Tottenham make early statement to leave Man City reeling

Son Heung-min scored the only goal of the game as champions leave empty-handed

Tottenham Hotspur’s Son Heung-Min celebrates scoring the opening goal during the Premier League win over Manchester City. Photo: Andy Rain/EPA

Tottenham Hotspur’s Son Heung-Min celebrates scoring the opening goal during the Premier League win over Manchester City. Photo: Andy Rain/EPA

 

Tottenham Hotspur 1 Manchester City 0

Sometimes football can be reassuringly familiar. This was Manchester City with the flaws on the outside; this is what they look like when things go wrong, as they have twice before against Nuno Espírito Santo sides, and weirdly often against Spurs. Football’s finances may be ruined and the game sinking into a moral mire, but there is still comfort to be drawn from teams, despite it all, remaining resolutely themselves.

City began with great pace and urgency, slicing Spurs open so frequently the game might have been over within 10 minutes. But then having failed to score, the mechanisms became gummed and, more troublingly, they looked extremely vulnerable on the counter-attack, with Lucas Moura a constant menace. Of course City were the more proactive side, despite being without numerous first-teamers – clubs with the essentially unlimited resources of a state should be – and of course they will win most games, but this is how they lose them, with a slight wastefulness in front of goal and a carelessness against the counter.

The opening goal may have been against the run of play, but its sources was no great surprise: Moura hooking a ball clear to Steven Bergwijn who led the charge, feeding Son Heung-min on the left who cut inside and bent a shot into the far corner. Benjamin Mendy had already seemed on borrowed time at City, but Nathan Aké too may soon be joining him on a one-way trip to Lommel.

As for arrivals, on this showing City could do with a centre-forward, a midfielder and a left-back. Harry Kane, who may fulfil the first of those needs, was not in the Spurs squad but what that means is debatable. When Luka Modric was left out of Tottenham’s first two games of 2012-13 it was a precursor to his departure for Real Madrid, but that Kane was not involved does not necessarily mean he is on his way to Manchester. He has, essentially, played his hand by returning to training a week late (although he claims that had always been planned) but remains at Spurs. City’s reluctance to make a formal offer anywhere near Tottenham’s valuation could be a negotiating tactic, or it may mean they have given up on signing Kane in this window.

Spurs insisted that Kane was not selected because he is not fit enough, having taken part in only two training sessions since returning but, while that may be factually true, it tells nothing like the full story. Every other player who started the final of the Euros for England managed at least some pitch time this weekend. Whatever ends up happening, the Kane affair has disrupted the start of this season for Spurs.

The mega-signing City have made, Jack Grealish, the sixth most expensive player of all time, flickered without ever quite catching light. He resembles some terrifying footballing chimera: the impishness and drive of Paul Gascoigne, rolled down socks of Francesco Totti, the massive calves of Roberto Carlos, the bandaged left wrist of Gary Lineker at the 1986 World Cup, the hair of Cameron Diaz in There’s Something About Mary.

Jack Grealish clashes with Lucas Moura. Photo: Shaun Botterill/Getty Images
Jack Grealish clashes with Lucas Moura. Photo: Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

Having come off the bench in the Community Shield and operated on the left wing, here he was deployed on the left of the three midfielders, although early on he was so high he seemed almost to be playing as a second striker alongside Ferran Torres. At Villa, Grealish was the most fouled player in the Premier League (by an astonishing margin; 45 per cent more than Wilfried Zaha, who was second, and more than twice as often than all but three other players). The theory had been that he would struggle to maintain that level at City, where less of the play is likely to go through him, but in terms of getting kicked, this was a very encouraging start, fouled five times against an average of 4.2 per game last season.

And it’s not just that Grealish is a great drawer of fouls; he is a drawer of great fouls. You don’t forget Grealish being fouled, whether he’s stumbling, doing his utmost to carry on and then collapsing, spinning into the air after a tap on the ankle, grimacing and rolling, or hopping away dragging a recently kicked calf behind him. His clashes with Fernandinho in training must be mesmerising: the great disguiser of fouls against their great highlighter.

But City will need more from him and from others. For a club of their resources the excuse that they had a lot of players unavailable elicits little sympathy. Early-season setbacks are not unfamiliar to City, and there are mitigating factors, but where there may be a concern is in the familiarity of the failings. For Spurs, meanwhile, there was a welcome reminder that they can play well and can win big games even without Kane. The Nuno era is off to a very encouraging start. – Guardian

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
GO BACK
Error Image
The account details entered are not currently associated with an Irish Times subscription. Please subscribe to sign in to comment.
Comment Sign In

Forgot password?
The Irish Times Logo
Thank you
You should receive instructions for resetting your password. When you have reset your password, you can Sign In.
The Irish Times Logo
Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.
Screen Name Selection

Hello

Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
Forgot Password
Please enter your email address so we can send you a link to reset your password.

Sign In

Your Comments
We reserve the right to remove any content at any time from this Community, including without limitation if it violates the Community Standards. We ask that you report content that you in good faith believe violates the above rules by clicking the Flag link next to the offending comment or by filling out this form. New comments are only accepted for 3 days from the date of publication.