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Tottenham Hotspur vs. Manchester City: Who should Spurs play against the Citizens?

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The Cartilage Free Captain writing team talks tactics with Manchester City coming to town.

Middlesbrough v Tottenham Hotspur - Premier League Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

Tottenham Hotspur have gotten used to playing against teams that sit back, absorb pressure, and hit back on the counterattack. But Manchester City doesn’t do that. In fact, Pep Guardiola’s team should do almost the exact opposite, controlling possession and trying to keep Spurs’ defense under constant pressure.

So the question on who to start against City tomorrow at White Hart Lane is a big one. Tottenham’s defense almost picks itself, but the midfield and forward attacking band is an open question. Even with Kevin De Bruyne and Nolito out, City have a potent attack. With several players still nursing injuries and with Harry Kane out (for now) indefinitely, Tottenham need to use its depth in ways that won’t cripple it against what is probably the best team in the league.

Our Cartilage Free Captain writer’s room is in Slack, and we frequently talk about questions like this as a group. Here’s a (modified) transcript of our conversation on this topic as we worked through what we think Mauricio Pochettino should do tomorrow.


Willman [9:32 am]: Say Dier and Rose are both fit to go Sunday, but Mousa isn’t. What would you want to see as our midfield?

Dustin Menno [9:33 am]: Honestly, if Moose can’t go, I’d consider starting Dier-Winks. Alli’s gassed, and Wanyama isn’t a good pairing with Dier. Winks against City could go catastrophically pear-shaped, but we won’t know unless we try it.

Michael Caley [9:36 am]: I don’t think Winks-Dier against the City attack is very smart. I mean, I’m not imagining we’ll have much of the ball this game in comparison to the past few matches.

I think there’s a strong case for playing some all of Dier, Wanyama, and Mousa if he’s healthy. It’d be ugly, but we’d have Mousa to progress the ball and a bunch of counterattacking runners.

Willman [9:38 am]: I wouldn’t be opposed to a midfield three of Dier, Wanyama and Dembele if he’s fit. Son-Lamela-Eriksen up front in that case

Brett Rainbow [9:38 am]: What’s the best way to play against City?

Graham MacAree [9:39 am]: I think a three-man crush in midfield with quick diagonal balls from Alderweireld is your best bet.

Ben Daniels [9:44 am]: City are without Kevin De Bruyne and Nolito, which helps a lot.

Brett Rainbow [9:45 am]: Is there a case for playing Sissoko or N’Koudou?

Michael Caley [9:45 am] : I don’t think so.

Dustin Menno : I’m not sure Sissoko is back from the concussion. N’Koudou looked great against CSKA but I’m not sure I’m ready to see him against City.

Ben Daniels [9:46 am]: I think City’s still most vulnerable between their fullbacks and center backs. So guys like Son Heung-Min and Erik Lamela should be the right choice in the forward attacking band.

Brett Rainbow [9:47 am]: If we play Dier/Wanyama, I’m just worried we stay pinned back in our own half. I wonder if we start Son at striker.

Michael Caley [9:49 am]: The one risk with that, as we saw against CSKA, is that none of our midfielders can provide good hold-up play. What we’ve done best when playing the Dier-Wanyama midfield is play over or around midfield (see: Alderweireld long balls over the top) and get them behind the ball for pressing opportunities. I think that’s probably a good way to attack City’s five man forward press anyways.


Do you agree? Disagree? Who do you want to see start against City tomorrow? Hash it out in the comments.