Man City 4 Spurs 1 – defensive wobbles and poor refereeing

Lloris saves Aguero penalty


6-0, 5-1 and now 4-1 against City. I suppose you could say Spurs are improving.

There was a strong sense of deja vu at the Etihad. Another game against a top class, fluid attacking side, another ragged defensive display from Tottenham. Another thrashing, another soap opera of a match.

Just like last time out against City, in the 5-1 demolition at White Hart Lane, the referee had a big part to play in the drama. As well as facing the Premier League champions, Spurs had to contend with a borderline offside goal, a dubious penalty and – just as we were getting back into the match – a red card that should never have been.

On top of that was a missed spot kick for scapegoat Roberto Soldado, four goals for Spurs’ tormentor Sergio Aguero and four penalties in a game full of end to end action. In a perverse way it was fantastic entertainment.

In a sign of the drama to come, Pochettino made two leftfield changes to his team. Soldado came in for Adebayor and Fazio for Vertonghen. Adebayor had played in Togo on Wednesday in African Cup of Nations qualification, which probably explained his absence.

Vertonghen was a bigger miss. Fazio is great in the air but he’s not the quickest or the most nimble. Facing the speed and vision of Aguero and Silva, this was not the time to hand the big defender his Premier League debut.

Before the match I, like many commentators, had advocated a more defensive, counter attacking approach, along the lines of the gutsy display at the Emirates. Facing a superior side, in their own back yard, there’s no shame in being pragmatic. Pochettino bravely, or maybe foolishly, went for a more attacking plan.

The Tottenham performance had parts that were very good and parts that were very bad. We were great going forward, winning the ball high up the pitch and putting together some lovely one touch moves, in the same vein as our excellent win against high flying Southampton. It was unfortunate all our endeavour only gained us a single, solitary goal.

From our attacking four, it was Lamela who was the odd man out. He constantly ran in to trouble and was at fault for the first two City goals. Losing the ball in a dangerous area, then giving the referee an excuse to point to the spot.

At the other end of the pitch our defending was atrocious. Part of the reason was the quality of Manchester City’s players – Aguero, Silva and Navas constantly caused us problems. Part of it was the disorganised nature of our backline and the lack of cover in front of them.

Mason was good going forward, full of energy and invention. He linked up well with Eriksen and Chadli. It was the young midfielders recovery of possession high up the field that led to our goal. He fed Soldado, who slipped a perfectly weighted pass to Eriksen. The Dane powered the ball past Hart.

For all the impressive forward play, Mason and Capoue did not cope with the opposition runners in midfield. There was far too much space for the City players, between the lines of midfield and defence. I was clamouring for the introduction of Stambouli in place of Lamela at half-time to try to plug the gaps.

I won’t dwell on the City goals but the red card merits further comment. Fazio was silly to put his arm out, and it was a penalty, but how the referee can interpret that as a clear goal scoring opportunity is beyond me. Aguero wasn’t in possession. When contact was made, Navas still had the ball and Kaboul was closing him down. That’s quite a lot of steps you have to go through to get to a shot on goal for the Argentine.

Up until that moment Tottenham were still in the game – partly reward for our bright attacking play but mainly down to a bit of luck and the now expected Lloris’ heroics. After the crazy five minute period that included the penalty miss and Fazio’s sending off, the match was gone.

So on to Soldado. There seems to be a schism developing in the Spurs support over the Spanish striker, not entirely unrelated to the previous Sherwood, AVB angst. “Nice link up play, a good assist but not enough of a goal threat” could be a description for Adebayor versus Southampton or Soldado here.

If you lose 4-1 and blame a striker for missing a penalty which he won pretty much single handedly, then you’re looking in the wrong place. This defeat was primarily down to Spurs’ poor defending and that’s an issue for the whole team.

Follow me on Twitter: @ABPSpurs

Did Pochettino get his tactics right? Was Soldado to blame for the defeat? Should Fazio start next game? Let me know in the comments below.

Football stuff at Amazon
Jimmy Greaves book The Double New FIFA 15



29 thoughts on “Man City 4 Spurs 1 – defensive wobbles and poor refereeing

  1. Gerald

    I apologise but I must take you to task yet again. In my mind our problem lies at the “front” of the pitch. We are incapable of creating pressure on the opponents defence and defensive midfield. As such ALL our opposing teams can mass players coming forward which will inevitably lead to gaps and problems in the defence. If we had at least one “Star” forward, all other PL clubs have at least 2 if not 3, we could/would force the opposition to keep players further back therefore reducing the pressure on our defence. Yet again (as for the past 5/6 years) we are incapable of scoring goals yet we spend/spent tens of millions on midfield players, not the forwards that we desperately need.
    By the way, I also watched the Hull game, man of the match for me, Michael Dawson, what a great piece of organization that was, he should never have been sold.

    1. AnythingButPenalties Post author

      I see what you mean to an extent, more pressure higher up may have taken some of the burden off our defence. However, we had 19 shots and many decent chances to score which I would say we were unlucky not to convert.

      It’s true that we could probably do with buying a striker in January.

