Just as City were building something resembling a bit of momentum in the league, the international break struck. They never seem to come at a good time, mainly because many of us have very little interest in it, but this one was particularly poorly timed.
But we’re back to it on Saturday lunchtime at home to Spurs, a side we once struggled massively against but now seem to overcome with little fuss. Before the 2009-10 season, we’d lost to them 19 times and won just three since the Premier League began, but since then we’ve won six and drawn one of our eight matches, with just the 3-1 defeat at White Lane in Mancini’s last season blotting the copybook.
This week, I spoke to Spurs fan Billy Mac to get his thoughts on the game and Spurs in general. I asked him about Pochettino’s impact and whether ENIC would stick around for much longer.
How happy have you been with the appointment of Mauricio Pochettino? What’s the bringing that’s different to previous Spurs managers?
Think he’s a perfectly sensible appointment and has shown some good, if not amazing, signs so far. Pochettino has corrected some of the errors of Tim Sherwood and Andre Villas-Boas’ reigns. He’s imposed some structure that Sherwood saw as uncessary to his ‘fackin’ run about a bit’ tactics. He’s also managed to loosen up the attack compared with Villas-Boas time. In particular he seems to have got the best out of Nacer Chadli and an improvement, if hopefully not his peak, out of Erik Lamela.
At the same time there are still hangovers from the previous incumbents. Defensive errors are still proving costly, most notably Vlad Chiriches’ ludicrous handball against Beşiktaş. There is still some turgidity in the attack when teams sit back with the loss to West Brom being one of the worst performances from a couple of seasons which have dropped that limbo bar further and further.
Perhaps the most pleasing thing that Pochettino has shown is that despite his pressing, possession based philosophy which he brought with him he has been able to be pragmatic. Against Arsenal the team set up to play on the counter with a clear defensive structure and it was implemented pretty well. Villas-Boas had only one way of playing (not that dissimilar to Pochettino’s ideology) and was very inflexible and never learnt. Pochettino at least seems to show more malleability and this should hold him in good stead whilst we adapt to his ideas.
Which summer signing has had the biggest impact?
Pochettino seems to follow Villas-Boas’ philosophy of allowing players to settle in gently. As such the summer signings haven’t made much of an impact with their minutes restricted largely to the Europa League. The only exception has been Eric Dier. Marking your debut with a winning goal vs. West Ham in the 90th minute is a fairly good way to endear yourself to Spurs fans. Even with Dier, he’s been forced to cover for Kyles Walker and Naughton and has looked a bit shaky.
Do you think ENIC plan to sell Spurs at some point?
I’m sure they have some form of exit strategy. The club do seem to be heavily targeting the US market and this may be related to ENIC, both in the short and longer term. Although an actual offer never materialised from Cain Hoy this certainly seems to fit the idea that ENIC are trying to find a US buyer of the club.
What do Spurs need to be able to challenge at the very top of the English game?
Consistently? A massive injection of cash, probably linked to investors mentioned in the previous question. Our transfer model tends to work quite well in keeping the side gradually ticking forwards (or at least not backwards) but not to take that final step. We simply can’t buy world-class players like Arsenal, City, Chelsea and United can. We have to buy good players and try and get one top season out of them before they head for Real Madrid. We can’t compete at the very top without players who are that good.
Why hasn’t Soldado scored enough goals since he move to the Lane?
He’s had a bit of misfortune with Villas-Boas’ tactics seemingly to get the wingers to try and twat it goalwards whenever they got within 30 yards. As a predatory striker who relies on his movement to find pockets of space this was always going to limit his output.
Then Sherwood came in and Soldado played quite well up top alongside Adebayor. Despite shanking shots wide from 6 yards still he was creating chances and looked more likely to score. However, Adebayor was in much better form and when Sherwood went 4-5-1 against Chelsea it was always going to be Soldado who was left out. He drifted for the rest of the season and has begun this season in the cup team with Adebayor favoured.
Ultimately I’m not sure he’s that suited to the Premier League. Soldado neither has the physical presence or speed to scare defenders and Spurs lack the midfielder who threads balls through to him consistently.
Do you think City will win the title again this season?
I think it will be Chelsea this time around. With their summer signings they seem a little bit more complete and have the slight edge in the managerial front.
Who’s the best City player, in your eyes?
Kompany is fantastic and Aguero is absolutely lethal but I’d opt for David Silva. He’s found another level in terms of controlling games and it’s a joy to watch.
Combined City-Spurs XI?
Zabaleta Kompany Vertonghen Kolarov
Fernandinho Yaya Toure
Nasri Eriksen Silva
Closer than last year but still a comfortable City win, 2-0.
Interview by Rob Pollard