May 3, 2010
I don’t know if anyone else occasionally peers into the bizarre world that is Blue Moon, but it does leave you thinking that all City fans are egotistical, Spurs-hating morons.
I am ashamed to say that I, therefore, felt surprised when I read an insightful and interesting article written by a City fan (Bloovic), regarding Wednesday’s game: Team and Tactics v Spurs (home) Double Bumper Edition. Well worth a read, and I couldn’t help but want to write a similar article in response to this, so here it is.
I could start by emphasising just how big this game is, but I think we all already know – it’s what we’ve been building towards all season, and it’s still in our hands.
These were the line-ups when we beat City 3-0 at White Hart Lane back in December, a performance which was probably in our top three of the season (better than the 9-1 in my opinion, because the opposition are that much better):
Corluka Dawson Bassong Assou–Ekotto
Lennon Huddlestone Palacios Kranjcar
Richards Onuoha Toure Sylvinho
Barry De Jong
Tevez Ireland Robinho
Mark Hughes was the City manager on that day, and it’s fair to say that things have changed fairly significantly for them since then – Mancini is now in charge, they’ve tended to go 4-4-2 with more regularity, Adam Johnson and Patrick Vieira have come in, Robinho has left, and Ireland has barely had a look-in.
Things have also changed for us, though. Modric has recovered from his broken leg, and has had some excellent performances, Pavlyuchenko is now generally preferred to Crouch, and Kranjcar is out for the rest of the season (and probably the start of next). The most significant change, though, is the form of Gareth Bale. He was a last minute substitute in the home game… I’d imagine that he will be near enough the first name on the team sheet come Wednesday.
There were two comments that stood out particularly to me from Bloovic’s analysis:
If Spurs decide to park the bus, City’s job will become that much more difficult – we’ve struggled against this tactic on a few occasions – and Mancini will likely have to alter his formation and approach while the game is in progress to achieve victory.
I think it’s reasonable to say that if Redknapp decides to take a more positive approach, then this will suit City’s counter-attacking style more, opening up the big Eastlands pitch and creating space for Tevez, Bellamy and Adebayor to exploit.
The reason these stood out is probably clear – he could quite easily be describing us. We too have had difficulty breaking down teams that are prepared to play with two banks of four, and not be too adventurous (Wolves, Stoke, Hull, even Villa) . Conversely, we’ve had less issue with teams willing to attempt to come at us (Burnley, Wigan, and even City themselves in December).
Obviously at Eastlands, the tables will be turned somewhat. The pressure will be on City, as the home side, to come at us and play an attacking game. For that reason, and remembering that we only need a draw from this game, I’d imagine that Redknapp will be tempted to go with the majority of the team that soaked up so much pressure against Arsenal.
His biggest decision in my opinion is whether to select Palacios. We know that he is one of Redknapp’s favourites, and we also know that he likes him when we play away – even at the expense of changing a winning team (United is a perfect example). The organisation and intelligence of Modric and Huddlestone as per the Arsenal and Chelsea games, or the combative, energetic Palacios? It’s a big call.
I have an inkling that he will go with one up top (probably Defoe), push Bale and Lennon high up the pitch, and give Modric a free role. Playing this way will mean that we won’t be able to play long too often, and we will need to ensure that our passing is short, crisp and, most of all, high tempo. What it does give us, though, is defensive solidarity – effectively a midfield three, with Modric occupying the deepest lying midfield-player (presumably De Jong), and Bale able to double-up on Wright-Phillips if necessary.
I do worry about Bassong, who hasn’t had so much football lately, against a City strike paring that seem to be re-finding their form, and I also worry about the prospect of Ben Alnwick in goal. Defoe’s form concerns me too – only four league goals in 2010, although two of them did come away from White Hart Lane.
This game could be a classic – there will be plenty of pace and attacking ability on display, and there is so much to play for. On the other hand, with so much at stake, both teams could play a cagey game, and try to grind out a result – especially as a draw for us would be seen as an excellent result. I don’t think that style suits us, so I hope we try to play football.
The nerves are building in anticipation, and they will only get worse. I just hope our players play to their true ability, and do themselves and us proud. COME ON YOU SPURS!!