Verdict: Tottenham Hotspur 3 Manchester City 0
Goals: Kranjcar 37 and 90, Defoe 54 for Spurs.
City went toe to toe with Spurs and came off second best in a hectic game that put a large dent in any ambitions to claim a Champions League place.
The big team news was the absence of Joleon Lescott who was having an operation to remove some floating bone from his knee. Hughes went with Nedum Onuoha as his replacement, and he took on the left sided centre-back position in a similar manner to last season.
The difference now is that Toure rather than Dunne is playing on the right side, and we’re left with a defence that doesn’t feature anyone over six feet tall. Far from ideal in the Premier League, and here we saw the first two goals resulting from Crouch headers.
Against tall attacks, there is surely a case for playing the 6′ 4″ Vincent Kompany in defence.
Prior to the match, there was the question of whether Hughes would seek to stifle Spurs as he had Liverpool, or if we would go at them as against Villa. It proved to be the latter, and the result shows this may have been a mistake.
The injury hit Liverpool side we played was weaker than this Spurs side, and while Hughes was criticised for his caution at Anfield, the failure to contain Spurs was a failing here. After suffering a 1-0 home defeat to Wolves at the weekend, it would have made sense to keep the game tight early on and frustrate the home crowd.
Instead the frenetic spectacle soon got the crowd behind the team, who duly responded by quickly playing to their capacity.
City played a high line to take the game to Spurs, and also to keep Crouch’s height advantage out of our penalty area. The downside to this was it played into the hands of Aaron Lennon who targeted Sylvinho as expected.
The Brazilian did his best, but needed more help than was available from Robinho or the tactics of Hughes which leaves defenders to win their one-on-ones without back-up. The defensive doubling-up on Martin Petrov when he was attacking the Spurs flank in the closing minutes was noticeable by way of a contrast.
Should Hughes have played the same defensive tactics as we saw at Anfield? Sylvinho for one would have been better protected. Gareth Barry came over and helped out on occasion, and a naturally left sided centre-back may have come over more often, but generally Sylvinho was a man alone.
Playing the high line also failed to negate Crouch, as when Lennon got free and was scampering towards the byline, the lanky England man could make his way into the penalty area regardless. The first goal came via this relatively simple movement.
At the other end the biggest disappointment was the out of sorts Adebayor. His inability to hold the ball up, win headers and casual loss of possession made him look inferior to Crouch in all respects. Roque Santa Cruz was also a less effective target man than the Spurs beanpole, even if he was less frustrating than Adebayor. Quite what they made of that in Abu Dhabi is anybody’s guess.
Throughout the first half, our lack of pace and directness down the flanks was noticeable as we failed to turn the Spurs defence. Instead our focus with Robinho and Ireland was on tight passing, but such a frantic game wasn’t the right place and Spurs broke up our interplay or forced an error before a chance could be created.
Following the second goal and the arrival of Santa Cruz, Spurs started to look edgy and Ireland moved infield to good effect and finally we had someone who looked capable of scoring. Unfortunately the best two chances fell to Adebayor. The arrival of Petrov also gave Spurs something to think about with a decent free-kick, which came as a surprise following several lamentable set-pieces in the first half.
“We didn’t retain possession high enough up the field to take pressure off the back four, and at times, they couldn’t deal with the threat of Jermain Defoe and Peter Crouch.
“The second goal killed us. We had to chase the game and made changes, but it didn’t work to any great extent.”
Robinho clearly isn’t suited to the Hughes style of play and they both seem to know it. More’s the pity as his quality could have made the difference in an opening period when neither side looked able to turn competitiveness into composure. Neither Adebayor or Tevez brought Robinho into the game when they had the opportunity, and it was sad to see the frustrated Brazilian head straight down the tunnel following his substitution in the second half.
After games like this, it’s difficult to see both Robinho and Hughes being with the club beyond January. The Brazilian didn’t offer much here, but getting rid of Elano didn’t solve the team’s problems and the departure of Robinho would be a sympton rather than a cure for the current malaise.
It’s not clear whether the board would be willing to change the manager mid-season. It would go against all they’ve said about long term planning but if we drift any further from a top-four place, then maybe it could happen. Fewer and fewer people believe that simply signing more players is the answer.
- What do you think is the best way back for City after this second league defeat?