IAN LADYMAN: Mourinho's Tottenham may have had a chance against City

IAN LADYMAN: Jose Mourinho’s Tottenham may have had a chance against Manchester City in the Carabao Cup final but Ryan Mason’s side looked devoid of a tactical plan

  • Tottenham could have beaten Manchester City if Jose Mourinho was in charge
  • Led by interim boss Ryan Mason, Tottenham were devoid of a tactical plan 
  • Tottenham allowed Manchester City the time, space and freedom to play

For Manchester City for so long, all that was missing was a goal. They found one in the end.

As for Tottenham, they were merely short of a plan and that didn’t change from the first minute until the last.

This was a Spurs team with a fresh look on the touchline but they were stale as old bread on the field. With a little more sharpness in front of goal, City would have had Ryan Mason’s team on toast. A caretaker regime could well have been in bits after just a week.

Tottenham, led by interim boss Ryan Mason, lacked a tactical plan versus Manchester City

As it is, Mason got away with one. It was lame and limp but it wasn’t embarrassing. All that was left by full-time was to wonder why Tottenham chose to get rid of his predecessor six days before this game.

Jose Mourinho and Tottenham were not working. That was clear and was always likely to be the case. There are many who could have told Daniel Levy that back when he appointed him. The Tottenham chairman could have saved himself a small fortune in wages and severance pay.

But why now? Why chop off Mourinho’s head at the precise time when he may have been about to come in to his own?

Mourinho in a big game. Mourinho asked to produce a bespoke set of tactics. Mourinho versus Pep Guardiola. Mourinho the spoiler. He has been there before and it’s not always proved wise to bet against him.

So yes this was a puzzle. Mourinho’s Tottenham may have had a chance against Manchester City. Mason’s team? Not so much. There was no real evidence of thought in this performance, no semblance of the kind of attention to detail needed to pull of what would have been one of the shocks of the season.

Jose Mourinho struggled during his time  at Tottenham but he relishes the big occasion 

The selection was brave enough.

Harry Winks was asked to provide a little bit of midfield creativity at the expense of the more robust Tanguy Ndombele. At the back, Eric Dier and Toby Alderweireld were paired. The big Belgian played particularly well.

And up front, Harry Kane was asked the fitness question, replied in the affirmative and was given his shirt. Again, there was some common sense in that.

But as soon as the game started, Tottenham’s hopes immediately appeared desperately scant.

Tottenham allowed Manchester City the time, space and freedom to play from the outset

Spurs are not as good as City – nowhere near – but they are good enough to at least go looking for a little of the ball, to impose themselves.

Instead, they allowed Guardiola’s team the time, space and freedom to play. After 10 minutes, just one per cent of the play had taken place in City’s defensive third. Another five minutes passed and Tottenham had still not touched the ball in their opponents’ penalty area.

If you are going to win a final playing against those kinds of numbers then it has to have a specific plan underpinning it all. This never looked or felt like that. Tottenham looked short on confidence and devoid of tactical way forward. The only miracle was that they didn’t lose the game until the final moments.

There may well be some carping about Aymeric Laporte’s right to still be on the field to score the game’s only goal. If I was a Tottenham follower, I would be more inclined to ask why Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg had drifted away from the far post to let the header to creep by. The Danish midfielder has been impressive in his first season at Tottenham but this was not his best game.

If Aymeric Laporte wasn’t booked for his first foul he may not have have committed the second

As for Laporte, both of the fouls committed in quick first half succession were bookable offences. Referee Paul Tierney was wrong not to punish him. But had the Frenchman been cautioned for the first foul would he then have committed the second? Not necessarily. As such it is something of a wasteful debate. And would Tottenham have been any better against 10 men? Not necessarily. Not on the evidence shown.

This was just a game that City deserved to win and really should have won by more. Imagine if they had a centre forward Guardiola still had faith in. Like a real one. Not a ‘false’ one. There would be some goals scored with a No 9 in this team.

As it is, City just needed one and this was League Cup triumph No 4. That is a remarkable record and reflects well on Guardiola. The City coach does not enter a single competition that he doesn’t aim to win and it’s admirable. Not many managers of prominent teams can truthfully say the same.

His star man here was once again Phil Foden. The young midfielder continues to improve and he will carry the fight to PSG in the Champions League on Wednesday.

Raheem Sterling had a frustrating afternoon but he is too good to remain in the shadows

Such has been his play recently that he is almost certain to start for England at this summer’s European Championships, possibly at the expense of club mate Raheem Sterling. Nobody would have predicted that six months ago.

Sterling, out of favour at City currently, was given a start in this one and was industrious. He looks a little too desperate to impress, though, which may be natural. An occasional pause for thought when in possession would be useful.

Better days will lie ahead for Sterling, however. He is too good to remain in the shadows for long.

It is not necessarily the case for Tottenham. They have fallen a desperately long way since the best days of Mauricio Pochettino and it already looks a long way back. 

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