5 talking points from Tottenham’s 2-2 draw at Manchester City
- Credit: EMPICS Sport
Dele Alli and Heung-Min Son struck second-half goals as Spurs fought back from 2-0 down to grab a 2-2 draw in a thrilling clash against Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium. Here are five talking points.
1. Kevin Wimmer replaces Jan Vertonghen but has a difficult outing at the Etihad
It was at this very stage last year, in late January, that Vertonghen suffered a knee injury at Crystal Palace which ruled him out until mid-April.
History has now repeated itself, with the Belgian centre-back facing six weeks on the sidelines – and, again, Wimmer is now set for an extended run in the side.
The Austria international deputised very capably last season. Indeed, when Vertonghen became available again, it was by no means a foregone conclusion that he would immediately return to the starting line-up.
But Wimmer has had a frustrating time since then, having to bide his time in the shadows and wait for run-outs in the cup competitions or for further injuries.
Before today the 24-year-old, who represented his country at the European Championship last summer, had only started seven games this season.
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Wimmer’s chance has now arrived, but this was not the start he would have hoped for. He was booked early on against City after losing the ball on the edge of his own box and was then substituted at half-time as Pochettino changed his tactics.
Wimmer will probably get another opportunity, but Ben Davies is also an option in that role – the Welshman plays on the left side of a back three for his country.
2. Pep Guardiola’s ambition pays off
Eyebrows were raised when City’s line-up was announced and it became clear that Guardiola had elected to set his side up in an aggressive 4-1-4-1 formation, one week after a 4-0 defeat to Everton and against a Spurs side that has been in rampant form.
However, the Spaniard’s decision to employ attack as the best form of defence paid off. Raheem Sterling and Leroy Sane pinned Tottenham’s wing-backs, Danny Rose and Kyle Walker, back while Gael Clichy and Pablo Zabaleta also joined in in offensive moves – it took a fine tackle from Toby Alderweireld to deny Zabaleta an almost certain goal.
The Lilywhites quickly found themselves playing with a back five, struggling to get out of their own half, and their attacking players were unable to make an impact.
Pochettino responded with a series of tactical changes as he sought to improve Spurs’ share of the possession and get a foothold in the game.
First he switched to a 4-3-3 system midway through the first half, with Eric Dier moving from the back line into midfield and Mousa Dembele lining up on the right side of a central trio. Dembele then moved into a No10 role as Pochettino adopted a 4-2-3-1 formation.
After that, when half-time came, the Spurs manager swapped Wimmer for Heung-Min Son – who was to have a big say in the outcome - and Dier and Dembele both moved back one spot, into defence and central midfield respectively.
3. Hugo Lloris endures a nightmare five minutes
Spurs’ keeper had a typically fine first half amid a constant onslaught, making a series of saves from David Silva and Sergio Aguero, but he was at fault on both occasions as City hit two quickfire goals in the opening 10 minutes of the second half.
First the Frenchman came out of his box to intercept a long ball but missed his attempted header, allowing Sane to finish into an empty net in the 49th minute.
Then, in the 54th minute, Tottenham’s captain – clearly affected by that costly gaffe – fumbled a routine low cross and gifted Kevin De Bruyne a similarly easy goal.
4. Spurs fight back
After spending almost an hour firmly on the ropes and deservedly finding themselves two goals down, Tottenham hit back out of nowhere in the 58th minute.
Walker delivered a sumptuous cross from the right side and Dele Alli arrived at the back post to head home, netting for the eighth time in seven games.
Suddenly Tottenham were back in the game, but they soon suffered another setback and were forced into yet another reshuffle as Alderweireld hobbled off. Harry Winks came off the bench to play in midfield, and Wanyama joined Dier in the back line.
City could have wrapped the game up when Sterling went clean through on goal, but under pressure from Walker – who seemed to give the City winger a sneaky push – he prodded straight at Lloris.
Instead, Spurs completed their comeback. Christian Eriksen attacked down the right side, Harry Kane flicked the ball on and Son buried it into the bottom left corner.
Suddenly the match bore a striking resemblance to Spurs’ trip to the Etihad almost exactly five years ago.
On January 22 2012, after a goalless first half, City went 2-0 up early in the second period. Spurs battled back to level with goals from Jermain Defoe and Gareth Bale, but they then conceded a heartbreaking late winner as Mario Balotelli struck from the penalty spot deep into injury time.
For a moment it seemed that history was going to repeat itself as City substitute Gabriel Jesus scored at close range, but the goal was disallowed for offside.
This time Spurs’ valiant comeback earned them a valuable point.
5. A good day all-round
Spurs arrived in Manchester aiming for their seventh consecutive top-flight victory – a feat they have never achieved in the Premier League era. However, they will be thoroughly delighted to have left with a draw, especially given the circumstances.
City had 17 shots to Tottenham’s six, with seven of them on target, compared to the Lilywhites’ two – both of which resulted in goals.
Pochettino’s side were outplayed for the majority of the clash and went 2-0 down, but they got something from the match - and they have also benefited from results elsewhere.
Liverpool surprisingly lost at home against Swansea, while Manchester United drew 1-1 at Stoke, so Spurs have got one of their toughest fixtures of the season out of the way without losing any ground in the top-six battle. Indeed, they have now moved one point ahead of Liverpool.
Over to you, Chelsea and Arsenal…
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