      As for Dawson, much as I respect him, he was run ragged by City and Liverpool in a Spurs shirt.

  2. Blacks

    We are no different now than we were last season god we are poor disorganised and please explain how Saldado not only plays but is trusted with a penalty.This manager will win nothing and be gone in 18 months we need five players at least well done Baldino/Levy


    Yes,Dawson should not have been sold and neither should Siggurdsson. Pochettino made two mistakes today. He should have played Kane instead who is a better player than Soldado, Lamela who was not having a good game should have been substituted at the start of the second half. Soldado who is out of form was the wrong person to take that penalty. His shot was weak and he made it so obvious to Hart as to where he was shooting.. The penalty should have been taken by Eriksen or even Chadli. The turning point of the game for Spurs was that penalty miss, a great chance to have sealed a draw perhaps. A lot of ‘deja vu’ for Spurs: costly individual mistakes eroding our chances plus some unbelievably poor-standard refereeing that made things still more difficult for us. We nevertheless played some good football for a good 70 minutes but unfortunately failed to pounce on the chances that came our way as it too often happens in our various matches. We are still showing a lack of consistency and tenacity.

  4. Madcap

    There was so much tripe talked by the BT Sport ‘experts’ including the truely pathetic Tim Sherwood, that I was wondering if they were deliberately sticking the boot in. In the end Spurs were well beaten by a City side blessed with the best striker in the premier league. 4-1 was a cruel result as Spurs could and perhaps should have been 2-2 just before the clown in black gave a penalty (correctly) and sent off Fazio (wrongly). At 3-1 and down to 10 men it was game over. Of course City deserved their win but only Aguero was in a different class. Other than him Spurs were the equal to City and with a little good fortune could have come away with a point. Yet, I agree that Spurs desperately need a quality striker who can regularly convert the chances we create.

  5. gary fox

    Kane is one paced and has a poor touch. He scores goals against poor sides only. With Adebayor not 100% it had to be Soldado. The problem (apart from very poor reffing) was in our three attacking midfielders. Lamela was frankly awful. Eriksen should watch a dvd of Silva to see what creativity really means. Too much pressure was put on Capoue and Mason. Kabul was the hero at Emirates but struggled today. Aguerro was simply too good for him … he was for Dawson last year. We deserved a 1-2 goal defeat at most today so lets not too carried away with the criticism.

  6. Travers Sinanan

    Well here we go again we flatter to deceive. Let us face it Soldado should be gone it is only pride that is preventing Levy and his clowns from selling him . Come Jan he should be gone ,loaned out or cut price deal he is overrated. Overpaid and overhere!
    Kane is learning he is young but he is more hungry than the spaniard who is useless. Lamella needs to step up to the plate and selling Sandro was a mistake we need a midfield ball winner and two quality strikers. Soldado will score Gainst poor sides but does not have skill’, experience or ability for the PL.

    Ade. Needs to start leading from the fro the front and defensively we need to be tougher and tighter. I am still not convinced by Poncettino we may have done better to go for. Koeman. I guess when we win nothing and continue to lose we will get Koeman next season!!!
    Levy must spend in. Jan for three quality players at least in the various positions. Until then it is same old , same old.

    1. OC7

      I definitely agree that we need a prolific new striker, someone that can worry defenders and looks dangerous. What do you think goes through an opposition CBs mind when he sees Bobby S, Adebayor or Kane bearing down on goal on the edge of the area?

      My guess would be “easy, these tap-in specialists can’t shoot from that kind of distance, no danger, and they’re too slow to wriggle through, piece of cake!”.

      Bony? Pelle? Shame we have to pillage another side to improve, doing to them what the bigger teams perpetually do to us. I rather like watching Southampton and Swansea at the moment, somehow they play with real vigour. Must be nice. Almost every team in the league has a fearsome goalscorer. Fraizer Campbell looked sharp for Palace yesterday. Even West Brom have Berahino. West Ham have Sakho and Valencia!

      What’s going on at Spurs training!? Why are our strikers so crap!?

  7. Kevin

    I have to agree with the blog writer about the Lamela/Stambouli change. You could sense that during that time, the defence needed more protection and reassurance and the switch with Townsend was meant to be a positive move, but Poch made a mistake here.

    I was really hoping that the Capoue/Mason pairing would work well during the game but as everyone pointed out, they were good going forward but had no answer defensively. Capoue tried his best to limit Silva’s influence and Mason was amazing bursting forward but ultimately, Aguero was just top class.

  8. OC7

    A United supporting friend walked into the pub I was watching the game in with around 85 minutes of the Spurs game and after looking at the score, asked me how my mood was. And I told him I wasn’t that bad.

    Yes, Soldado’s penalty was a pathetically weak effort (so disappointing after his confident and tidy link up play in the first half), and yeah the same old usual defensive mistakes, but even with all that said it wasn’t anywhere near as bad a performance as the routs last season and it’s already been summed up on this discussion: Man City are deadly, Aguero, Silva and Navas are in a different league to our players and even an unbiased observer could see we were hard done by on several key moments due to officiating.

