It wasn’t half as bad as it looked for Spurs

André Villas Boas

After Jesús Navas slotted in Manchester City’s sixth goal of the day, to seal Tottenham’s fate and Howard Webb blew for full-time, you needn’t have put a lot of time into wondering what the papers were going to say about the match the following morning, or even what the boys on Match of the Day were to say about it.

I’m writing this at 6pm on Sunday afternoon, before Match of the Day and before I’ve seen any of the Monday morning papers, but I can already comfortably tell you what they’ll say :

  • City were fantastic
  • Sergio Agüero is fantastic
  • City will be serious title contenders
  • Spurs were utter rubbish
  • Spurs were poor defensively
  • Spurs were light in midfield
  • Spurs were out of ideas going forward.

Now, on the face of it, much, if not all of the above is true. But there’s a big story here which I fear will not be told by the British press. And that is that Spurs weren’t actually that bad. Of course when anyone is beaten by a 6-goal margin it’s usually the case that a four or perhaps 3 goal margin would have probably been fairer. But while City deserved every inch of their victory, Spurs didn’t deserve a hammering.

Jesus Navas scoring against TottenhamAll of City’s goals pretty much came from defensive errors made by Spurs. As I said before, I’m not taking anything away from Man City, they were terrific, they were potent and they were extremely effective. To score six against a very good side without playing particularly brilliantly says a lot. But this is about defending Spurs.

André Villas-Boas changed his team around this week in an attempt to score more goals. He had obviously been working with all the players who hadn’t been away on international duty on his new system. Hence why the likes of Aaron Lennon, Roberto Soldado, Lewis Holtby, Erik Lamela, Michael Dawson and Younès Kaboul started the game and the likes of Andros Townsend did not. It was clear from the get-go the Spurs had deviated away from the traditional 4-2-3-1 formation used by most clubs these days, and opted for a 4-3-3 formation, which seems to be AVB’ favourite, with a midfield 3 of Holtby, Paulinho and Sandro sitting, and a front three of Soldado, Lennon and Lamela.

People can take one look at the score line and scoff at the notion that Spurs weren’t that bad, but they really weren’t. Despite having a disastrous first 14 seconds, Tottenham came back out of the blocks and controlled the game. They bossed possession at the home of Man City, a respectable achievement; especially considering that City hold the only 100% home record left in the league.

While they didn’t create an awful lot in the way of goal scoring chances, Spurs were quietly impressive. Particularly when you consider that their two wingers (Lennon and Lamela) have hardly featured at all this season, and that their best centre back was playing at left back and that one of their centre backs (Kaboul) was making a return from a long-term injury.

4-3-3 made a big difference for Spurs. It was just unfortunate that they conceded so early on. A few more defensive errors later and their fate was sealed. The 6-0 scoreline is extremely misleading with regards to Spurs’ performance.

Andre Villas Boas suffering against Manchester CityHowever, one mistake you could argue AVB made was how he positioned his full backs. He had obviously instructed his fullbacks to push high up the pitch in order to press City’s midfield. A wise idea, and one used by Brendan Rodgers very effectively against Everton on Saturday. The only problem was, given the effectiveness of City’s counter attacking and the fact that Hugo Lloris had something of a torrid time clearing the ball out of his box, it left his centre backs (who aren’t exactly the most athletic of players) very exposed, and City punished that.

For City’s second goal, three players managed to get back into the box to defend, two of them were Holtby and Sandro (who scored an own goal). Vertonghen and Walker were heavily advanced up the wing and were continuously leaving the centre of the pitch very exposed to the attacking prowess of the likes of Agüero, Negredo, Nasri and Yaya Touré.

That is probably something which will need addressing, especially against the better teams, but on the whole Spurs haven’t got an awful lot to worry about, besides the ugly score line.

The media were mocking the fact that Villas-Boas praised his team’s response after conceding after just 14 seconds, due to the fact that they went on to concede five more. But I thought he was absolutely right. Spurs’ response was magnificent. They had 60% of possession in the first half, and went in 3-0 down at the break. This was not some disastrous wake-up call for Spurs reminding them that they’re well off the pace, not at all. They were terribly unfortunate to lose by such a score line.

Erik Lamela looked very bright as well. His price-tag might have people calling him a flop, but that is far too premature. He has found it tough settling in England, but at the Etihad he showed glimpses of his brilliance. He seemed to be the only one who was spotting the clever runs made by Roberto Soldado, who must be growing increasingly frustrated at the lack of service he’s getting. But Lamela just might be his shining light.

