Manuel Pellegrini has plenty to ponder following yet another defeat – with Man City’s soft centre and Kevin De Bruyne’s role top of the agenda.
From being in the ascendancy to slipping to a 4-1 defeat to Tottenham, Pellegrini certainly has a number of headaches to address in the wake of their White Hart Lane surrender and their biggest defeat since May 2008.
De Bruyne’s goal looked to have put City on the right path towards victory, but strikes by Eric Dier, Toby Alderweireld, Harry Kane and Erik Lamela meant it was Tottenham who collected the victory and meant the visitors will likely have lost their lead at the top of the table come the close of Saturday.
OK, so two of the four goals his side conceded owed to incorrect decisions from the referee’s assistant, but there is plenty to work on in the training ground – particularly in defence – if City are to arrest a slide that has seen them now lose three of their last four games.
One thing Pellegrini will have learnt is that Martin Demichellis and Willy Caballero are two performers he can’t rely on regularly. Robbed of the services of Joe Hart (back strain) and Vincent Kompay (illness) going into the game, the two players to come in – rusty as they likely were – just don’t offer City the same solidity through the centre.
Question could be asked of Big Willy’s role over Spurs’ first (poor positioning), second (caught in no-man’s land) and fourth (made to look a bit silly) goals, while Demichellis hardly covered himself in glory either as the slightly-better Nicolas Otamendi’s central defensive partner.
If those two absences were not bad enough, City were also without David Silva, while Yaya Toure was withdrawn after 55 minutes with a knock. Those four can quite rightly be considered as first choice picks by Pellegrini – but take them out and that City spine looks considerably less formidable.
For all the money City have spent, their squad still seems to lack quality beyond the first XI.
De Bruyne role
“I don’t want to be the star, I just want to play good.
“Obviously there is a big price tag but I just need to play football, and it is a lot of money but I am not the only one!
“The team always comes before me. I am part of it and I want to do good and help win games and I will be happy to do that.
“At Wolfsburg I was the star but at the end of the day I am not the guy who speaks a lot.
“I don’t want to be a captain. That is not my style. I just do my stuff on the pitch and help the team.”
It’s those modest qualities that might just make the £55million they spent on Kevin De Bruyne one of the best pieces of transfer business all summer. Yes, there were doubters – take Bayern Munich defender Jerome Boateng, for instance – while BT Sport analyst Owen Hargreaves feared playing him out wide might be the biggest mistake City could make.
Three goals in his last three games might – on the surface at least – make Hargreaves’ observations appear fairly inept, but finding his best position in the City remains a pertinent question.
Starting the game out on the right where he helped himself to City’s opener, De Bruyne then blotted his copybook by making the mistake which allowed Dier the chance to sweep home Tottenham’s equaliser just before the break.
Pellegrini then moved him to a central role once Toure went off and Jesus Navas came on – but he was from effective either in his preferred centre midfield role as Tottenham began to wrestle possession and take the game beyond City’s reach.
A pass completion rate of 74% doesn’t make particularly pleasant reading – but if he isn’t a pass master, he sure isn’t a wide midfielder either if his stats of two uncompleted dribbles prove as well.
Finding De Bruyne’s best role in the side might not be an easy question for Pellegrini to answer, but while he is scoring goals, it’s unlikely he’ll lose his place in the side any time soon.
Kane goal a huge relief
For all Manchester City’s struggles, the flip side of the coin is a highly-satisfactory three points for Mauricio Pochettino – and the Spurs boss can take double delight from the win after his main man, Harry Kane, finally got off the mark, at club level at least, for the season.
Pochettino had vowed to stay faithful to Kane in the build-up to the match and you could sense the relief to both player and manager once his perfectly-weighted finish had found the back of the net to put Spurs 3-1 to the good against City.
Until that point, it had looked like another frustrating afternoon for Kane. But despite seeing his first-half efforts either blocked or narrowly miss the target, he was still getting in the positions and did not once let his head drop. His stats for the match certainly backed up those of a man who seemed determined to ensure his drought wouldn’t continue for much longer.
Kane’s instinctive strike seemed to hit the back of the net in slow motion, but the relief was tangible and it’ll surely give the England man the confidence now to go on a scoring run.
Speaking after the game, his old manager Harry Redknapp, as a summariser for BT Sport, said: “He not a one-season wonder. He’s got a fantastic attitude and will go on from here to score a hatful.”
Tottenham scored 4+ goals in a league game against Manchester City for the first time since September 1962 (4-2).
Spurs have now won three successive Premier League games – their best run in the competition since Feb 2015.
Man City have now lost two successive PL games after having won the previous 11 in a row.
Manchester City have lost consecutive Premier League games for only the second time under Manuel Pellegrini (other was a run of two games in April 2015).
The Citizens have conceded more goals in their last two PL games (6) than they had in their previous 11 combined (4).
Man City conceded 3+ goals in a single half of a Premier League game for the first time since September 2013 (three goals conceded in the second half of a 2-3 defeat).
This was City’s heaviest Premier League defeat (three goal margin) since a 0-3 defeat to Liverpool in April 2011.
Harry Kane ended his personal goal drought of 748 minutes (12 hours, 28 mins) in all competitions for Spurs.
Kane’s goal was the 150th scored in the Premier League in 2015-16.
Since Erik Lamela made his PL debut on Sept 1st 2013, only Christian Eriksen (12) has more PL assists for Spurs than Lamela (10).
This was the first time that Lamela has scored an assisted in the same Premier League game for Tottenham.