    Aguero’s first could easily have been ruled out, the first penalty could have not been given, DeMichelis could have walked for the foul on Soldado (if we’re applying the same logic that Moss applied to Fazio)… and who knows how the game would have unfolded.

    I wouldn’t blame the ref for the defeat, truth be told City are superior to us in every department and deserved the win, but once again the score in the book denies us an accurate reading of Spurs progress under the new regime.

    Positives to take from the game:
    Lloris (always outstanding, deserves better),
    Dier (learning fast although needs to contribute more if playing at RB – watch Ivanovic),
    Rose (actually saw him busting a lung to make it back when he was out of position at the end of the first half – hey, it’s progress),
    Mason (fearless display, got stuck in, we need some of that),
    Chadli (looks the business now).

    I saw enough yesterday to feel positive about Spurs this season. There are very few players in the league that can do what Aguero did to us and he was the difference. Seeing a team like City up close and personal is only going to help the development of our young players… Lamela won’t be attempting challenges in the box from now on and Mason will have benefited immensely from pitch time alongside Lampard Silva and co.

    Bring on next weekend.

    1. Kevin

      Your optimism is admirable and I applaud that. True, it was a rout but it was not a capitulation and i think we have tons of reasons to be positive.

      1. JOHN ADAM

        I think there is a need for referees of the Premier League to be ‘re-educated’ about penalties. Some of them have it completely wrong. The first penalty against Spurs was no penalty at all and neither was that given to Swansea against Stoke. Such ‘unfair’ penalties only serve to kill the game and decide the wrong outcome of the match. It is about time FA looks into this matter. Increasingly, players look for the easy way through a penalty to score a vital winning goal and succeed to fool the referee in the process.


    Sorry, I correct myself. I should have said “neither was that given to Stoke against Swansea.” My apologies for this slip..I quickly realised the mistake.

    1. OC7

      In reply to your above point John I totally agree that there needs to be some kind of review of this issue… the frequency with which such contentious events decisively influence matches is far too high.

      Either the refs start adding some kind of additional context to their decision making in the context of penalty awards, or everyone everywhere is going to be looking to win a foul inside the box from now on and I fear this could really ruin football as a spectacle – I am already getting fed up of games being decided by penalties and it’s only going to get worse at this rate.

      There were at least 3 occasions on Saturday v City where Soldado, Lamela and Chadli each had possession in the box and shook off challenges trying to find a way to goal, rather than going down under the challenge and possibly winning a penalty.

      Sure we have had our divers over the years as well and I’m not trying to say that Spurs are a morally superior team or anything like that, but I do find it extremely galling that opposition players have so far this season gone down at the faintest of touches and won penalties (Liverpool just when we were getting back into it, City just when we were getting back into it…), when having the integrity to try and stay on your feet gets you nothing! Robbie Keane v Chelsea around 6 years ago stands out in my memory as a perfect example!

      And then there is the “indiscipline” evidenced by all the red cards we’ve collected over the last few years. These also have a huge bearing on the outcome of games and we haven’t really had the rub of the green there either. Some teams get away with more, it seems, whereas Spurs generally always pay the full penalty for any slight transgression.

      1. JOHN ADAM

        I fully agree with what you say. That ‘pretending to have been tripped business’ is happening much too often these days. As you rightly say, it is ruining games and sadly referees fall into the trap. The FA Authorities should call a meeting and tell the referees to be on their guard and try to be fair when awarding penalties and be absolutely sure that there has really been a serious contact otherwise give the benefit of the doubt to the player concerned.. Red cards, as you point out, are also being unfairly dished out. Fazio never deserved that red card…The penalty was sufficient punishment. In my opinion, plain common sense is a key to good refereeing and unfortunately many referees are lacking in common sense.

      2. AnythingButPenalties Post author

        The red card was the worst mistake. How was that was a clear goal scoring opportunity? Referees just get carried away in the moment sometimes.

        It’s bad enough when it is a goal scoring opportunity – a penalty and a red card is a double punishment. A sending off kills the game.

        It seems to me that this always happens against the “big” teams. Do you think there’s a subconscious bias because the referee expects them to win?

      3. anotherwisemonkey

        Totally agree. This match reminded me of a game against United a few years back when Howard Webb wrongly awarded a penalty against us when Robinson won the ball in the box. It completely changed the momentum of the match and they went on to thrash us. I’d like all penalty decisions to be decided in conjunction with video evidence. They are far too costly to get wrong.

      4. JOHN ADAM

        I remember that match as well as the one when we were robbed of a goal by Mendes. The ball clearly crossed the line by a metre. Was it also Webb who refereed that match?

      5. AnythingButPenalties Post author

        That was where Nani handled the ball, Gomez thought the ref had given a free kick to us but he had played advantage. Gomez put the ball down for the free kick and Nani nicked it and scored and the ref let it stand!

  10. Pingback: Soldado, Adebayor or Kane – who should be Spurs’ first choice up front? | Anything But Penalties

  11. Pingback: Some talking points on Spurs Asteras | Anything But Penalties

  12. Pingback: Spurs 0 Manchester City 1 | Anything But Penalties

Leave a Reply to Madcap Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s