Erik Lamela against Manchester CityLamela started out on the left but began to drift into the centre as the game went on and that’s where he looked his best,  as a number 10. His vision and close control are superb, and despite looking rather light-weight, he showed he can work hard and force the ball off the opposition. Give him a year or two and he will be one of the best in the league.

The switch to 4-3-3 might not have paid off for Spurs against City, but the score line really doesn’t reflect Tottenham’s performance. Spurs fans, if you can get around the fact that you got hammered 6-0, you’ll begin to appreciate that things weren’t actually that diabolical for you against City.

I fear a slaughtering in the papers but it’s not something Tottenham really deserve. Looking at the stats alone, possession, shots, corners etc, you’d have thought the game finished 1-1. So don’t let your heads drop too low Spurs fans, it really wasn’t half as bad as it looked.

By
A student at the University of Central Lancashire studying sports journalism, aspiring to become a sports writer in the world of print journalism in the future. I'm 20 years old and support Chelsea FC. I try to steer clear from expressive views which are either obvious and/or uninteresting. Twitter handle : @CFCscope
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  • Kim

    Lamela played for Argentina.

    • http://www.provenquality.com/ Proven Quality

      He only came on for the last 20 minutes against Bosnia and Herzegovina and didn’t play against Ecuador. He’s hardly been worn into the ground by playing too many games this season.

  • 64thfc

    Harry, what Spurs tinted specs were you wearing, if you are seeking a career in sports journalism please ensure that you understand the sport you are reporting on. I can agree with your comment about Spurs having a great deal of possession which is true of many games this season, however I, as most Spurs fans, would prefer they had 40% possession and won 3-0. Clever movement from Soldado, what game were you watching ? Lamela looked more comfortable when he moved to the right near the end, but the poor lad seems to be scared to do anything, he should be told to go out and terrorize defences and be positive and aggressive in his running with the ball, he does no doubt have skill. Basically unless the players are allowed to play with freedom and flair they will shortly be out of any race for the top four and another season over.

    • Hazzabee

      Did you not see Lamela doing that? He was quite willing to go and attack his defender, he wasn’t always succesful, but he did what you’re asking of him. He just didn’t produce the results, and you can;t expect it every game, espically at the home of Man City with him still settling in. In the past when Chelsea have been battered, it’s extremely difficult to take any positives. I just want to forget football even exists. But as a neutral, I saw few, but some positives coming out of that game for Spurs. As the title suggests, it wasn;t half as bad as it looked. It was a freak result really. You have a lot of improving to do, but you’re not six goals worse than Man City. And as I said in the above comment, that was far less of a damaging and telling performance than when you lost 5-1 to City back in August 2011. That day, City outclassed your best side. ON sunday, City effectively picked off a error ridden Spurs with selection issues. Soldado makes plenty of clever runs, and Lamela and Eriksen seem to be the only spotting him and finding him. They only last a split second before the defender repositions himself, but Soldado is briefly getting away from his marker alot. He’s just not getting picked out.

  • Declan Walker

    Harry – Spurs were lucky to only lose 6-0. Although both Lloris and Sandro made a couple costly errors they also both saved the scoreline from hitting double figures on several occasions. City also eased off on the game after 5-0. Some opposition fans saying that Pelegrini was embarrassed for us by putting on Garcia for Aguero. Truthfully – Man CIty should have scored more goals yesterday then we have done all season. The tactics were awful. Playing Vertonghen at LB might work against Hull but not against City and next weekend against United. The decision of AVB to loan out our most experienced LB in order to give the always injury prone LM come LB Danny Rose and not getting in anyone else has cost us in both the LB position and CD by moving our best player out of position. The decision to keep Dawson playing the high-line defence and selling the faster younger Caulker has cost us. The decision to play Holtby against Yaya Toure and Fernandinho is laughable. What a pathetic piece of management that was. Playing Aaron Lennon in a 4-3-3 formation is ridiculous. He doesnt score enough and isnt clever enough to influence the game from that position. He has proven that over the last 3 years, time and time again. He is our least useful winger in that role out of Chadli, Townsend and Lamela. The bizarre signing of a Spanish Jermain Defoe without the pace and without the ability to shoot from outside the box has left us in a worse position then last season. Then at half time with the CIty team being so dominant over our midfield and defence AVB decides to switch to 4-4-2? Really? He saw his mistake and put on Dembele. Who should be the #10 role anyway and took off our new marmite man the Brazilian Jermaine Jenas not the black Frank Lampard in Paulinho. There is no excuse. We played a badly chosen team and then tried to change that to an aggressive even worse set of tactics but finally we end with a stronger 11 when we are 5-0 down. What an awful bit of management. What an awfully deluded genius he is. He was grey in the face at fulltime and rightly so. #AVBout.

