'We have to be killers,' says Sagna after latest City flop
Tottenham Hotspur 4 Manchester City 1
Manchester City are falling back into bad habits. After an explosive start to the season, they have lost three of their last four games.
Suddenly the picture looks very different for a team that won their first five Premier League games, scoring 11 and conceding none.
It felt then as if City might stroll to the title. Now it is hard to judge where they will end up.
Tottenham equalised just before the interval with a goal that should not have stood and City never recovered.
Manager Manuel Pellegrini did not want to go into detail afterwards but right-back Bacary Sagna was strikingly honest in his diagnosis of what has gone wrong and the mental softness that threatens to derail a second successive City season.
"Everyone was upset," Sagna said. "We had to keep playing as a team, keep some composure, and we didn't have it. We were too nice, we lost too many duels. We have to be killers."
It cannot be a coincidence that City had not conceded a Premier League goal with captain Vincent Kompany in the team and have now let in six without him.
Kompany was meant to be among the substitutes at White Hart Lane.
However, the defender was not totally over his calf injury and felt unwell in the warm-up, so was replaced on the bench by George Evans.
While they badly miss Kompany, City clearly cannot afford to be without Joe Hart too often this season, either. The goalkeeper's deputy, Willy Caballero, endured a nightmare.
Hart was suffering from a knock that he expects to recover from in time for the Champions League match against Borussia Monchengladbach on Wednesday.
But it was curious that Pellegrini deemed him fit enough to sit on the substitutes' bench, but not to play.
Caballero was badly at fault for Toby Alderweireld's header that put Tottenham ahead and he was unable to take the ball off the foot of Erik Lamela before the Argentinian netted the home side's fourth.
City could also point the finger of blame at referee Mark Clattenburg and his officials as Spurs' equaliser should have been ruled out for offside against Kyle Walker.
Harry Kane was also offside when he broke his Tottenham duck for the season, not that the majority of White Hart Lane, including the England manager Roy Hodgson, cared as they celebrated wildly.
Pellegrini waited to shake the hands of all the officials at the end of the game.
The gesture may well have had a hint of irony, but City largely shot themselves in the foot after starting the game well and taking the lead.
Yaya Toure should have done better than to shoot wide in the 14th minute after being teed up by Kevin De Bruyne, but the pair combined again in the 25th minute and this time the Belgian broke the deadlock.
Walker's misplaced pass allowed Toure to stride forwards and he ran 40 yards before laying the ball off to De Bruyne, who slotted a low shot past Hugo Lloris for his third goal in three games. Sergio Aguero had already tested Lloris before De Bruyne's goal and the Frenchman had to make a brilliant stop to deny Raheem Sterling just after it.
There was not much hint of the revival that was to follow as Kane pulled a shot wide and Tottenham took until the 40th minute to properly test Caballero, when he pushed a more accurate effort from the striker around the post.
Spurs equalised on the stroke of half-time. Walker was almost three yards offside on the right before crossing the ball to Son Heung-min. Caballero saved from the South Korean, but De Bruyne misplaced his clearance to Eric Dier, who fired the ball into the net.
While City clearly pointed the finger at the officials for the equaliser, they only had themselves to blame when Spurs took the lead in the 50th minute.
Lamela swung in a free-kick from the right that Alderweireld rose above Fernando to meet.
Caballero had rushed from his line and was caught in no man's land as the Spurs defender's header looped into the net.
Toure was then forced off with a hamstring injury as things went from bad to worse for City. The moment the White Hart Lane crowd had been waiting for all season finally arrived just after the hour.
Lamela won a free-kick that Christian Eriksen smashed against the bar and Kane converted the rebound. Kane clearly did not care that he was offside.
He said: "You need a bit of luck and I had one cleared off the line in midweek [against Arsenal]."
It was not long before Spurs extended their advantage even further.
A long ball out of defence found substitute Clinton N'Jie and he found Lamela in the box. Caballero came off his line but could not take the ball off Lamela, who eventually shot into an empty net. (© Independent News Service)