Christian Eriksen’s goal in the 83rd minute of Sunday’s match against City secured perhaps the most vital three points of Tottenham’s season. It was the club’s seventh consecutive win in all competitions, and narrowed Leicester City’s lead to a mere two points.
Arsenal’s win early on Sunday meant that they are still tied with Tottenham on points, but the latter’s superior goal difference keeps them in second place for the second week running. It was the result Tottenham fans hoped for, of course, but some might have preferred it to have been easier.
Tottenham were, after all, up against an injury-ravaged Manchester City side. Even if Vincent Kompany and David Silva both started, neither looked to be in peak form after coming off of injuries.
Still, City put up a solid defensive effort, limiting Tottenham to only six shots in total, three of which were on target. Two of those shots, of course, ended up as goals, but it’s a far cry from Tottenham’s usual peppering of the opposition goals.
While City should be commended for their impressive-if-ineffective defending, it was in attempting to pull that off that they ultimately sacrificed this game.
Being at home, many expected this to be a match in which City took control and waited for Tottenham to crack. Instead they seemed to play the part of a lesser team, sitting deep in the opening stages and trying to catch Tottenham out on the break.
In and of itself, it’s not a bad strategy. The presence of Eric Dier in deep midfield and Kyle Walker on the right flank made it difficult for City to find a weak spot in Tottenham’s defense, however. Raheem Sterling and Yaya Toure regularly came up short throughout the first half as they were beat to the ball or otherwise unable to exert their usual level of influence over the proceedings.
Only when Harry Kane converted a controversial penalty did City seem to want to come out of the box. All of their quality chances in the game came after Kane’s goal in the 52nd minute, including Kelechi Ineanacho’s equalizer. By then, though, it seemed like it was too late.
Tottenham owe a lot to the surprisingly robust – though still young – partnership between Toby Alderweireld and Kevin Wimmer. When Jan Vertonghen went down injured against Crystal Palace in January, there was a very real concern that Tottenham wouldn’t be able to sustain their league’s best defensive form. The 23-year-old Austrian has proved his doubters wrong, however, and impressed for this third consecutive Premier League start.
It wouldn’t be right to talk about the defense without mentioning the central midfield pair of Mousa Dembele and Eric Dier. Though they were a bit more restrained in getting upfield compared to other recent games, these two players are an absolutely crucial fulcrum for this Tottenham team. They provide excellent cover for their defense – closing down opposition midfielders and loose balls – while also cycling play forward efficiently. Against the likes of Fernandinho, Toure and David Silva they proved more than up for the task, notching nine tackles and eight interceptions between them.