Well that was rather fun, wasn’t it?
Manchester City travelled to White Hart Lane on Sunday afternoon with an unblemished Premier League record so far this season. They left humbled, beaten by the better side having raised a lot of questions regarding this so-called superiority. Here are five thoughts from City’s 2-0 loss to Spurs.
Make no mistake, Spurs are in this
It has been tempting to write Spurs off this season. Indeed, I am fairly sure I wrote a pre-season piece in which I indicated that last season was to be regarded as something of an anomaly – a freak season in which Tottenham and Leicester were the two best teams.
So far, Leicester are proving me right, but Mauricio Pochettino’s side are making a mockery of my 2016-17 prediction.
Yet to lose in the Premier League, Tottenham look the best side in England right now. It’s easy to get carried away with superlatives, but when a team turns up and turns over a Pep Guardiola-coached side in that fashion, it’s difficult not to.
With Manchester United stuttering, Liverpool looking inconsistent and Chelsea remaining unconvincing, I think there’s a fantastic chance that Tottenham will go the distance this year. At the very least I expect them to be in the title race come April.
Whisper it, but Tottenham look better without Harry Kane
Now just to be clear: I am not suggesting that Spurs’ principal centre forward should not retain his place following his injury, but what I am saying is that his side looked better without him on Sunday.
Whether that was just a one-off or more of an indicator of the future direction of the side remains to be seen, but what is clear is that Tottenham played like men possessed at White Hart Lane…without Kane.
Perhaps somewhat unexpectedly it was Erik Lamela who slotted in up top instead of Vincent Janssen, and it was the pace of the Argentine that kept the City defence stretched. Indeed, with Son Heung-Min buzzing around from the flank and Christian Eriksen playing clever balls into the mix, Spurs’ attacking trio were mouthwatering.
Kane is a class finisher, of that there is no doubt, but he is not as mobile as Lamela or Son, and if Son can keep putting the ball in the back of the net, then Kane may struggle to get back in.
Son Heung-Min is a class act
After an underwhelming season last year, Son’s had an astonishing start to the season. As well as being Tottenham’s leading goal-scorer, he has been tricky, creative and run his heart out in every single game. From wanting to leave in the summer to being one of Spurs’ most important players, Son really has experienced a huge shift in his fortunes at White Hart Lane.
Guardiola should not panic
The reality is that although they have now lost their first game, Man City don’t need to be worried. They were away from home against the second-best side in the league (although you could argue that Spurs are actually the best), and although it was fairly one-sided, it does not mean that City are in trouble.
The manager remarked before the game that the true test of this City side will be how to deal with a defeat, and now that that’s happened, the proof really will be in the pudding. Rally and put in a good performance in the next fixture, and all will be forgotten. Allow defeat to hang over them, and confidence could drop. Guardiola will be hoping he can prevent that from happening.
City’s ‘total football’ can be beaten
One of the biggest lessons to emerge from Sunday’s clash will be learnt by other sides looking for ways to beat this Manchester City side. Guardiola famously likes his defenders to play with the ball at their feet, and likes to stretch the opposition deep inside his side’s own half.
This tactic was totally undone by a rampant Spurs side, who were ferocious in their pursuit of any City player with the ball. Pressing up the pitch and being aggressive in the tackle forced City into mistakes, and this will no doubt be an approach mirrored by teams facing them City in future matches.