Tottenham Hotspur had their work cut out for them: Manchester City, winners of 15 straight games in all competitions, are arguably the best team in the world right now. To get back on track in the Premier League, Spurs would need a herculean performance on the road against the sky blues.
Instead, City midfielders Rodri and İlkay Gündoğan saw the hosts further cement their status as the runaway favorite for the Premier League title. A 3-0 defeat is hardly surprising, given the respective form the two teams are currently in. But once again for Spurs, the manner in which it all unraveled will leave fans frustrated and demanding a change in some manner.
More often than not against stiff opposition, Spurs elect to drop deep and play defensively rather than apply pressure. Today’s match was no different: City dominated possession in the first half and Spurs relied solely on the counterattack for offense.
Eventually, City broke through after a highly questionable penalty decision on Pierre-Emile Højbjerg, which allowed Rodri to slip one past Hugo Lloris from 12 yards out.
The second half was merely a continuation of the first. Gündoğan’s first tally, after an impressive stretch of quick passing and sharp movement, barely squeaked past Lloris' short side. By his standards, it was a soft goal to let in. Spurs fans will hope the past two subpar performances by the French keeper are one-offs, rather than an indication of his declining play.
There was nothing soft about Gündoğan’s second of the match, however. A 70-yard through ball by City keeper Ederson found the midfielder, who broke Davinson Sánchez’s ankles and slotted it into the bottom corner. It was a jaw-dropping piece of play by the hosts, who thoroughly deserved the three points and look unstoppable right now.
Next up for Spurs are Wolfsberger AC of the Austrian Bundesliga, who begin their round of 32 contest in the Europa League this Thursday.
A few more notes:
- The problem with being a strictly counterattacking team is it dramatically erodes one’s ability to play with possession. For the few instances Spurs maintained possession against City, they were completely bereft of any movement, ideas, and threat offensively. Players weren’t finding open space and the majority of their forward moves ended up being passed right back to the defense. Credit to City for being such a dangerous side, but it would be nice to see Spurs play with more creativity when they have possession.
- One of the lone bright spots of the game was the play of right-back Japhet Tanganga. The 21-year-old English defender was thrust into an extremely difficult position against a red-hot side, but overall he did a really nice job. He confidently stunted a bevy of forward moves from dangerous forwards Raheem Sterling and Phil Foden. Moreover, on a few occasions, he calmly advanced play down the field in the face of pressure. Perhaps Jose Mourinho has found his solution to the right-back position, which has given him fits this season.