university of maryland water polo Manchester City 4
His first game as a manager came against Pep Guardiola. His first win as a manager came against the same opponent. His first win in the Premier League came against Manchester City. Mauricio Pochettino had even inflicted upon Guardiola his first defeat as a Premier League manager last October.
With such an intrinsic link to both this coach and this team, many felt Pochettino had a chance of halting City record winning run at 15. The Argentinean style has countered the Spaniard to perfection before; could history repeat itself?
Not even close. Tottenham had their chances, Harry Kane forcing Ederson into one excellent second half save. But aside from a brief patch after half time, they failed to keep the pace of the league leaders. The temptation would be to dedicate each of these conclusions to every victory in their record breaking run, but I will try and keep them about this enthralling 90 minutes only.
City have now beaten all manner of opponents: teams that are intent only on defending; teams that will defend but counter when possible; teams that prioritise set pieces; teams that attack with reckless abandon; and now, in Tottenham, a team that tried to play them at their own game. Spurs tried to match them toe to toe, but were wearing shoes about five sizes too small.
Tottenham opted to take a knife to a gunfight instead of the body armour that Manchester United and countless other sides have cherished against City this season, and the team news might have spurred them on. David Silva had been in imperious form, scoring four goals and assisting two in his last seven games, but he was sidelined for personal reasons.
The last time Silva was left out of City matchday squad, they drew 2 2 with Middlesbrough in April. He had also been absent for the previous game, a 0 0 draw with United. Yet the City symphony did not miss a beat without its chief orchestrator. In Silva absence, Kevin de Bruyne duly took up the mantle once more. The Belgian was supplemented by Sergio Aguero, Leroy Sane and Raheem Sterling, then Gabriel Jesus and Bernardo Silva from the bench.
City have struggled without Silva in the past, and have been too reliant on the Spaniard over the years. But Guardiola has built a machine capable of seamlessly replacing one part with another. It is quite the neat trick.
As implied, De Bruyne was simply glorious. The Belgian created six chances (Tottenham created four as a whole), had two shots, and completed six tackles the most of any player. He even ran the furthest (12.09km), and completed the most sprints (85).
His goal once more challenges the definition of a foot while his ability to dominate a midfield is reaching new heights each week. He might not combine obvious physical prowess with god given talent as well as Roy Keane or Patrick Vieira, but there may never have been a more complete midfielder in the Premier League.
Most impressive are his performances in this calibre of game. He has now assisted two goals against Liverpool, scored the match winner against Chelsea, opened the scoring against Arsenal and struck against Tottenham. Spurs tried to target him only Sterling (4) was fouled on more occasions (3), with Alli inflicting a particularly nasty stamp on the Belgian but that simply spurred him on. At this stage, we struggling too.
It feels almost curmudgeonly to highlight Pochettino away record against his closest opponents, but this humbling does add more fuel to the fire.
Since being appointed Tottenham manager in summer 2014, Pochettino has overseen 18 visits to Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, City and United. They have won just one of those games, losing 11, and have conceded 20 more goals (35) than they have scored (15). It is an appalling run, whichever way you look at it.
That sole victory came against City last February, and while Guardiola side have improved exponentially since, it feels as though Tottenham have regressed in that time. They were in a title challenge after beating City last season; this demoralising defeat leaves them closer on points to 20th.
In an interview with Henry Winter of The Times on Saturday, former West Brom coach Ben Garner offered valuable insight into how an opponent approaches this City side:
was the most difficult teamto analyse this season. People think City play the same way every game. They don They change to what the opposition do even within a game. If you think you problem solved one of the areas where they getting an overload, all of a sudden they adjust and the overload is somewhere else.
clever thing they do which I not seen before is that the forward, Agero or Gabriel Jesus,
stands 20, 30 yards behind your defensive line, their centre halves will virtually be on their goal line and they try to stretch you in every direction. If you press high, and everyone is locked in, they may try to kick that long one for the forwards straight away. If you drop off, they play shorter. deployed the exact same game plan he has every time he has faced Guardiola. His side pressed high and hard up the pitch, trying to rush City into making snap decisions in possession, attempting to cut off the obvious supply lines, and absolving Kane and Son Heung min of their defensive duties to let them attack with numbers if the opportunity presented itself.
But in Ederson, Guardiola finally has a weapon with which to combat this approach. The Brazilian reflexes, composure and short passing have been praised this season, but his ability to kick the ball from box to box is crucial. It is not just the accuracy but the trajectory, the ball arrowed into the path of a teammate instead of floated in. It gave Tottenham less time to react, and City more time to attack. Even a second or two can be critical when up against such brilliance.
It also allowed the hosts to bypass the press on countless occasions, including one moment in the second minute. Surrounded by three Tottenham players, Ederson picked out Walker with consummate ease on the halfway line. Even with that early warning sign, Tottenham never found an answer.
The key battle was earmarked as Walker against Danny Rose, the Tottenham defector against the former teammate who had flirted with following that same path. Yet it was on the other flank that the most crucial head to head clash was played out.
For many, Kieran Trippier was the ideal, ready made replacement for Walker in the summer. Serge Aurier arrived from Paris Saint Germain, but Trippier had earned the opportunity to establish himself in the first team. Yet this was a game that brutally exposed his defensive deficiencies when forced on the back foot.
Sane tormented Trippier throughout. He completed a match leading six dribbles, while Trippier dispossessed the German just once. The 27 year old is the correct option to start against teams that sit deep and defend he offers an extra dimension in attack with his delivery but against teams happier to take the initiative, he struggles. It is no coincidence that Tottenham were beaten by Chelsea in August, Arsenal in November and against City here with Trippier starting.
Of all the threats City pose throughout their side, the danger they create from corners is often overlooked. The opposition can lock all the doors, reinforce all the windows, turn on the burglar alarm and notify the emergency services, but when constantly panicking about every possible way to keep the most dangerous of intruders out, one can easily forget the most obvious risk: the key left under the doormat.
It was telling that Sane allowed the ball to roll out of play in the 14th minute when the winger was in perfect place to keep it in and deliver a cross to the two waiting forwards. Trippier opted not to challenge the German, and deemed the threat to be diminished from a set piece, rather than allowing City to have the ball in play. How wrong he was.
Sane delivered the subsequent corner, and Ilkay Gundogan strolled unmarked onto the penalty spot, stooped and headed home past Hugo Lloris. It was laughable defending, the third goal from a corner that Tottenham had conceded in their last four games. It was clinical attacking, the ninth goal that City had scored from a set piece this season the most of any club. more than any other injury. It is not as visibly painful, or as gruesome, as a broken bone, but it is much more menacing. Not so long ago, it was more often than not the end of a career; even now, many who suffer it find they are never quite the same. Rory Smith brilliant interview with Gundogan did not encourage sympathy for a player fighting a constant battle with injuries, the celebration for his goal surely did. A broad smile was etched across the German face as he opened the scoring, and it was the early icing on an accomplished performance. After recovering from his third separate long term injury earlier this year, it was difficult not to feel a pang of joy.
City were eventually awarded their penalty, but felt aggrieved not to have been given one sooner. Rose push on Eliaquim Mangala in the first half seemed innocuous,
but only because the Frenchman did not follow it by diving to the ground and appealing to Craig Pawson.