Can Spurs copy Chelsea blueprint for success against Guardiola's men?
THE NUMBERS GAME: Phil Foden’s recent brilliance means Manchester City WON’T miss Kevin De Bruyne too much in the Carabao Cup final… but can Gareth Bale and Co copy Chelsea’s blueprint for success against Pep Guardiola’s men?
- Kevin De Bruyne has more goal involvements than Phil Foden for City this term
- The Belgian may miss out due to injury, but Foden has shown his class recently
- Chelsea showed Tottenham they can expose Man City’s weaknesses last week
- So what can Gareth Bale and his team-mates do to try and repeat their feat?
Phil Foden has been described as a ‘serious player’, ‘the real deal’ and ‘magical’ by Pep Guardiola, Jamie Redknapp and Micah Richards over the past week.
And with his recent performances, few would disagree that the 20-year-old has emerged as Manchester City’s most exciting attacking threat in recent weeks.
Only Kevin De Bruyne has more goal involvements in all competitions for City this season than Foden’s 23, including 14 goals and nine assists.
Pep Guardiola’s Man City face Ryan Mason’s Tottenham in the Carabao Cup final
He was the best of a bad bunch after replacing the injured Belgian at Wembley in their 1-0 FA Cup semi-final defeat by Chelsea, before contributing to both goals in the midweek Premier League victory at Aston Villa.
Now, with another Wembley showdown on the horizon – this time against Tottenham in the Carabao Cup final – the England international is brimming with confidence and ready to lead his side come what may.
Ryan Mason and Spurs, however, could not have been shown a better template on how to beat City than by Thomas Tuchel’s men last weekend, and with a couple of players possibly back to their best, they will hope to produce a copycat performance.
Here, Sportsmail looks at the numbers behind Foden’s brilliance and what the north London side can do to win their first piece of silverware since 2008.
Phil Foden softens possible De Bruyne absence
City fans’ hearts would rightly have been in their mouths when they saw De Bruyne limp out of their second successive FA Cup semi-final defeat at Wembley.
Despite a couple of injuries this season, the 29-year-old has laid on 16 assists and scored eight goals for his club in 35 appearances across all competitions in 2020-21.
But on in his place came Foden, and while he could not manage to inspire an equaliser in their eventual 1-0 defeat, a few good crosses and touches demonstrated just what the 20-year-old is all about.
Midweek at Villa Park, though, is where the midfielder really came to the party, scoring one from Bernardo Silva’s low cross, having been the player to spray the ball out wide in the first place, before winning the corner which led to Rodri’s header.
Kevin De Bruyne is a doubt for the final after limping off in the FA Cup defeat by Chelsea
His confidence has shot through the roof so much that he even felt comfortable throwing his arms up in frustration at the likes of Bernardo Silva and Oleksandr Zinchenko when the ball was not played into him at Villa Park.
A marvellous pirouette and fantastic piece of skill out wide just demonstrated the confidence Foden is oozing right now, finishing the game – according to Squawka – with a 92 per cent passing accuracy, a game-high 10 penalty area entries and three chances created.
Opta also highlighted he is the only player to record 50 goal involvements for Pep Guardiola before turning 21, while he is level with Bojan in scoring 29 in all competitions for Pep Guardiola before turning that age. No player has more.
Guardiola’s comment, therefore, that Foden is becoming a ‘serious player’ appears to be reflected in the statistics, and he is showing a decisiveness well beyond his years, whether De Bruyne is on the field or not.
He has scored nine goals and recorded six assists in 28 games when he has played with the Belgium international this season. However, when De Bruyne has been absent, Foden has similarly thrived, scoring five times and notching three assists.
His shots, chances created and expected goals averages all increase slightly when the burden largely falls on him to be the creative outlet in the absence of his 29-year-old team-mate too.
Phil Foden (right) replaced him and has been in excellent form over the past week for City
Appearing to have displaced club and international team-mate Raheem Sterling on the left-hand side in Guardiola’s first-choice XI, it was Foden’s spark that City lacked on their last visit to Wembley.
Now on their next trip, it looks likely he will provide the verve and panache – that can often appear lacking when De Bruyne is not figuring and Sterling is not on form – whether his Belgian team-mate makes the final against Spurs or not.
However, that is not to say De Bruyne’s absence will not be felt, still leading his younger colleague in many areas despite playing more than 200 fewer minutes this season.
Foden beats his counterpart in aspects regarding shooting, scoring more goals and possessing a far higher minutes per goal average of 204 compared to De Bruyne’s 329, while his shot conversion rate is almost double that of the Belgian.
But having recorded a Premier League record-equalling 20 assists last season, De Bruyne has continued such impressive form in laying on assists, with 16 more this term compared to Foden’s nine.
Foden (centre) inspired the win at Villa Park with a crucial equaliser and a dominant display
His chances created per game is also far higher, sitting at 3.5 compared to Foden’s 2.2, and is not far shy of doubling the amount of passes Foden manages to make into the opposition box per 90 minutes.
Both have demonstrated a proclivity for dribbling with the ball, and while Foden tends to attempt to beat his man more often, it is De Bruyne who has had more success running with the ball, having chosen his moment to try and beat a man.
The duo therefore appear to compliment each other perfectly, one preferring to strike at goal and enjoying success and the other looking to set up team-mates and bearing similar fruits from that.
Guardiola, however, may not risk De Bruyne with Sunday only the chance to add their first piece of silverware of the season in their bigger-picture bid to complete the treble.
