The Hard Tackle looks at three influential players who could have a big say in the upcoming clash between Manchester City and Tottenham.
Up until the Chelsea fixture, Tottenham appeared like a proper team with players capable of helping them challenge for the title that Manchester City currently hold. Ange Postecoglou has had a tremendous effect on his side since taking over in the summer. But the wheels are slowly coming off in their quest to become challengers.
The loss to Chelsea, followed by disappointing results against Wolves and Aston Villa, have derailed their early season momentum. After Saturday’s results, they are down in sixth, seven points off league leaders and rivals Arsenal, although they could reduce the deficit to four points with a win over Manchester City.
Going by his team’s current run of form, Postecoglou will surely think about not losing Sunday’s game rather than clinching a victory. Four defeats in a row does not bode well with a team that were talked in the same bracket of title challengers not so long ago.
Hence, Tottenham have a big task at hand at the Etihad to get their season back on track. As difficult as it may seem to get something against Manchester City, Spurs have, in fact, been City’s bogey team since Pep Guardiola has take over at Manchester City.
Guardiola will know the dangers of underestimating this particular opponent, as it has cost them valuable points in the past. Sure, Spurs are missing a host of key names and showing reliance on a particular way of playing under Postecoglou. But Manchester City could still have a bad day at work.
Barring a big tactical surprise, Postecoglou will want his players to continue playing an open game, which is something Manchester City would relish. An open game means a field day for Guardiola’s stars, who thrive in this situation and take pleasure in carving open defences at will.
Moreover, Postecoglou does not have the defensive depth or players to carry out his operation to the last word and may end up struggling. Our prediction stated Manchester City might score at least four goals. But an open game also provides Tottenham with the chances they must take to stay in the fight.
Overall, it will come down to some key players, who will have to be fundamental to either team’s chances in this clash. Son Heung-min for Tottenham must have to come out and showcase his best self, while Phil Foden and Rodri of Manchester City are the key stars in this fixtures.
Tottenham, without James Maddison, have lacked the creativity to carve open defences. In addition, there are a host of attacking players missing from action, including Richarlison and Manor Solomon, which has seen the re-emergence of Bryan Gil as an option for Ange Postecoglou and, with that, a change in positions for other stars.
For instance, Dejan Kulusevski might play the No.10 role to accommodate Brennan Johnson and Gil on either flank, thus emphasizing Son’s performances in this clash. The former Golden Boot winner produced an ‘offside disasterclass’ against Aston Villa, as he could have had a hat-trick had he stayed behind the line.
Son tends to get into good positions irrespective of those missing personnel and does get his fair share of chances. Postecoglou has offset the loss of Maddison with the re-introduction of Giovani Lo Celso, with the Argentine best placed to bring some element of creativity to the side.
For Son, it is imperative to take his chances like they are his last, as all of Tottenham’s hopes in this game fall on his shoulders. The South Korean is a capable finisher, but he must not waste opportunities against Manchester City. His clinical nature will have a significant role to play on Sunday, and he will be Spurs’ most important player, maybe their game-changer.
Tottenham have shown resilience in midfield, but there too, they have problems with the fitness of crucial stars. Pape Matar Sarr, who has been such a key player for them, could miss out again with fitness problems. Bissouma will return and might have a more significant role to play in holding play together. But his biggest challenge is to get the better of Rodri.
Four players have made 50+ successful passes into the final third in the Champions League this season:
◉ Rúben Dias
◉ Toni Kroos
◉ Joshua Kimmich
— Squawka (@Squawka) November 30, 2023
The Manchester City midfield maestro has returned to his best, but something still is lacking in his game. He, too, does not have his usual partner in John Stones, but Manuel Akanji has adapted well to that unfamiliar midfield role. Rodri must play his A-game against Tottenham and will be their most important player on the pitch.
As far as domination goes for Manchester City, it usually starts from the midfield position, with Rodri pulling the strings. Spurs will play an open game, but that will come with aggression from their midfield stars like Yves Bissouma, Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg and Giovani Lo Celso.
Hence, while Rodri will want his regular time and space to make the right passes, he must also show quickness in his game. The Spaniard will have to be incisive in his style and make sure he is there to dominate his Tottenham counterparts in the middle of the pitch on Sunday.
Erling Haaland continues to get the plaudits for his goalscoring prowess. Other players on this Manchester City side have also played a crucial role, especially in the absence of talisman Kevin De Bruyne. Of those, Phil Foden has probably had a significant impact in the absence of the Belgian.
Earlier, Julian Alvarez appeared to have filled the void left by De Bruyne. But it is Foden who has showcased he is Manchester City’s main creative force with his consistent performances.
Against Tottenham, who are set to have another game with a weakened defence, Foden must bring his A-game to the table. He or any other Manchester City player would know the importance of creating chances for Haaland, who will finish most of those. Still, the team also needs someone apart from the Norwegian to take on the goalscoring burden.
At present, only Foden and Julian Alvarez are best placed to do that, with the England international rising in his form. Against Tottenham, he must have a great game to help his team score plenty of goals through his clinical nature inside the box and creativity.