Spurs strangle Manchester City
City never really had an answer for Spurs’ game plan. Sure they pressed like hell but Bravo and Stones’ good passing meant we generally stood up to that. It’s just everywhere else, we were always second best. They absolutely smothered our midfield before any real sort of build-up could get going. It was a very dominant performance from Tottenham.
Pep admitted afterwards that we didn’t create nearly enough chances to win the game and our spot of good form in the last twenty minutes came too little and too late. Tottenham were not just quicker and more powerful than us, they were technically better too. They seemed to have that perfect blend of strength and technique, shunting Silva out of the game and breaking quickly when they gained possession. They left City deprived of any creativity, forcing Raheem Sterling to carry his team like he did midweek, only today he had nothing to show for it.
Pep said that he would learn a lot after his first defeat as a City coach and I think two particular areas stand out in this side.
Will the real Man City full-backs please stand-up
I think the only surprise here was how long it took to happen. It’s October, we’ve played eleven games and for the most part City’s full-backs have looked absolutely fine. However, that isn’t to say no one was expecting what happened today to happen because we all know how bad they were last season and just how lucky they are to have survived the summer purge.
Aleks Kolarov produced a display so bad, it would’ve been a perfect homage to that performance at Southampton last season. Zabaleta meanwhile was taken to the cleaners by Son and reminded every opposition manager where the weakest link in this City side is. The interesting thing to note was that both full-backs played 90 minutes against Celtic earlier this week and still started today. It’s common consensus these days that Sagna and Clichy are our first choice full-backs so it was a very strange decision from Pep to decide not to elect them.
The truth is that in any other given summer, they would have both departed. Zabaleta’s legs have been creaking for several years now and it’s a sad state of affairs seeing him being literally picked on every week. He can’t turn like he used to and his last-ditch tackles have now become late, desperate lunges. As for Kolarov, he reverted to type with an embarrassing display. His pathetic own goal was a mirror image of Dembele’s second goal for Celtic, fluffing simple clearances into danger.
City’s depth in midfield is highlighted
There was a lot of talk about who would play in the middle of the park when everyone was fit but not near enough talk on what City would do if more than one midfielder was out. And of all days that was to happen, it had to occur away at a Tottenham side that have now beaten us three times in a row.
Fernando was the man to fill in with Gundogan having played our last two games, De Bruyne injured and Yaya Touré still in exile. This meant that Fernandinho was pushed further ahead and he occupied the holding role. The last time Fernando played there was against Steaua Bucharest and I think I remember describing his performance simply as ‘shocking’. Fernando is just not a good fit for Fernandinho’s position. He’s clunky, not mobile enough and most importantly, he lingers on the ball far too long. If you play as the deepest midfielder, it’s imperative you release the ball quickly and intelligently and Fernando is simply incapable of doing that. Pep would have had flashbacks to when he asked Schweinsteiger to play that role at Bayern Munich. And we all know what happened to him.
But this isn’t Pep’s fault. I’m sure there’s a reason Fernando hasn’t played there since August. Given today’s circumstances, Fernando, Navas and whoever else was the right choice regardless of whether they failed or not. They were just squad players, given a game of football and filling in for the hefty list of 1st choice players currently missing for Manchester City.
But if Fernando isn’t up to the job, who is? Will Pep really go back and reconcile with a Yaya Touré who has shown no remorse so far whatsoever? Or will he throw all his eggs into the Aleix Garcia shaped basket? Either way, Pep has some serious decisions to make over the international break.