Monday 23 September 2019

They dropped points, but Man City's dominance means they'll hit someone for 10 this season

Such was the dominance over their title rivals, there's little hope for the rest.

The ball hits Aymeric Laporte’s hand resulting in Manchester City’s late winner by Gabriel Jesus being disallowed. Photo: Reuters/Carl Recine
The ball hits Aymeric Laporte’s hand resulting in Manchester City’s late winner by Gabriel Jesus being disallowed. Photo: Reuters/Carl Recine

James Ducker

A QUICK glance at Saturday's result might suggest this 2-2 draw was closely fought, that Tottenham Hotspur went toe to toe with Manchester City and the teams traded plenty of punches, and that there was not too much to separate them.

That would be an illusion and even Mauricio Pochettino, the Tottenham manager, conscious that his side had got out of jail long before the video assistant referee denied City victory in stoppage time, made no attempt to pass this game off as something it was not.

Mauricio Pochettino tries to console Pep Guardiola. Photo: Martin Rickett/PA Wire
Mauricio Pochettino tries to console Pep Guardiola. Photo: Martin Rickett/PA Wire

Spurs lay reasonable claim to being the country's third-best team and yet here they were battered, if ultimately not beaten, by a side playing football that Pep Guardiola ranked as among the best he had witnessed in his three years at the helm of this supercharged team.

There will, understandably, be plenty of focus on the result, but look beyond that for a moment and ask yourself: if City are able to pepper this Spurs side, one of the apparent title contenders, with 30 shots and concede just three in return (or two, according to Guardiola, who did not consider Harry Kane's botched attempt at another halfway lob to constitute a meaningful effort), what might they do to more modest opposition? It was probably not even the most persuasive or one-sided of the many statistics that underlined City's superiority, despite first Erik Lamela and then substitute Lucas Moura cancelling out goals from Raheem Sterling and Sergio Aguero.

City created 22 chances to Tottenham's three - the irrepressible Kevin De Bruyne alone was responsible for nine of them - and Spurs managed just five touches in the opposition penalty area.

City? Well, they had registered 52 in Tottenham's box by the time referee Michael Oliver called a halt to proceedings, moments after signalling that Gabriel Jesus's "winner" had been ruled out by the VAR for a handball by Aymeric Laporte.

Jesus scores what he believed to be Manchester City’s winner. Photo: Reuters
Jesus scores what he believed to be Manchester City’s winner. Photo: Reuters

There must be Premier League managers up and down the country shuddering at the thought of visiting the Etihad Stadium.

It is not unreasonable to think that, over the course of the campaign, City might threaten the Premier League's record win of 9-0, set by Manchester United against Ipswich Town in March 1995.

"I think we dignify this sport," Guardiola said. "We dignify the people who pay to watch us and see how honest we are - to play for the people. More than anything, I would like, when I finish here, to leave that [legacy].

"Especially the last two seasons, we were an incredible team. I'm a spectator, too, and what we are looking for, from the first day I came here, is to try to play in the way we played here [against Spurs]."

Jesus remonstrates with referee Michael Oliver. Photo: Reuters/Carl Recine
Jesus remonstrates with referee Michael Oliver. Photo: Reuters/Carl Recine

Pochettino talked about how City are operating in a different orbit to Tottenham, particularly off the pitch. While he sweats over whether he might still lose some of his best players, including Christian Eriksen, Toby Alderweireld and Jan Vertonghen, between now and the close of the European transfer windows on September 2, Guardiola knows his squad will remain untouched.

Even if a European rival came calling for a player, City can say no.

Tottenham cannot.

A glance at City's substitutes' bench reinforced the sheer might of Guardiola's squad. Has there ever been such a gilded crop of back-ups in a Premier League match?

David Silva has a World Cup and two European Championships to show for his 125 appearances for Spain and Fernandinho is one of the world's best defensive midfielders.

Joao Cancelo is the most expensive full-back in history, Jesus is Brazil's No 9 and Riyad Mahrez the club's second-most costly purchase.

Claudio Bravo has 119 caps for Chile and Phil Foden might be the most exciting English talent since Wayne Rooney.

"What we have done [against Tottenham] I don't know if many teams can do it against them," Guardiola said. "That's why I said to the players, 'Yes, it's emotional, it's frustrating to lose two points in that way,' but football is like this.

"It's the only sport you can have 30 shots and the other team two and draw - and even lose. In other sports when you do what we've done, you win. That's why football is fascinating. But at the same time we're sad because we want to win and didn't, but tomorrow we will stand up and prepare better." (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Telegraph.co.uk

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