So should Foden go it alone and shine at Wembley, it will be yet another crucial moment in the development of a player who looks destined to become one of the world’s most outstanding talents over the next decade.
Statistics appear to show that De Bruyne and Foden compliment each other perfectly
But Foden may be the only one who takes the field on Sunday as City aim to win the cup again
So how can Tottenham break City’s rhythm?
Sergio Reguilon’s touches in first half
Sergio Reguilon’s touches in the second half
Gareth Bale first half touches against So’ton
New Tottenham head coach Ryan Mason saw the best and worst of his side in the 2-1 victory against Southampton in his first game in charge in midweek after Jose Mourinho’s sacking.
Lethargic, sloppy and lacking the focal point of Harry Kane up top, Spurs failed to register a shot on target in the opening 45 minutes at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.
Gareth Bale second-half touches v So’ton
But a more positive attitude in the second half, coupled with what Gareth Bale – who scored Tottenham’s equaliser before Son Heung-min’s penalty winner – described as ‘more patience’ saw them come from behind at half-time to win for the first time this season.
And it was largely down to the Welshman and full-back Sergio Reguilon that the second-half performance proved the very antithesis of the first.
The touches map highlights how far back Reguilon was pushed at left back by a vibrant Southampton side in the first half, but the second map clearly demonstrates clear intent on the Spaniard’s behalf to get further forward and turn the score in Spurs’ favour.
The 24-year-old therefore ended the game, according to Opta, with six touches in the Southampton box, eight passes into the final third and five passes, including crosses, played into the box.
The Spain international would also have had an assist to his name had Son’s goal from open play not been ruled out due to offside against Lucas Moura, but it demonstrated the willingness he had to drive further forward in the second half.
Gareth Bale was another player who spent plenty of time in areas in the first 45 minutes where he was of no threat to Ralph Hasenhuttl’s men, including 20 touches in his own half.
But the Welshman delightfully curled home to restore parity with not much of the goal to aim at.
The trademark finish was the highlight of a much-improved display from the 31-year-old.
The second pitch map shows he took 22 touches in his former club’s half after the interval as he pushed further up the pitch, in comparison to half that on the right-hand side before the break.
Bale’s goal means he now has five goals and one assist in his last three starts in the Premier League at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, having netted a brace against both Burnley and Crystal Palace as well as recording an assist against Sean Dyche’s men.
His numbers from the 90 minutes were particularly impressive too, completing four take-ons, creating three chances, getting two of his three shots on target and winning 11 duels.
Opta also state he completed four dribbles, had five touches in the opposition box and played six passes, including crosses, into the area.
Bale now has 12 goal involvements in his last nine starts, and if Kane is not available due to injury, it will fall upon the experienced players such as the Wales star to help Spurs in their bid to end their 13-year trophy drought.
Manchester City no doubt provide a different, more challenging proposition than Southampton, and they may tire to a lesser extent than the Saints.
Therefore, Bale and Co. cannot perhaps play in the same attacking areas for as long as they did in the second half against Southampton for fear of being picked off by City.
But they were shown just more than a week ago was exactly how to use similar positions to devastating effect.
What Thomas Tuchel’s Chelsea demonstrated so well is how to stifle City by defending brilliantly, using their outlets intelligently and targeting City’s weaknesses out wide on the counter-attack.
Gareth Bale now has 12 goal involvements in nine games after scoring against Southampton
Timo Werner was a menace all evening and his runs in behind caused plenty of problems, as was evidenced by Hakim Ziyech’s disallowed goal as well as the Moroccan’s winner in the second half.
The German played three passes into the final third, and created the big chance with Ziyech stuck away. This was no victory in which the Blues rode their luck, with the striker isolating and exploiting Joao Cancelo and Ruben Dias when he could.
But Ziyech was not only excellent for the goal, making four passes into the final third and two into the box, threatening to assist and help the Blues add a second to the scoreline.
Chelsea’s attacking locations against City
Chelsea’s wing-back were also crucial, providing plenty of width, and as the statistics show, plenty of quality up front too.
Reece James and Ben Chilwell created one big chance each, and between them came up with three other chances altogether, to go along with at least two passes into the box and the final third.
What was even more impressive was the left-back’s ability to complete three dribbles on forays forward, with 44.5 per cent of the Blues’ attacks coming down the side on which he played and Werner often drifted towards, while 30.9 per cent of their attacks came down the right.
Those figures are similar to the attacking locations for Tottenham in midweek, with 42.69 per cent coming down Reguilon and Son’s left-hand side, while 30.90 per cent came down the right.
Spurs have perhaps lacked the defensive solidity that Chelsea have made a central part of their system under Tuchel.
Tottenham attacking locations against Southampton
But if Serge Aurier, Bale, Reguilon and Son can replicate the achievements of their Chelsea counterparts, then Spurs will certainly make a fist of it.
Mason has not yet given up hope of Harry Kane featuring, but whether that statement was made more out of hope than expectation – given Lucas Moura’s rather insipid display centrally – remains to be seen.
However, the blueprint for Spurs to follow has been laid out in front of them, and they demonstrated some similarities to Chelsea’s performance against Southampton.
League Cup holders City no doubt provide a much sterner test, yet Tottenham have demonstrated they have the quality in their locker to repeat something like the Blues managed in an attacking sense.
Sit back and allow City to dictate terms just as the Saints did in the first half could lead Spurs on to a hiding, but having the confidence to be more daring while picking their moments could reap rather more joyous rewards.
Son Heung-min (left) and Sergio Reguilon (right) will be critical to Tottenham’s hopes
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