5 Things We Learned: Tottenham Hotspur 1-0 Manchester City (UEFA Champions League)

City have to play through the Sterling mismatch

LONDON, ENGLAND – APRIL 09: Kieran Trippier of Tottenham Hotspur battles for possession with Raheem Sterling of Manchester City during the UEFA Champions League Quarter Final first leg match between Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester City at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on April 09, 2019 in London, England. (Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)

While the Sterling versus Trippier match-up was seen more in the first half, Sterling was arguably City’s biggest threat, and Guardiola’s men have to look to play through him in the second leg. From the start of the match, Sterling was direct and looked to take on the Tottenham full-back one-on-one and cut inside to create a shot or find a teammate.

With this style of play, Sterling and VAR gifted City a penalty in the 12th minute as the Jamaican native dribbled inside from the left and fired a shot off the arm of Danny Rose. Much to City’s dismay, Agüero had a rather poor effort at the spot saved by Lloris, but Sterling and his ability to get by Trippier is one of the greatest strengths the sky blues have over Tottenham, and it has to be utilized more at the Etihad.

City must manipulate Tottenham’s high press

LONDON, ENGLAND – APRIL 09: Kyle Walker of Manchester City battles for possession with Dele Alli of Tottenham Hotspur during the UEFA Champions League Quarter Final first leg match between Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester City at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on April 09, 2019 in London, England. (Photo by Justin Setterfield/Getty Images)

Over the course of the few days before the tie, Tottenham coach Mauricio Pochettino insisted his team would come out of the gates aggressively and look to press City, and his team did just that. With Alli, Eriksen, Son, and Kane all pressing City’s back line, there were acres of space in behind that City have to exploit moving forward. Despite having Fernandinho in the side, Gundogan seemed to float around the midfield and favor more of a defensive role as David Silva was left alone trying to start the attack against Tottenham’s Winks and Sissoko. Nonetheless, City still have one more game to implement this tactic and with Guardiola’s style of football accompanied by a start for Kevin De Bruyne, City can exploit these spaces with their Belgian maestro and create more scoring opportunities.

City got caught out on the flanks

LONDON, ENGLAND – APRIL 09: Riyad Mahrez of Manchester City battles for possession with Danny Rose of Tottenham Hotspur during the UEFA Champions League Quarter Final first leg match between Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester City at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on April 09, 2019 in London, England. (Photo by Justin Setterfield/Getty Images)

Throughout almost the entirety of the game, City continued to get caught out defensively as Tottenham switched the ball between the flanks and manipulated City’s lack of width. Mahrez in particular was guilty of this as Rose and one of Tottenham’s midfielders would effectively have a two-on-one against Kyle Walker and whip the ball into the box for Kane or Alli to attack. With twenty-two crosses delivered in the game, City have to look to play wider not only offensively, but also defensively to prohibit balls coming into the box every time Tottenham look to switch the play. 

Should David Silva be dropped?

LONDON, ENGLAND – APRIL 09: David Silva of Manchester City is challenged by Moussa Sissoko of Tottenham Hotspur and Harry Winks of Tottenham Hotspur during the UEFA Champions League Quarter Final first leg match between Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester City at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on April 09, 2019 in London, England. (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)

Given that the Spaniard is one of City’s most beloved and reliable players in their history, this claim is rather surprising. However, it’s no doubt that City’s number 21 is out of form and not demonstrating the impact players and fans alike are expecting.In terms of goals and assists, Silva’s last contribution was exactly a month ago on March 9th, in the 3-1 win against Watford in the Premier League. With the squad depth that City have and no signs of Silva’s drought slowing, is it time for Gündogan to earn more starts alongside De Bruyne and Fernandinho?

Guardiola needs to utilize the bench earlier

LONDON, ENGLAND – APRIL 09: Josep Guardiola, Manager of Manchester City reacts during the UEFA Champions League Quarter Final first leg match between Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester City at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on April 09, 2019 in London, England. (Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)

By halftime, it was apparent that City showed no real rhythm and that the starting line-up and system Guardiola employed were not working. However, the two-time Champions League winning coach wanted to see more from his side, and did not elect to use his substitutes until the 71st minute with the introduction of Gabriel Jesus. Given that Tottenham are a physical team, the game was crying for the pace of Leroy Sane and the strength of Kevin De Bruyne who were shockingly brought in as a double substitution with just one minute to go in regular time. While the Spaniard has a habit in believing in the fluidity and consistency of his players and the line-up he selects, one has to think that an earlier introduction of all three players City brought on would have created a different and more positive impact on the match. 


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