Manchester City Receive Reality Check
There is a cockney group called Chas n' Dave who wrote a song called "Mustn't Grumble". The song means "MUST NOT COMPLAIN" or exhibit a grumbling disposition :The typical Spurs supporter over the last few decades have got to used to lowered expectations, so much so that a verb was coined called "Spursy" - which means that just when Spurs look like they are about to do something special, things fall to pieces and the team become "Spursy". There was nothing "Spursy" in the last few weeks.
No "Spursy" mindset in the League Cup tie that saw Spurs wallop Gillingham 5-0 (which is what is supposed to happen when a Premier League top club plays a team from the lower leagues) and after the "Spursy" performance in the 2-0 loss at Wembley Stadium against Monaco, last Wednesday, the team travelled to Moscow and came away with a creditable 1-0 win against CSKA Moscow - which has put Spurs back on track in the Champions League, with a helping hand from Monaco with their last minute goal to deny Bayer Leverkusen a big three points.
The only thing that stopped today's 2-0 win over league leaders Manchester City, was the Arsenal last second goal that came off an arm and gave them 3pts against a brave Burnley. Manchester City had come in today's game with six wins out of six - a 100% start to their season. This was always going to be a barometer then where Spurs stood in the chances of being a title contender - albeit with Spurs supporters waiting for those Spursy moment.
There was no Spursy moment but there was one moment of dismay for Spurs fans, which is when the opportunity came with a penalty award, and a chance to rub salt into the wounds being inflicted on Manchester City, Erik Lamela inexplicably grabbed the ball of Heung-min Son who was today the designated striker, and then promptly missed. That third goal would have levelled the goal difference between Spurs and Manchester City. Had misfiring new boy Vincent Janssen entered the field of play, that penalty would have done his own spirits a world of good, so that was the only blot on what was otherwise a great win.
When the team news came through that Manchester City's midfield maestro Kevin De Bruyne would still not be match fit, that massively raised the prospect of victory. De Bruyne adds much to the City game and the statistics prove that, so much so it makes me wonder how much his valuation is against the most expensive football player in the world Paul Pogba. Pogba misses cost Manchester United 2pts against Stoke, while De Bruyne's absence cost at least 2pts for City, if not 3pts because City looked disjointed and weak without him.
City's under performance does not take away from the weight of the result, the thanks that teams like Arsenal and Liverpool owe Spurs for making Manchester City look ordinary today. Last year the pundits has already rubber stamped Manchester City as league champions after their perfect start in the first five matches. The pundits were at it again after the perfect start for City in the first six league matches this year. Yet now Tottenham are the only undefeated team in the division. The main concern for Spurs is the form of their rivals and North London neighbours Arsenal. To win the league, teams must find ways of winning when things are not going well - and that is what Arsenal demonstrated today.
To say that City played badly can only be underlined by the freak own-goal by Kolarov that gifted Spurs the lead. The Spurs second goal was a very worked move, slick in the way Arsenal are beginning to move the ball around on the ground and decisive and incisive has Son threaded the ball to Dele Alli, and he calmly pushed the ball to one side of the stranded City goal-keeper.
In truth City never looked like scoring and even their great striker Sergio Aguero shot limply in a very limp and non-typical Manchester City showing. What now looks impressive is the 5-2-0 start to the season for Spurs. This is the best league start in over five decades.
Pochettino has a simple formula. A core of six players serving as a defensive shield of which two act as wing-backs. He demands massive physical commitment to press the the other team and needs a triangle of forwards to join the defense to attack flow his system is about.
The one thing teams have learned to fear about this system is the lightning counter-attack, yet when teams lose this fear and attack the Spurs defensive formation aggressively, it is the one thing that disrupts the Pochettino plan. Today Manchester City showed none of that - and this is a team that treats its goalkeeper as an outfield player and who today had the most passes of all the City players. That Joe Hart lost his place to Claudio Bravo was another blessing. Hart is not good with his feet, but Hart is a brilliant shot stopper, and had he been goal he may well have made two great saves at the two moments when the City defense was exposed. As it is Hart is now somewhere in deepest Italy on loan and Bravo is still in the good books of Pep Guardiola - the manager who is credited with the midas touch.
Guardiola has inherited the best sides on the planet, and so has always done well with the best players, but he has not faced much in the way of adversity - of what happens when the other manager out-thinks him or at least had the better team on the day, which Guardiola accepted. The one statistic that put things under question was that so far, other than the fine win at Manchester United (who have also been stumbling again), the rest of the teams City has beaten are ranked together no higher than 15th place on average. On Wednesday night when Glasgow Celtic held Manchester City 3-3 in a Champions League group game, there was hints that there may be at least some trouble in the Sky Blue paradise.
It is too early to tell who is the title favourite yet, but this Spurs team is showing great promise. It is a team that is still very young, still among the youngest teams in Europe, and today she showed moments of that immaturity, with needless offside decisions, poor final balls other than the second goal, that display of petulance from Lamela on the penalty, and the needless yellow card from Spurs fullback Danny Rose, who was more interested in finding ways to get Raheem Sterling sent off, than focusing on his role.
With the International break arriving, the next fixture is against West Brom and recognizing that the Spurs strikeforce is still very wasteful and not clinical enough, the defensive bus that is the hallmark of West Brom manager Tony Pulis's strategy will be a tougher challenge than the one that Manchester City put forth today. From there the games do not get easier - yet unless today was a false dawn, the hard fixture list especially in the month of November will provide a clear picture of whether Spurs for the first time in 55 years, are the real deal in the Premier League.