This was not an easy win, however. Spurs set out in a 4-4-1-1 formation with Gareth Bale returning to play in the hole behind Emmanuel Adebyaor. But Villas-Boas’ side started perhaps too frenetically with a lack of cohesion and City took the lead through Samir Nasri with their first attack after sloppy play, leaving Spurs struggling to get a foothold in the match for several reasons.
Lining up in a similar 4-4-1-1, City played narrowly with James Milner and Nasri moving in from the flanks. For Spurs, Gylfi Sigurdsson and Clint Dempsey did the same leaving the centre too congested. There was too little width for Spurs to hurt City and Scott Parker’s habit of running with the ball rather than the quick release pass resulted in him either running forward into the congestion or passing the ball backwards. All too often, Spurs seemed to be trying to pass the ball through the proverbial eye of the needle – without success. City were comfortable but failed to capitalize on their 1-0 lead.
At half-time, Villas-Boas switched Bale to the right wing and Dempsey into the hole. Spurs started to move the ball wider but it was the Portuguese’s early substitutions that changed the match. In the 60th minute Tom Huddlestone came on for Parker and Lewis Holtby for Sigurdsson. With this came a change in shape to a 4-3-3 and greater control of the midfield.