Man City boss Pep Guardiola specifically namechecked a Tottenham forward who had the “quality” to punish his side, while Raheem Sterling hinted at teething problems with Jack Grealish.
Man City commenced their title defence with a shock 1-0 defeat to a Tottenham team without club captain Harry Kane among their ranks. Whether the Man City-linked striker would feature dominated the pre-match discourse, though once the first whistle blew, Kane’s transfer saga quickly became an afterthought.
City produced an intense spell of pressure in the early stages, but Tottenham, and Japhet Tanganga in particular, were proving a tough nut to crack.
Spurs always looked a threat on the counter, and Son Heung-min punished the champions after the break when cutting inside Nathan Ake before curling a low strike beyond Ederson.
City fought to regain parity but lacked their usual incision on an opening weekend where each of their three main title rivals all won handsomely.
Speaking to Sky Sports after the match, Guardiola said: “We started really well. We had problems in some transitions and we weren’t good enough. We conceded due to loose balls.
“In general, the intention to create chances we did much more but unfortunately we were not good enough to finish them and we lose the game.”
Tottenham remained a threat throughout the contest with Steven Bergwijn and Lucas Moura’s pace proving difficult to contain. And it was Brazilian Moura who Guardiola namechecked when discussing his side’s problems defending the counters.
“We lose the ball, they went in behind,” added the Spaniard. “Lucas Moura had the quality to drive with the ball. It happened because we could not make the simple things better.
“We lose the ball on the inside and they drive on the outside when it was clear we had to defend deep. Apart from that in general it was really good. Sometimes we lose the second balls but in general it was good.
“Two days ago was the first day we were together so I know players need time to come back mentally. One more week, it’s still the beginning of the season so we need to start to win games.
“There are 37 more games. It is a long season ahead. We try to correct some things then after that we are going to come back with our best.”
Sterling hints at Grealish teething troubles
Man City winger Sterling also spoke to the press, telling Sky Sports: “I thought we could have controlled the game better but we let them do exactly what they wanted to do and they did the most important thing in football which was put the ball in the back of the net when we couldn’t.
“It was as simple as that. It’s a difficult one to take but it’s a long season.
“I thought we were on the front foot and they kept getting counter-attacks which we should have controlled better. We’ll bounce back from this one.”
When responding to a question about playing alongside fellow England international Grealish, Sterling hinted it may take time for the pair to bring the best out of each other on the left flank.
“I have played with [Jack Grealish] a few times and it’s a good one,” said Sterling. “It’s still early days and we’ll learn each other’s game as the season goes on. Hopefully we’ll play a lot more together.
“I thought the referee let the game flow a bit more which was nice. I thought he did well today. It’s always difficult to start with a defeat but it’s a long road and we have to keep focused so we can bounce back.”