The FourFourTwo Preview: Tottenham vs Man City
Sherwood's biggest test yet.
Although he limped on for another three weeks, Andre Villas-Boas never recovered from the 6-0 mauling doled out by Manchester City in November. Not that he's the only Spurs boss to have been spanked by the Mancs: Harry Redknapp's team lost 5-1 at the Lane in August 2011, at the start of a season that eventually brought Champions League qualification.
- Swansea 1-3 Tottenham (Prem)
- Tottenham 2-0 Palace (Prem)
- Arsenal 2-0 Tottenham (FAC)
- Man Utd 1-2 Tottenham (Prem)
- Tottenham 3-0 Stoke (Prem)
MAN CITY FORM
- Man City 4-2 Watford (FAC)
- West Ham 0-3 Man City (LC)
- Man City 4-2 Cardiff (Prem)
- Man City 5-0 Blackburn (FAC)
- Newcastle 0-2 Man City (Prem)
That possibility is still very much alive for Tim Sherwood, whose haul of 16 points from a possible 18 has taken Tottenham to level on points with fourth-placed Liverpool. However, Manuel Pellegrini's side are a class above Sherwood's previous opponents, with due respect to Southampton, West Brom, Stoke, Palace, Swansea and Manchester United.
Perhaps a more telling fixture was Tottenham's 2-0 FA Cup loss at Arsenal, in which Sherwood's hitherto welcomed commitment to an attacking 4-4-2 saw his side thoroughly overrun. A fortnight later, Spurs employed the 4-2-3-1 formation favoured by AVB (and a thousand others) to comfortably beat Swansea. But will he play it at home?
Man City have shown how two strikers can be harnessed, even if their various combinations of Sergio Aguero, Alvaro Negredo and Edin Dzeko generally involve one or other forward dropping deep to tackle back and link play. And after going through a period of leaking goals (if not points) on the road, City have tightened up a touch, conceding just one in three trips across the various domestic competitions.
Pellegrini may have half an eye on next Monday's visit of Chelsea, but he will be fully aware that this is his own side's toughest fixture since they demolished Arsenal 6-3. They have shown little fear so far, and it should be a riveting encounter between two sides set up to entertain.
Sherwood's squad is strengthening not through signings but the return of injured players: Paulinho (ankle), Andros Townsend (hamstring), Younes Kaboul (hip) and Jan Vertonghen (ankle) are all possibles to appear against City, with Erik Lamela (hip) not far behind.
City may welcome back David Silva (hamstring) and Alvaro Negredo (shoulder), while they have already assimilated £22 million striker Stevan Jovetic with two successive substitute appearances.
Player to watch: Emmanuel Adebayor (Spurs)
AVB's 4-2-3-1 might have worked if he'd picked Adebayor. At Swansea, Sherwood switched to a sole-striker setup – and the front-man's performance vindicated the decision. As the athletic-but-agile Adebayor moved around the Swans' half, Spurs pinged 56 passes to him from almost all areas of the pitch, and he linked well with his supporting team-mates: despite the hosts' deserved reputation for ball retention, only Alex Pozuelo completed more passes in the attacking third.
If there's no passing options, Adebayor's happy to go it alone – nobody attempted more dribbles than his 5 – and he's also efficient in front of goal, getting all 3 efforts on target and scoring 2. But if Spurs try to go long against Kompany & Co. he'll have to improve in the air: he won just 1 of his 5 aerial duels.
LAST FIVE MEETINGS
- Man City 6–0 Spurs (Prem, Nov 13)
- Spurs 3–1 Man City (Prem, Apr 13)
- Man City 2–1 Spurs (Prem, Nov 12)
- Man City 3–2 Spurs (Prem, Jan 12)
- Spurs 1-5 Man City (Prem, Aug 11)
There's only one Premier League manager older than Pellegrini, but five younger than Sherwood. Although there are 16 years between them, the Chilean had been managing for 25 years by the time Tim took the Tottenham job. The younger boss will surely be making notes on his guest's hitherto successful tactical combination of two strikers and plenty of threat from midfield.
TIPS & TRENDS
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Facts and figures
- Despite picking up as many points as Arsenal on the road (25) Spurs' home form has been less impressive, winning just 5 of 11 matches.
- Man City have been in outstanding form recently, winning 17 of their last 19 matches in all competitions.
- Furthermore, they have improved their away form winning 4 of their last 5.
- City have opened the scoring in 9 of their last 12 away matches, going into the break level in 8 of their previous 11 trips to top-six teams.
A home win wouldn't be astonishing, especially if Sherwood sacrifices a striker, but City are on a roll. 1-3.