Spurs haven’t looked as well coached under Jose as they did in moving to the top of the Premier League with a 2-0 victory over his arch nemesis at Man City.
I questioned the coaching of Spurs previously, noting that during the Amazon documentary there was no tactics shown, yes you don’t want to give the game away but there seemed to be nothing just ra-ra-ra, up and at ’em stuff, but some of the games seemed clueless. As if they hadn’t been coached on what to expect and how to deal with it and counter it.
In Saturday’s 2-0 defeat of Man City they looked like a team that had been coached to within an inch of their life. They knew exactly what was coming, how to stop it and how to get the better of it.
With all the justified talk of Harry Kane’s performance or the defensive blocking of Toby and Dier one player was slightly overlooked. Sergio Reguilon highlighted how Spurs got things right. Since his arrival in England how many times have we seen Mahrez on the right cut inside and unleash a top corner shot with his left foot? Every game. Everyone knows what he’s going to do, it’s his one trick. How many teams stop him doing it? How many times was it seen in the 72 minutes he was on the pitch in this game?
Reguilon pretty much prevented Mahrez coming inside and unleashing anything with his left. The few, very few occasions Reguilon gave him enough space to think about it there was another Spurs shirt in there to foil him. Reguilon reduced Mahrez to repeatedly running the ball out of play, for a goal-kick, as he tried to get to the byline. Hugo wasn’t making dives to his right.
For all of city’s possession, two thirds of the ball, Hugo wasn’t doing much to be honest. Just one real outstanding save the rest were long distance shots he took with ease.
The visitors had had all the ball in the first 4 minutes before Ndombele lofted it over the defence, where Kane had been but dropped deep dragging two City players with him, opening up a huge space for Son to run into take the ball and put it through the legs of the onrushing City keeper.
Spurs could have been two up a little later, a lovely cross field ball from Aurier found Bergwijn, again Kane made the run that distracted the defence opening up space for Son, Bergwijn’s ball found him perfectly but from Son’s, selfless, cross Kane was offside. Needlessly and you wonder if Son could have taken it himself.
Then City thought they had the equaliser, it wasn’t a cross, or indeed dangerous but Mahrez passed inside, the cross found Jesus in the box he brought it down but couldn’t get an opening, passed it back to Laporte who fired past Hugo, who had no chance. The ref, Mike Dean, was then told to have another look by VAR. He saw, as we all did that Jesus controlled the ball with his arm. doesn’t use his arm there’s no goal… so there was no goal.
Pep has all the money in the world but he still can’t buy VAR.
It pretty much carried on in the same manner after the break, City with the ball but not causing Hugo any problems as they increasingly ran out of ideas, and what they did come up with was blocked by the likes of Toby and Dier, while Spurs tried to get them on the break.
Son almost had a great chance but a surprisingly bad first touch took him wide, before on the 65th minute they worked their magic again. Ndombele, who had put in a hell of a shift, feints here, turns there, passes and tackles, was taken off for Lo Celso, seconds later a left footed ball up the middle from Toby found Kane inside the Spurs’ half. Taking the ball on the turn and running up the pitch, Son and Bergwijn were doing the Kane role of dragging three defenders with them, leaving lo Celso wide open on the left. With his first touch Lo Celso took Kane’s excellent ball in his stride, with his second he played it through the onrushing keeper’s legs.
From there it was a back to the wall job, making sure they couldn’t get even the slightest hint of being back in the game. Keeping that elusive clean sheet. They had one, from a free-kick but Hugo was a match. Toby and Dier standing tall, blocking everything, no poncing out of blocks. Unfortunately, as Jose was about to make his last change by bringing on Bale, Toby had to go off with what looked like a bad injury, groin probably. Meaning one Welshman had to sit down while another, Rodon, came on for the last ten minutes.
It’s a shame because Toby had one of his best game for a while, looked back to the level when they had that great defensive record under Poch. While Dier, who has had a good season so far but has been plagued with that one incident in a game that gives his detractors ammunition, was pretty damn well faultless. Even Aurier didn’t do anything that stupid. Nothing to give Dean the chance to “even things up”. While Hojbjerg was imperious in front of them, even bringing the best out of Sissoko.
It’s only a quarter of the way into the season so being top is meaningless but if they can defend like this when they’re playing the “lesser” teams and be this exciting going forward, they should be there of there abouts…