Sunday 21 January 2018 / 11:54 AM

MAN CITY KEEP RAISING THE BAR

Before Saturday’s clash between Man City and Spurs, I held an opinion.

I felt certain that if one team was able to topple this Manchester City side, who are on one of the most extraordinary runs of the Premier League era, it would be Mauricio Pochettino’s Tottenham side.

How wrong was I?

Spurs went to the Etihad and were completely outplayed by the side that will certainly win the Premier League title this season. (And precious few would bet against them winning the Champions League for good measure!)

The 4-1 result was an illustration of just how good this City side is, but also how this acclaimed Tottenham side has more than a few chinks in their armour. Here are my five thoughts from Saturday’s fixture:

Tottenham did the only thing they could, and it didn’t work.

Teams have tried various different approaches to defeat City this season.

United played the ‘park the bus and counter’ game, and – well – you saw how that went last week.

Other sides have gone to the Etihad very happy to play for a point; usually ending up on the end of a severe battering at the hands of Kevin de Bruyne and co.

So what did Spurs opt for? Well, they attempted to fight fire with fire, pressing and attacking City from the word go.

The problem? First off, they are not the same team as last year, and with Kyle Walker on the pitch in a different colour blue, and Danny Rose off the boil, they lacked that pace and incision down the flanks that made them such a dangerous proposition last season.

The fact of the matter is that City are better than anyone else at incisive attacking football, and although Spurs should be applauded for trying to take the game to Citizens, in the end the gulf in class was exposed.

City could break the record here.

Chelsea currently hold the record for league points accumulated in a season with 95, and City already have 52, with 20 games to go.

Should City win 15 games between now and the end of the season (which looks highly likely), then they will break that record and – quite frankly – who on earth would bet against them?

They’ve taken Chelsea, United and Spurs down – the three clubs you might have considered as their closest rivals at the start of the season – and one cannot glance over the City fixture list without thinking, ‘Is there any teams capable of taking points off them?’.

Guardiola has arrived.

I’ll make no bones about it: Guardiola’s first season in England was a failure.

He didn’t win the Premier League (he actually didn’t get very close to it either), and he didn’t win the Champions League.

And for a guy like Guardiola, that’s a failure, especially when you consider his track record.

But it’s fair to say that he has definitely ‘arrived’ in England now, and his influence is seen all over the City side.

It’s also fair to say that he wouldn’t have been able to do it without the vast swathes of cash at his disposal, but you’d have to say exactly the same about Mourinho or Conte.

The fact of the matter is that finance plays a huge role in football these days, and although there are always likely to be anomalies like Leicester’s tremendous title win, it will always be the richest sides that dominate.

But – let me be clear – this does not devalue Guardiola’s achievements here. Money does not guarantee you success: just ask Andre Villas-Boas, Phil Scolari, David Moyes or Louis van Gaal.

Tottenham need greater strength in depth.

City went into this game without their in-form midfielder David Silva, but his absence barely registered, with Ilkay Gundogan slotting straight into the starting line-up and scoring the game’s first goal.

Such is the riches that Guardiola has at his disposal; in stark contrast to a Spurs side shorn of the talents of Toby Alderweireld and Victor Wanyama.

Both these players have been tremendously important for Spurs over the last 12 months, and with them both out, Mauricio Pochettino’s side looks a whole lot weaker.

Add in the suspension of Davinson Sanchez and you start to see why Tottenham were so vulnerable defensively.

However, injuries are a part and parcel of modern football, and the coaches who win are the ones who build a squad with serious strength in depth.

Guardiola has done that, but Pochettino’s not quite there yet.

Three cheers for attacking football.

If you’ve read my column before, then you’ll probably be aware that I’m not the biggest fan of Guardiola as an individual. But regardless, I just have to thank and applaud him for putting on a show every single week so far.

City are incredibly entertaining, and they play football the way it should be played.

And after a few years of the kind of sterile domination that comes from Mourinho-style teams, it’s extremely welcome.

Bravo Pep – you’ve made the Premier League entertaining once again, even if your team’s success does mean we don’t have a title race to look forward to.

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About the author

Seb Greenwood

CBS’s longest-serving contributor, Englishman Seb is our leading football correspondent, pulling no punches with his opinions on the Premier League and the international scene.

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