#TOTMCI: CITIZEN KANE

 

Y ay the Premier League is back! He says with more than a hint of a grimace. Look I love football as much as anyone but am I the only one still feeling burnt out from the European Championships? I just wish there was more of a break between the end of a tournament and the start of the domestic calendar.

Having said that, I must admit that I have been utterly consumed with the transfer window. Manchester City who are not exactly renowned for their lavish spending, broke the British transfer record for the man with the ‘Golden Calves’ whilst their aristocratic rivals across the Pennines signed none other than Jadon Sancho and Raphael Varane.

As for Tottenham, the main story at a club which seems to have lost all sense of direction has been whether or not they can hold on to their talisman Harry Kane from the clutches of their opponents this weekend. We are still none the wiser as to how this saga will unfold but dare I say it… the long term future of the club would benefit from his departure and £150m in the bank.

Whether the usually shrewd Levy sees it that way remains to be seen but anyway enough of the transfer tattle, and lets delve into first major tactical battle of the Premier League Season.


 
TOTMCI
PREDICTED LINEUPS...
 

MAN CITY IN POSSESSION

BUILD UP PHASE

As with most top clubs in the premier league, City have had to deal with a rather disjointed preseason. Ederson has just returned to training, having missed preseason and it is unlikely he will feature in the opening fixture. In his absence, Zack Steffen has proved himself an able deputy and was particularly impressive against Leicester in the Community Shield.

The American who returned to City last season after an impressive spell in the Bundesliga is an excellent shot stopper and has an intimidating presence between the sticks. Nevertheless whilst he has been labelled as an all-round goalkeeping prospect, he does have some work to do to match up to Ederson in the ball playing stakes.

He is more likely to hit the ball longer and less accurately under pressure, with a 56.6% career accuracy rate compared to Ederson’s 63.8%. With Tottenham deploying a rather high energy 4-2-3-1 spearheaded by Son, Lucas and Bergwijn – do not be surprised if a sluggish City fail to pass through the pressing lines as precisely as we are accustomed to.

Under Nuno, Spurs have at times sat off to a shape just in front of the centre circle but they have also pressed when needed. City look very undercooked and it is vital that Spurs who have had the benefit of utilising quite a strong and consistent lineup during preseason go for the jugular and do not let this City side off the leash by feeling their way into the game.


 
TOTMCI - City Build Up
MAN CITY BUILD UP PHASE
 

THE FINAL THIRD

With Foden and Kevin De Bruyne injured, City could be seeking to fill their creativity void with a combination of Jack Grealish and Bernardo Silva. The latter is adamant that his future lies elsewhere after falling out of the starting XI in the past season but when he and Grealish did come on during the weekend, they linked up wonderfully down the left wing and half space.

Grealish in particular looked lively during his cameo display and did not look burdened by the number 10 shirt. The absence of Foden and De Bruyne provides ample opportunity for the Englishman to prove what he is about by establishing a stranglehold of City’s final third.

There is speculation that Grealish may occupy the false 9 with Sterling winning back his berth on the left but I see that as more of a long-term project once Grealish is used to his manager and team mates. Throwing him into an alien position when he may potentially be feeling the weight of expectation would be folly.


 
TOTMCI - City Final Third
MAN CITY IN THE FINAL THIRD
 

TRANSITIONAL PHASE

Not only have Spurs signed Cristian Romero – the lung busting, no nonsense defender from Atalanta but Japhet Tanganga has returned from the abyss to feature heavily during preseason. An early indication that Nuno wants to use the departure of Alderweireld as an opportunity to introduce greater athleticism across the backline.

This could prove problematic for City who are in desperate need of dynamism and penetration up front. Breaking through that vibrant Spurs backline might not be easy at this stage of the season, and this was evident on the weekend where a sluggish City really struggled to put Leicester’s defence on the back foot.

Frankly, apart from Gabriel Jesus, City lack a player who can stretch the opposition, score goals in the penalty area and link up with the midfield. One has to question whether the increasingly deeper-lying Kane is the solution to that particular problem.


 
TOTMCI - City Transition
MAN CITY IN TRANSITION
 

TOTTENHAM IN POSSESSION

BUILD UP PHASE

During his time at Wolves, Nuno was wedded to a back 5 which prioritised efficient distribution of the ball from the defensive third into the final third as quick as possible. It seems as though Nuno is not going to utilise a similar formation but that does not mean his underlying philosophy will not be similar.

