A rambunctious, rough-diamond of a contest, City’s victory over Spurs at the Etihad provides much to pore over 1. Aguero’s mobility – Sergio Aguero possesses the ability to change the pace of his movement incredibly quickly. As importantly, he can change direction without losing much momentum. This is what made his performance truly outstanding. Continual mobility, often dropping relatively deep to receive the ball, but far more importantly sprinting wide of the centre backs (first half to the left, second half to the right), then allowing Silva and Milner to move towards him to allow for quick passing interchange. He also used late runners (particularly Lampard in his first goal), wonderfully to allow himself time to get into shooting positions. Aguero’s final goal really summed up his game, a sprint wide of the centre back, slowing down, shifting the ball onto his left foot for a deadly, swerving finish
2. Mason’s deep running – Ryan Mason had another good game. On this occasion, it was for his continual deep runs, providing verticality to a Tottenham Attack whose movement is generally lateral. On 3 occasions, Mason got shots away from advanced positions on the run, indeeed, it was the main strategy that City appeared uneasy with. In performing well, Mason did contribute to a structural imbalance in the Spurs’ midfield, consequently producing a rather open game that would be presumed to favour the better team
3. Pochettino’s pressing – In a previous round-up, I suggested that Mauricio Pochettino’s pressing had not yet been implemented. Here, it was no more evident. Admittedly, in spells (including a press on Fernando that led to the second goal), it was present, but far more structured, action oriented pressing than the intense block pressing seen at Southampton
4. Roberto Soldado – He has, admittedly, had a rather poor time in England. However, the criticism he got today was totally unjustified. His penalty miss, was admittedly, terrible, a lacklustre pass to the left corner. But he made intelligent runs into the right hand channel, contributed to some slick build up play, got into a great position to meet Chadli’s left sided cross. He has been generally awful for the club, but today was not one of his worst days.
5. Joe Hart – Why he is being praised for his performance is beyond me. The Tottenham goal was essentially an error from him. A tough shot to save, but it seemed to be malhandled by him. Lloris was far more convincing in every respect.
6. Passing playmakers – Both teams started with notional number 10s in Silva and Eriksen. Both are similar kinds of players, those who drift into pockets of space in between both horizontal and vertical lines (half spaces), often on the turn. Both had very good games, Eriksen scoring, Silva making an all-round nuisance of himself. But both seemed very reluctant to shoot, in particular Eriksen (though the most notable occurance was Silva’s mystifying attempt to play in Aguero when in plenty of space to shoot from a reasonable location).
7. James Milner – In 2012, James Milner was tragically underrated by most football fans. Much like Claude Makelele, this talk of his non-appreciation has made everyone aware of his qualities (though often identifying the totally wrong ones). People usually talk up his defensive skill, ball striking ability, diligence, professionalism, and other fairly empty platitudes. Far more important today was his appreciation of space. Continually moving inside to allow Aguero to run outside of his, interacting with Silva, while also contributing to moving Dier narrow, he played brilliantly.
8. Federico Fazio – I could be totally wrong on this, but in the lead up to the 4th Penalty decision, Fazio beautifully evaded two City attackers, glided into the opposition half, and played the ball forward. Unfortunately, he didn’t appear to get into position quickly enough, and appeared like he was sprinting back in order to prevent Aguero from getting an easy finish, rather than being correctly positioned in the first place.
9. Refereeing – Talking about it appears tasteless, but Jon Moss did not exactly perform well in the match. To criticse him for the Aguero goal is harsh, the rules governing interference with play are very difficult to interpret standardly, he would have been a brave man to rule it out. The first penalty decision was incorrect, if understandable, Lampard clearly did receive contact, if only because of momentum as a consequence of him stretching for the ball, there was no intentionality on behalf of Lamela. The 2nd penalty was right, the 3rd totally incorrect (Soldado did not appeared to be ffouled, I thought there was a whiff of handball about it, and any offence took place outside the area). The 4th was right, penalty and red-card justified (on a sidenote, how terrible was Kaboul in cloming across to Navas). A certain red-card.
10. Punditry – Not that this is surprising in a studio containing Tim Sherwood and Steve McManaman, and that paradigm of trivial cliches and tautologous statements Michael Owen in the commentary box, but this really was an exercise in ego-massaging and nonsense speaking. Particularly insightful in their ignorance was Sherwoods claim that he wanted to ‘retain attacking threat’ when he managed against City (unsurprisingly, they convincingly lost), another Sherwood claim that Harry Kane was a better player than Soldado (again, ludicrous), a McManaman suggestion that Sherwoods departure was unfair, a claim as far removed from the truth as any I have heard. Owen continually suggested that the Costa vs Aguero top goalscoring battle was in some way significant, as if goals racked up in large wins or off the bench are in some way indicative or correlated to league success.