quick combination with Gael Clichy, who has lots of space to attack. Notice the blindside run of Yaya Toure, who joins the attack.

Silva space behind the DM's

Again David Silva’s movement causes problems for Tottenham and leads to another Man City attack. Dzeko goes wide and Silva, again, finds space behind the two central midfielders of Tottenham.

Silva Space at space at goal.

 The 1st goal comes from Silva finding space in behind and playing a fantastic pass to Aguero for a brilliant first time finish.

Midfield rotations

The key to the Manchester City midfielders always finding space is in part due to the excellent movement and midfield rotations. Here are a few examples of rotations and position changes.

Midfield rotation

In this rotation Silva drops into a central position and this triggers movement from Toure to make a forward run into the space created by the rotation. The two Tottenham central midfielders are triggered to press by the pass going to Silva with his back to play. This actually help Toure make his way into space completely unmarked.

Midfield rotation to free Silva

This is a very common rotation to get one of your midfielders free, although not a common rotation in a 4-4-2. Silva is the man they are trying to get free and the rotation works perfectly and he ends up free and unmarked in plenty of space to receive. Fernandinho makes the first run – which triggers the whole move and then Demichelis reacts to that. Silva’s run forward is not a sprint or it would draw unwanted attention. Everton have used a similar rotation this season with Ross Barkley dropping and the furthest CM from the ball making a blind side run into space.

MIdfield 3 shape

 This shows Silva in a central position, which he tended to do in the second half. This midfield shape is more familiar to a 4-3-3 formation but every Man City attack in the second half went through Silva regardless of where on the pitch he was. This also shows the poor defensive shape of Tottenham. They had a lack of compactness; they didn’t track their runners and generally caused their own problems.

Tottenham’s Problems

Tottenham were on a good run in the run up to this match and their plan was clear, try to hit Manchester City on the counter attack using their fast players like Walker and Lennon and playing through their creative players like Eriksen.

Sours lack of options going forward

Spurs’ plan was to try to play on the counter attack but this shows the main problem they had with that plan. Eriksen won the ball in central midfield and despite driving forward with the ball he only had Adebayor in support. Neither of the central midfielders tried to get forward in support and the wide players are nowhere to be seen.

Eriksen Finding central space after Yaya loses

Dembele wins the ball from Yaya Toure and attacks quickly and has plenty of options to choose from to keep the attacking move going. Unfortunately Dembele is anxious to get the ball forward, makes a bad choice in his pass and passes straight to a Man City player. Eriksen found it tough to get into the game and this was one of the only times Eriksen could get free and he didn’t get the ball.

Defensive Problems

The two central midfielders of Tottenham have been highlighted a lot when looking at Man City’s attacking phases, but it seems ironic that these problems come in the same week as Les Ferdinand’s comments about defensive midfielders. The two central midfielders seemed to have been given a role to do and if so they stuck to it to the letter, which caused Tottenham problems. They left lots of spaces, never tracked back and the whole compactness of the Tottenham team last night left a lot to be desired

Spurs DMs leave central space

This shows the lack of compactness that allowed Manchester City to find so much space. Aaron Lennon, who wasn’t in the game at all, has been lazy and not come infield and has left a huge space, and Danny Rose has done the same on the opposite side. Bentaleb doesn’t need to be that far behind Dembele and they have left a huge pace in the centre of midfield. Danny Rose also need to come in and be closer to his centre back, Chiriches.


This game was not only a fantastic display from Manchester City, but also a very bad day at the office for Tottenham Hotspur. The standard of defending from Tottenham Hotspur meant they caused themselves problems and I’m sure they’ll be working on the basics of defending this coming week in training before this weekend’s matches. Manchester City continued their fantastic run that doesn’t look like coming to an end anytime soon, although they do have a huge game against Chelsea on Monday. The way Manuel Pellegrini has his City team playing is a dream for any fan to watch and their fluid movement will be the envy of many.