Antonio Conte bemoaned his side’s inability to manage a game after Tottenham did something his sides have never done before, and appeared to take a swipe at the club’s hierarchy when asked how they can close the gap to England’s elite.
Man City scored four unanswered goals in a second half blitz to blow Tottenham away at the Etihad. Spurs had done a fine job of limiting City before the break and punished the hosts for an unusual bout of sloppiness on the stroke of half time.
Ederson’s dubious pass out from the back put Rodri in a hole, with his hurried clearance ultimately breaking to Dejan Kulusevski.
The Swede showed great composure to tuck home from inside the area, and deep into stoppage time the lead was doubled.
Harry Kane dispossessed Rodri inside his own box before firing the ball across goal. Ederson could only parry the ball up in the air to Emerson Royal who headed home to double the advantage.
City fans voiced their displeasure when booing their side off at the break. However, what followed was an emphatic response from the reigning champions.
Julian Alvarez and Erling Haaland quickly levelled the scores less than 10 minutes into the second half. From then on, it was the Riyad Mahrez show.
The veteran winger finished inside the near post for the third after dancing past Ivan Perisic and Ben Davies. He then sealed all three points when pouncing on a Clement Lenglet error in injury time.
The 4-2 result closed City’s gap to Arsenal to five points, though the Gunners do have a game in hand.
Spurs, meanwhile, remain fifth and five points outside the top four. They’ve also played at least one more match than every team above them.
Tottenham resign Conte to dubious career-first
Speaking to Sky Sports after the match, Conte said: “If I compare to the games of last season (in which Spurs beat City home and away in the league), I think I’m more happy about the performance today.
“The last game against City last season they dominated the game. Today, we played a good game and with personality.
“We put a lot of pressure on them, City is always a difficult game to play. At the same time, I’m disappointed.
“This is the first time in my career my team has conceded four goals in one half. The explanation is we have to continue to work and continue to improve these players.
“When I tell you we have to try to reduce the gap and the process has just started. That means you have to work, to improve technically, tactically, the experience of our team.
“It means we have to improve managing the situation. Like today, conceding after a few minutes and then the second goal two minutes later.
“Usually in that situation you have to be calm, to find the solution to lose time, to pass ten minutes, to breathe and then start to play.
“Instead we concede the second goal quickly. I said to you [interviewer Patrick Davidson] every game you have to be a bit lucky. Today we were a bit unlucky [with Perisic’s deflected shot hitting the crossbar].
“If [the ball goes in] I don’t know the reaction of Man City. Instead, we concede another two goals.
“I’m not… we have to continue to work, to have patience and we need time to create something important for this team.”
When asked if the display felt like forward progress from what he’s seen of late, Conte added: “Yeah, but inside I’m really disappointed for this loss.
“I hate to lose, especially as we conceded four goals. Four goals are usually difficult co concede, but to concede them in only 45 minutes means we have to improve a lot.
“We have conceded much more goals compared to last season.”
Conte takes swipe at Spurs higher-ups
The Italian went on to stress there’s a big difference between Spurs and the biggest clubs, but added he and they are ready to continue trying to close the gap.
When asked how Spurs can actually go about closing the gap, Conte appeared to take a swipe at the club and more specifically, chairman Daniel Levy.
The Tottenham boss is widely known to be seeking new reinforcements in the market, but as yet, none have been forthcoming.
Sporting Lisbon’s Pedro Porro is wanted, for example. However, Spurs’ bid that included an unnamed makeweight was rebuffed.
The Portuguese side have repeatedly pointed towards the player’s £40m release clause, which as yet, Spurs have been unwilling to pay. As such, the deal is currently at a stalemate.
Elsewhere, a £12m verbal offer for Brighton’s Leandro Trossard proved insufficient, with Arsenal going on to strike a £27m deal earlier on Thursday.
On how to bridge the gap, Conte concluded: “This is not a question for me, this is a question for the club.”