Premier League hits and misses: Harry Kane delivers again for Tottenham | Man City problems mount | Soccer News
Confused formation is far from City’s only problem
Manchester City’s problems are piling up. They have lost three consecutive away games for the first time in six years. They are still five points behind Arsenal even though the Gunners were beaten at Everton on Saturday. And despite rare public outbursts from Pep Guardiola, they show no signs of resuscitation.
Pep has returned to defending his team on the back of a performance at Tottenham away from any positive rotation, but he knows the issues staring him in the eye.
City’s 4-2-3-1 turned 3-2-5 doesn’t work. Pep is daring, he is an enigma. He is one of the greatest managers of all time because he was never bound by convention.
Perhaps we will once again praise his forward-looking vision in the near future, for overturning the definite wisdom of tactics.
But for now, it doesn’t work. Moving Rico Lewis into midfield with the ball leaves City horribly exposed when they lose it, and at Spurs on Sunday they lacked the attacking power to make up for that.
Erling Haaland didn’t have a single touch inside the box, Hugo Lloris didn’t make a save to give him a hard time and Spurs won the xG battle as well as the real one.
His players look confused with their responsibilities but more worryingly, they look demotivated.
Not that they don’t want to win yet. They are born winners. Some of them have won four Premier League medals in the past five years.
But Pep isn’t lying when he says maintaining that motivation season after season of relentless intensity is close to impossible.
Can he do something about it? Like he said Sky Sports’ Adam Bate last week, this same fall happened to him as a player and he didn’t even realize it.
He’ll be a master of psychology if he can dive that deep into his players’ psyches to uplift them, although if anyone can do it, this managerial assistant can.
What doesn’t help is asking his players to play roles where they clearly feel uncomfortable. If there’s a day when this new style clicks, it’s not today.
Kane’s record inspires Spurs
It was an emotional scene at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium as Harry Kane was serenaded by the Spurs faithful before addressing the crowd as the club’s top scorer for the first time.
He picked the perfect time to break Jimmy Greaves’ record. It was a huge game against the Premier League champions at a time when the club needed a boost.
Spurs were without head coach Antonio Conte, but Kane led by example on the pitch and gave everyone else the platform to play from.
Emerson Royal and Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg were among Spurs foot soldiers inspired by their captain as they beat City and took another three points against Pep Guardiola’s side in north London.
So often ridiculed for not playing the full 90 minutes, Spurs were the better team from first to final whistle and always looked more menacing. They stood up in Conte’s absence, when it really mattered.
All possession, no punches for Leeds
Jesse Marsch made Leeds very easy to play against. Even tactical novices can understand that if you prevent their team from being able to counterattack, they simply don’t have the cunning and creativity to unlock a defense.
Leeds have now won just two of their last 17 Premier League games – the last of those victories came at Anfield where Marsch’s men had 31 per cent of the ball and were allowed to unleash their pace and power during the break . That’s how they like it.
In their last two games against Brentford and that defeat at Nottingham Forest, their possession average has been 65 per cent as the teams fell deep and called on Leeds to break them down. It worked a charm. Leeds failed to score on both occasions and only created an expected total of 1.19 goals. In the second half at the City Ground, after a bright first half where they were unlucky to trail, the lack of courage and creativity on the ball was staggering. The more the game progressed, the more the belief seemed to ebb.
“I have to find a way to get the best out of us to make sure that when we’re on top of games we don’t lose them,” Marsch said.
He must find this solution, and quickly.
The forest has all the ingredients for simple survival
They say the sign of a successful team is that they can get points even when playing badly.
They also say home form is crucial for relegation candidates to manage to survive.
Nottingham Forest ticks both of these boxes – they now look like a real outfit under Steve Cooper. They are unbeaten in 2023, have three clean sheets in four games and have only managed to score once since November 5.
They have managed to secure a fixed defense on 30 signings this season, with Neco Williams, Willy Boly, Scott McKenna and Renan Lodi stepping up to the mark against Leeds, as well as Serge Aurier coming off the bench at half-time.
But Keylor Navas may just be the key to signing the 30. His composure on his debut saved his side when he was under pressure early on at Leeds. More displays like this and the threat of relegation will be a distant thought in a few months.
And at the other end of the field, local boy Brennan Johnson has the most Premier League goal involvements in 2023. All of these ingredients, along with a passionate City Ground atmosphere, make them players ideal survival.
Next at home is Manchester City in two weeks. It now looks like a tough setting for the defending champions.