Tottenham’s 2-0 defeat of Manchester City labels them title contenders, says Michael Graham, who also worries about Manchester City’s tactical inflexibility.
If anyone was doubting that Spurs are realistic title contenders this season, their pretty comprehensive defeat of Manchester City at White Hart Lane will have surely put paid to such doubts.
It shouldn’t be surprising and, to be honest, it isn’t. Mauricio Pochettino’s men were outstanding last season and have started the current campaign with what is quickly becoming trademark Spurs efficiency.
They boast the only remaining unbeaten record in the Premier League and given the ease with which the previously perfect City were brushed aside, it’s tough to see them fearing anyone right now.
Tottenham have quality players. We know that, but that’s nothing new. It’s the sheer intensity that Pochettino has drilled into his troops that is so impressive, though.
They never gave Man City a chance to settle on the ball, particularly when trying to play it out from the back, and the ferocity of their work-rate noticeably unsettled Pep Guardiola’s men.
It does need to be noted that they did, of course, tire as the game went on, affording City the chance to build some late pressure on Hugo Lloris’ goal. That’s the price they pay for their high pressing game and there is a danger that they will run out of steam in the new year and falter just like they did last season when battling it out with Leicester for the title.
However, the summer additions of Victor Wanyama and Moussa Sissoko have added some depth of physicality to their midfield ranks, which will probably help them stay fresher for longer than they managed last season, when Eric Dier and Moussa Dembele were forced to carry the load without much quality like-for-like relief available to Pochettino.
It is also significant that, for the first time really, they have been stripped of the presence of Harry Kane to spearhead their attack. The England man has been a reliable source of goals for two seasons now, and doubts have always existed over whether or not Tottenham would have enough cutting edge without him.
All doubts appear to be defunct now, though. Tottenham are title contenders, and based on the opening weeks of this season they may actually be title favourites.
Pep may need to compromise
You can’t criticise Man City for losing one game, especially when it is against a side as good as Tottenham. One defeat doesn’t change the quality they have or the pedigree of their manager and the team still remain favourites to win the Premier League title.
This game may persuade Guardiola that he needs to to have something of a rethink regarding the rigidity of his philosophy, though. We know that he likes to play from the back. We know that he likes possession. And frankly, why shouldn’t he? It has served him spectacularly well in his coaching career so far.
That said, the Premier League is no place for complacency. It is famed, and loved, across the world for its intensity, and Guardiola may just find that his sides won’t get it quite their own way as much as they did in La Liga and the Bundesliga.
When that happens, he may need to compromise with himself and come up with an alternative way of getting the ball forward, otherwise he could well see too many points slipping away whilst he stubbornly chases philosophical perfection.