Tottenham Hotspur 2-0 Manchester City: Four things we learned

Manchester City suffered their first defeat of the Pep Guardiola era when they were beaten 2-0 away at Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday.

The hosts took the lead after just 9 minutes when left-back Danny Rose’s cross took Aleksandar Kolarov by surprise and the Serbian put through his own net.


Mauricio Pochettino’s side then doubled their advantage when Son Heung-min found Dele Alli with a smart pass and the 20-year-old finished past Claudio Bravo from close range.


Spurs then had the chance to make it 3-0 when Alli was tripped in the box by Fernandinho and referee Andre Marriner pointed to the spot. However, Bravo made a good save to deny Érik Lamela from 12 yards.


City remain top of the Premier League going into the international break and it’s to be hoped that Guardiola and his players learn from their first big set-back of the season. One man who learned at least four things from the experience is James Cunliffe


Tottenham’s immense pressing was relentless and City were overwhelmed.

I wrote during the week of how individual mistakes were more cause for concern than the opposition press but I hold my hands up to the efforts of Pochettino’s men this time. Spurs were quick and tight in marking every single City outfielder and for a lot of the first-half the hosts had us penned in. So much so that our top two pass combinations in the opening forty-five were Stones to Bravo (8) and Bravo to Stones (7) – the Chilean keeper was also the fifth highest passer during that half too.

Not only were they overwhelmed by the pressing but City were overwhelmed by the physicality of Spurs and maybe this was down to personnel but I’ll be getting on to that later. The home side were first to each and every single second ball, they were faster and stronger than City and deserved the win. Maybe now people will take Spurs seriously as title contenders.


Defensive problems

Whilst City have stunned teams with reams of attacking quality, only one clean-sheet has been registered in the league so far (Bournemouth). Usually Guardiola’s men have simply outscored teams to leave an underlying defensive worry very much in the shadow of all the goals. However, now it’s a problem.

Individually and collectively City have leaked goals this season in truth and it’s through no fault of their own. Take today’s for example, both could have easily been avoided had players done the basics right; i.e. Zabaleta closing down and Kolarov putting his foot through it…twice.

It’s all well and good having a top-heavy side blow lesser teams out of the water but solidity is key in the big testers like Tottenham away, who hold the best defence in the league. I’m sure in the coming transfer windows players will come and go to improve our defence but in the short-term the man from Catalan needs to figure it out.


Guardiola has his flaws but have some faith

Even the world’s greatest get things wrong and today Guardiola made mistakes, well at least I think so. Getting his line-up out of the way, the two fullbacks should have been rotated for the quicker Clichy and Sagna against such an athletic side. Fernando and Navas were carried in midfield, while Gündoğan and Sané sat on the bench.

Speaking of his philosophy to build up play from the back though, I will say that fans need to show more faith. Frustratingly, City supporters turned on the possession play that won 10 games in a row. We’ve enjoyed our best start in history through playing a certain way so when the result doesn’t go our way we shouldn’t be fickle enough to instantly change our minds on the system. And though I do admit Spurs’ pressing countered our play, I do think there’s ways round it and we have to remember that City are very much in transition to this tactic and will one day be fluently cutting teams apart.


City need to bounce back

This is not so much a thing we learned but more of a thing we will come to learn. Last season we became aware of how City failed to really bounce back from their first few defeats and this bounce-back-ability will be key this year. In the league, the Blues are coming into a decent run of fixtures that could see momentum be built back up.

Next six league games; Everton (H), Southampton (H), West Brom (A), Middlesborough (H), Crystal Palace (A), Burnley (A).

Another run of maximum points in the next half-dozen games is doable but shouldn’t be expected with the important EFL Cup and Champions League games interrupting things mid-week. An international break this weekend gives talisman Kevin De Bruyne more time to nurse his muscular injury and will suit City at a time of rebuilding the momentum they had this time last week.


Written by James Cunliffe

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6 comments on “Tottenham Hotspur 2-0 Manchester City: Four things we learned
  1. There were encouraging times in the match, when the slick passing worked a treat, but the final shot was too weak or too wide.

    Also, a bit of bad luck. We nearly benefitted from an own goal in the first few minutes, only to see Spurs get one at the other end a little later. And we hit the post, so it could have been a draw on another day.

    Overall, though I think Spurs deserved the win an we’ll learn how to deal with the pressing. Shame we didn’t seem to expect it, as we we should have done after the Celtic game. Spurs were watching and learning but we were not.

    • Too many passes back to Bravo and back out for me. He was passing the ball to the fullbacks behind them as well, so they were receiving it on their wrong foot and that invariably led to them to have to pass it back to him when they were pressed. I expect to see fullbacks who are comfortable using both feet, thus eliminating that issue.

  2. Spot on Dezza – agree 100%

    We knew that Pochettino is a very good coach and now he is proving it. Spurs have made steady progress under him in the last 2 years and will go close again this year. I am very impressed.

    City have had effectively 4 months under Guardiola and he is making big tactical changes. It is fair to say that he needs 2 or even three more transfer windows to get the team he wants – in the meantime he must make the best out of what he has, particularly in defence.

    Sadly our warrior Zaba looks a yard short. Kolarov is clearly limited – good at some things, but defending is not one of them. Clichy & Sagna are both the wrong side of 30. Otamendi – not sure. Kompany – we need to plan to be without him. Stones – an absolute star. There is much work to be done here but I am confident we have the men in place to get it right.

    Pep is smart and will learn who he can trust. This is not a time to panic. Just regroip and go again.

    • Can’t fault your analysis. Really hope the club looks after Pab, as he has been one of the stars of the past. There has to be room in the organisation for him as he enters the twilight of his career. Imo, the club should offer him either a coaching role within the “group” or an ambassadorial role in the South American side of things. Hope for the same for Komps, as another who bleeds blue. We have our ambassadors in Buzzer, Goat, Paul Lake etc, but we need to induct new blood as time goes on to spread the message about what we do and what we are as not just a team, but as a group around the world. It still makes me laugh the way we are perceived in this country. The only one who seems to be able to understand what’s going on within the press is Martin Samuel. The rest have very tunnelled vision with their “empty seats” jibes.

      Otamendi is a good player who can go from the sublime (when he stays on his feet) to the ridiculous when he doesn’t. Stones will one day be Captain for club and country. I have no doubts about that. Full backs will be next on his agenda, but I feel he is stuck between a rock and a hard place in that we have some crackers coming through who aren’t quite ready to take on the better clubs we face in the league and Champions League, but one thing you can bet on is that their day will come under Pep.

  3. What we also learned from the match, imho, is that we are just beginning our journey with Pep and Spurs have had 2 years under Pochettino. We are going to get these setbacks and the teams I reckon we will struggle against are not rocket science. Spurs (obviously), Liverpool and Arsenal. No shame in losing and we will improve with time and defensive signings. Bravo has my heart in my mouth and would prefer Joe, but we have to move on. Just wish that Joe had smelt the coffee when Pep was announced as he had months to work on that side of his game but patently didn’t bother.

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