    • Hazzabee

      Declan – I really genuinely thought the signs weren’t that bad for Spurs. Saying they were unlucky is perhaps something of a stretch, but this 6-0 loss was, for me, far less damaging than their 5-1 loss to City at the start of the 11/12 season. The most worrying thing for Spurs is their lack of attacking threat. They really didn’t create any goal scoring chances. And the fact that they’ve only scored 9 goals all season is extremely telling. Lamela looked very promising for me. He’ll obviously need time to settle, but with him and Eriksen playing (despite my opinion that Lamela should really play where Eriksen does), they will definitely get the ball in behind the defence a lot more, and Soldado (and Defoe) will thrive. Ultimately, AVB did make mistakes, Vertonghen at left back is silly, as he’s Spurs’ best centre back by a long way. But loaning out Assou Ekotto isn’t too baffling. AVB obviously didn’t rate him, and you’ve been unlucky that Rose has been injured. I’m sure he would be playing if fit. Perhaps once Chiriches settles, Vertonghen moves back to the centre and Kaboul gets back to full fitness and sharpness will you have a very steely defence. But I suppose yes, AVB should play to his strengths, and using a high line with Dawson and a half fit Kaboul isn’t the brightest idea. But I don’t think the tactics were awful. The tactic of pushing your fullbacks high up the pitch ultimately cost you, but on the whole, for me the tactics weren’t a disaster. It was 2 simple errors from Lloris which led to the first two goals, and after you concede twice, you might as well throw your tactics out the window. It’s unfair to brand AVB an idiot, when in reality it was a freak game. Spurs (for me) weren’t disastrously bad, and City weren’t incredible either, certainly not enough to warrant a 6-0 scoreline. Holtby played because Eriksen is injured. I don’t rate him at all, I think he’s very limited as a player, and slows the play down, but what would you have AVB do? Play Dembele instead? who as we’ve seen can’t pick a pass when Lennon is running clean through. He didn’t have much to offer. What I would have done, is played Lamela in the centre and brought Townsend on to play out wide alongside Lennon. But it’s still early days with Lamela, and you can forgive anyone for thinking he might not be able to cut it yet. I totally disagree with your opinion on Lennon, I am a big fan and I think he’s hugely underrated. Lennon was very positive. Always (like Townsend) attacking his fullback, and he was probably one of your better players. You don’t need goals from Lennon, true he could score more, but unlike, say Chelsea, who rely heavily from their creative midfielders for goals (Hazard, Oscar, Mata etc), Spurs don’t do that. Your goals come from your strikers and centre midfielders (and now Townsend) The fact that Lennon doesn’t score many goals is no reason to criticise him, that’s not his game. Get him 1 on 1 with a full back and you’ll have yourself a chance to score, everytime. Ive watched enough Spurs to realise that. Lennon doesn’t get the credit he deserves. As for Soldado, yes I agree that he is basically a Spanish Defoe, and yes he’s more of a poacher than a all round striker, which you arguably need. But Soldado, despite not seeing much of the ball in games is very active. Watch him when Paulinho/Lamela/Townsend get the ball, he’s always making clever runs. It’s the supply that’s lacking. No one is spotting his runs. lamela was spotting them against City but never quite got it him properly. And Eriksen links up well with him as well. I wouldn’t criticise Soldado, he’s a certain type of striker, and you’e bought flair players to aid him. It’s just at the moment, they’re not doing so. AVB’s switch to 4-4-2 was bizarre I agree and bringing on Adebayor was even stranger, although at half time, you had 60% possession, so can you blame him for thinking an extra striker would mean you’d start banging them in? As I said, for me it was a freak game with defensive errors being the main reason why you conceded so many. AVB’s decision making can definitely be questioned. But it’s not half as bad as it looks in my opinion