Spurs vs City: A technical analysis
By balkanno, Sat 03 September 2011 20:35
Previously I had thought that Mancini was a great mental and emotional coach, but had criticised his tactics. However, in the Spurs game he impressed me greatly in this respect.
The team lined up with a very unorthodox system, essentially a 4-2-2-2. The wingers played centrally, rather like classic numbers 10s. Although they often drifted wide when required, they largely played in the left half and right half positions, almost as double 10s. The fullbacks, Zabaleta and Clichy, were very aggressive and provided the necessary width, whilst Dzeko played a little further forward than Aguero. Toure and Barry were the holding midfielders.
From the start we were the stronger side and restricted Spurs' space. We were physically and technically superior, and played exceptionally. Spurs tried to play with two playmakers in central midfield, but this failed miserably. In modern football leaving space in front of the back four is suicidal. The lack of balance in midfield was humiliating. Kranjcar couldn't protect Modric, and his positional play was poor. He played more or less parallel to Modric, and left too much space between the lines, which Nasri and Silva mercilessly exploited.
Mancini's main coup was the inclusion of double playmakers. Supported and protected by Toure and Barry, and assisted by the forwards and agile fullbacks, Nasri and Silva had free roles. They appeared everywhere on the pitch, and controlled the pace of the game completely. Due to the positional freedom they were given, they didn't have to deal with Tottenham's centre midfielders. The key here was Yaya Toure in combination with Gareth Barry. Toure has now gradually been pushed back into a holding midfield role, which he performed excellently, and has restricted his breaks into the box. His main role now is helping to retain possession when attacking, and pressing the opposition high up when not in possession. He seemed to ease off between 63-70 minutes, and Spurs immediately found more space and had more control. Barry made the system flexible, and played many good passes.
Mancini must take great credit. To come up with such an extremely complex and effective system in such a short space of time was nothing short of brilliant. Another effect of the "double 10s" is that there is less creative responsibility for Aguero. He can concentrate purely on getting in the box, which will result in more goals.
Dzeko looked like the complete striker, which is significant. The Bosnian has evolved from an out and out goalscorer to the complete forward, involved in our passing game and winning his physical battles, whilst retaining his clinical finishing.
As you can see, Dzeko was everywhere. Combining well with skilled technicians like Nasri, Silva and Aguero, and providing physical strength he offers a safe option. He makes it easy in possession for the whole team, and played many successful passes in the middle third of the pitch. He also frequently dragged Kaboul out of position. Impressively, Dzeko had more touches in midfield than Aguero.
Mancini has seen the possibilities regarding Dzeko (which are very complex, as he's not just a striker who waits for the ball) and is using him effectively now. Dzeko is deliberately dropping deeper so he can get more involved in the game. Importantly Mancini lets the players change positions, so Dzeko may drop into Silva's space, and likewise with Aguero and Nasri on the left. However, it seemed that the defenders sometimes forgot that. In my opinion Richards is a better option than Zabaleta as he can swap position with Kompany. Lescott and Clichy/Kolarov have much room for improvement in this respect.
In summary, it was a wonderful game of football thanks to Mancini's formation which gave us the upper hand, both individually and collectively. It was a well deserved 5-1 away win, as we controlled the game from the beginning and had 59% possession, thanks in part to Spurs offensive central midfield pairing. 'Arry, in case you missed it, that was Roberto's response. On the pitch.