Yesterday's game between Man City and Tottenham was slated to be a close affair - I certainly thought so. On paper the best attack in the league was going up against the best defence, I had given City the edge based on their attacking prowess but predicted it would be a close affair - boy was I wrong.
To my credit I never could have predicted Andre Villas-Boas would have played both Younes Kaboul and Eric Lamela in a game of such magnitude. Whilst they are both fine players, I never could have predicted them playing with so little playing time under their belts. In the case of Kaboul, he had been injured throughout the entirety of last season and before yesterday's game had only two substitutes appearances to his name this season. There was no way on earth he was ready for such a match.
Individually, Kaboul lost Aguero for the two goals he scored, but it could also be argued his inclusion caused further confusion in the Tottenham back line. Already, Dawson has seen Vertonghen, Chriches and now Kaboul play next to him - all defenders with different mannerisms. In the modern game a center back pairing are normally asked to do different things: a ball playing defender who sticks tight to his marker when defending (normally Vertonghen); and a churlish defender who drops deeper, relishing physical encounters (normally Dawson).
Against City, it appeared neither pairing knew what their task was. The first two goals were purely the fault of Hugo Lloris, but the gormless way in which the Spurs back line passed it about did not help either. If neither full back did not take initiative in driving forward with the ball (incidentally one of them was a center back, Villas Boas has to taken blame for loaning Assou-Ekotto), the onus was on one of the center back pairing to maneuver the ball into midfield by any means necessary. By giving the ball back to Lloris, they have forced the goalkeeper into a serious conundrum; as Tottenham are a ball playing team, if Lloris punts the ball to touch in the first 10 seconds of the match it sets a bad precedent, furthermore Villas Boas would scold him. As it turns out he stuck to the game plan and was punished for it. The fact the Tottenham back four made the same mistake twice in palming the ball back to Lloris shows none of them knew what they were doing and Villas Boas has to take blame for this confusion.
In regards to Erik Lamela, earlier in the season I wrote an article explaining Lamela was the only player who had the talent to replicate Bale's epic form for Spurs last season. I managed to ridicule Villas Boas when he explained the main reason Lamela had seen little game time is due to him struggling to adapt in England. However, despite my high opinion of Lamela, in my match prediction I mentioned how playing Lamela would be wrong as: "throwing him into the lions den at the Ettihad seems counterproductive."
Indeed as we saw yesterday, Lamela had an underwhelming game and again this is down to Villas Boas. I cannot for the life of me see why he chose Lamela. If he is struggling to adapt that badly, surely the wisest decision would be to play him against the weaker teams in the league to get a feel for the it, instead of throwing him in against the best team in the land to get slaughtered and perhaps doing more damage to his psyche.
Furthermore, had he been on the pitch it is plausible to think Tottenham would have been more adventurous from the get go and would have tried to find him at every opportunity, instead of back-peddling to Lloris at every opportunity.
Of course this is all hypothetical and the fact the game ended 6-0 suggests City were far and beyond the better team.
*All statistics courtesy of WhoScored