Full back subplots rear their heads as Manchester City and Tottenham collide

Even if they're not the exact full backs he wants, Pep Guardiola will envy Pochettino's options in those positions

BY Raf Diallo 16:44 Friday 20 January 2017, 16:44 20 Jan 2017

Tottenham Hotspur's Danny Rose (left) and Manchester City's Pablo Zabaleta battle for the ball during the Barclays Premier League match at White Hart Lane, London. Picture by Adam Davy PA Archive/PA Images

Back at the dawn of October, Tottenham Hotspur were the first side to truly burst Manchester City's bubble.

At that point, incoming City manager (or guru if the transformative impact City's hierarchy are hoping for is taken into account) Pep Guardiola had known nothing but victory after victory since arriving in the Premier League, except for a chaotic 3-3 draw at Celtic in the Champions League four days before the Spurs game.

That six goal thriller was then followed by the reality check of a 2-0 loss at White Hart Lane when Tottenham were the better side and put a marker down.

City's form has been increasingly inconsistent since then with the nadir of a 4-0 loss away at Everton last Sunday plunging Pep's side out of the Top 4 before the tough home match against Tottenham this Saturday.

While City's attacking players have adapted quite quickly to the style of play Guardiola wants, his project has been hampered by a decidedly porous defence that often gets exposed badly particularly away from home.

Centre back is an issue of course with Vincent Kompany's long absences through injury, John Stones' regular errors, Nicolas Otamendi being erratic and Aleksander Kolarov out of position away from his nominal left-back slot.

But more problematic for Pep is just that: Left back and right back. And that is a stark contract with Saturday's opponents Tottenham.

Mauricio Pochettino's Spurs unit would never function as well as they have been without the aggressive positioning and overlapping of Danny Rose and Kyle Walker.

Rose, who started his career as a left winger at Leeds United, has particularly progressed into an excellent left back who can drive into the opposition half of the field as Spurs do not play with natural wingers.

It means that Christian Eriksen for example can migrate in from the flank if it so happens that he is fielded there.

Spurs have even gone for a back three at times of late which has allowed Rose and Walker (or Kieran Trippier when he is called upon) to push even further forward and create chances.

This season, Rose is the fourth highest chance creator for Tottenham with Eriksen top, Walker second and Alli third. That tells you something about the emphasis of the team's creativity.

City, meanwhile, have Bacary Sagna, Pablo Zabaleta, Kolarov and Gael Clichy to call upon as full back options. All were at the club prior to Pep's arrival but do not match the attacking instincts of a Philippe Lahm, David Alaba or a Daniel Alves, who Guardiola worked with in his two previous jobs.

The Bayern ones were especially so versatile that he could use them as inverted full backs who could push in-field as well as overlap on the outside.

Guardiola has experimented with that already at City with mixed results as his current full backs are not of the same level as the players he had worked with previously.

He has even taken to starting Zabaleta as a central midfielder which is reaping no benefits.

It is clear though that either by the end of the January transfer window or when the summer rolls around, the full-back deficiencies will have to be solved at City if Guardiola will be able to improve his and his team's lot.


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