So far in preseason we have seen Hojberg and Skipp playing as a double pivot in front of a back 4. The latter seems set for a breakthrough season for the Lilywhites, after excelling on loan for Norwich as the Canaries romped to the Championship title, playing in 45 of their 46 league games and only missing out on the final day at Barnsley through injury.

He is a similar player to a Moutinho. Solid technically, not afraid to put in defensive work and positionally disciplined. His best attribute however is best described by Norwich boss Daniel Farke who waxed lyrical about the Spurs youngster when speaking to the press, notably stating that Skipp "plays nearly every game with so little mistakes".

Expect to see both Skipp and Hojberg take turns to drift into deeper areas to collect the ball and proceed to pass between the lines quickly – getting it into the front 4 as soon as possible. Neither player tends to over-elaborate in the build up but they do like to keep the ball along the ground.


 
TOTMCI - Spurs Build Up
TOTTENHAM BUILD UP PHASE
 

THE FINAL THIRD

One of the biggest faults of the Mourinho era was the inability to utilise the likes of De Celso and Ndombele in a productive manner. This meant that Spurs had sterile possession when the ball was not at the feet of either Kane and Son. In order for Spurs to hit the heights they did under Poch, they need to rediscover that creative thrust they possessed in central areas as well as that ability to control games in midfield. They need to replace the impact of Eriksen and Delle Alli.

At the moment the signs are not really good as rumours suggest Ndombele is on his way out and in pre season we have seen the double pivot of Skipp and Hojberg. Whilst I have spoken about their positive impact in terms of build up play, neither really has what it takes to control the game at the highest level in the attacking third and there seems to be a playmaker missing from this squad - especially if Harry Kane departs.

It is safe to say that if they are to breach the City line, it will be through counter-attacking play rather than sustained pressure in the final third. The likes of Bergwijn and Lucas who have started for most of pre season, not to mention Bryan Gil will all prefer to have space to run into rather than face a low block. Fortunately for Spurs, City's tendency to control possession may play into their hands.


 
TOTMCI - Spurs Final Third
TOTTENHAM IN THE FINAL THIRD
 

TRANSITIONAL PHASE

Much has been spoken about the saga of Harry Kane but with Son having signed a new contract, Spurs’ attack seems set for years with the Korean at the helm. He is not a man who is wholly reliant on service, one of the few attackers in the modern game who can go it alone up front as he possesses a rare package of dribbling, explosiveness and ambidextrous finishing ability.

If Kane leaves, this could be the season where the Korean steps out of the shadows and cements himself as one of the worlds’ leading footballers not just in terms of performances but reputation. To be honest I am shocked no one has been beating on the door trying to sign him as he could revitalise so many forward lines across Europe, but injury withstanding this could be the season which propels him into the stratosphere.

A City backline which does not feature John Stones and a Ruben Dias who has had his aura of invincibility chipped away at during the European Championships could be susceptible to the high fitness and pace levels of this Spurs attack. Leicester seemed to leave City chasing shadows and Nuno has not left anything to chance during preseason fitness wise.


 
TOTMCI - Spurs Transition
TOTTENHAM IN TRANSITIONAL PLAY
 

THE PYTHAGORAS PERSPECTIVE

Last year a very poor opening encounter gave a glimpse into the shortcomings of Mourinho’s Spurs side. He did for a spell turn it around, landing on a beautiful system which allowed Kane and Son to flourish as a duo but alas it would not prove to be enough to revitalise the club and push them back into the Top 4.

Whilst Spurs do not look like they have done enough to pose a threat this summer, they have looked sharp during pre season and as long as they do not shoehorn Kane back into the lineup without any preseason, they should pose a threat here to a very undercooked Manchester City.

Pep may have spoken about how he does not want to repeat last seasons mistakes of having a bad start to the season but the nature of the summer and the plethora of major international events taking place have simply made mockery of that statement.

City looked laboured in the community shield and one has to wonder if in the space of a week some of the returning stars will have had enough work in their legs to compete with a Spurs side who have fielded a consistent lineup for a number of weeks and tested in match conditions.

Prediction… For City to win, they will need a Grealish masterclass but the signs seem to suggest that Spurs could spring a surprise win here
 
 
 
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