“I think the better team won. That is my first sentence.” These were the first words of Mauricio Pochettino’s post-match conference after his Tottenham side lost to Manchester City.
It sounded like something almost every Premier League manager – save Ronald Koeman – has said about Manchester City this season. Yes, Wenger and Mourinho preferred to concentrate on how lucky the Citizens have been with call from the officials.
But every other league manager who has squared up against Pep Guardiola’s side – especially the ones that got hit for 4 goals and above – have all had nothing but praises for the Philosopher. And why not?
After getting battered for sticking to his guns instead of “adapting” to the English way last season, Guardiola went shopping, got some ammunitions and the rest is gradually becoming a Premier League folktale.
16 consecutive wins, a side filled with all kinds of talent, the high pressure and, ah yes, Manchester City “playing football without being in possession of the ball.”
There’s only so much that a team, deprived of the ball possession can do. That has been the usual consolation for teams whenever they lost to City aka Shark Team. And it’s a statement not far from the truth.
But in their game against Tottenham, Manchester City, Pep Guardiola and his backroom staff showed off in more ways than one.
The Philosopher decided to play without David Silva, a player whose goals and overall play have come in handy for the Citizens this season. Yes, there were many reasons cited for his absence; an absence that could have hurt any side whose game had been built on the genius of the Spaniard.
But Pep again showed us how flexible his Manchester City side is, starting Gundogan instead. While this shows us the squad depth in the City side, it also revealed another salient point.
- A Team Built On All the Players
The most-asked question this season has been, “Who can stop Manchester City?” In response to this, several answers have been suggested, including those ones that suggests injuries to Fernandinho and de Bruyne would be as fatal as can be.
Maybe those suggestions are right. Maybe Man. City will actually fall apart in the absence of these two players – cue the final UEFA Champions League group game against Shakhtar Donetsk. But, with each passing game, Pep has shown all that his team isn’t built around just one player.
I know, I know. You really want to tear me apart right now for this fallacy. You’re at this point probably wondering how I came to this conclusion or worst still, whether I’ve even seen any City game this season.
For a side whose goals have come mostly from the likes of Raheem Sterling, Sergio Aguero, Gabriel Jesus and the likes, they can also boast of goals from their defensive quarters (Nicholas Otamendi and John Stones), and the midfield (Kevin de Bruyne, David Silva).
- Playing Without the Ball
Manchester City is renowned for “eating up” majority of the ball possession and “starving” their opponents. Not much harm can be done without possession of the ball, right?
This is scary enough – and headache enough – for sides who want to play against them. Whether you park the bus or try to beat them at their game, you’re left chasing the game – and the wind too, most of the time.
But what if you have a side that can play as well without the ball as they done with it in their possession this season? Unimaginable, right? Well, Pep has something surprising in store for us all. And City showed us a glimpse of it in their emphatic win over Spurs.
Whenever they lost possession to the “Harry Kane team,” Kevin de Bruyne and Sane would press high up the pitch, running tirelessly at the defenders and making sure they don’t play out from the back. Whenever a player like Gundogan got possession of the ball, moving forward, the runs of the likes of Sterling, Aguero and Sane made life difficult for the Spurs backline.
Tearing the opposition defense line apart meant more space for the midfield player in possession of the ball to run directly at the exposed backline. If you’re asking about Tottenham defensive midfielders, they were regularly kept busy by Fernandinho and Delph who packed the midfield.
Have I mentioned how they lose all those goal scoring chances and still end up thrashing teams? If none of the points mentioned above has explicitly revealed how much Pep’s side is showing off this season, this one does that perfectly well.
Some have asked that the 2018/2019 Premier League season start already. They claim Manchester City have already won the 2017/2018 PL title? How true is this? Will City still drop points? They currently lead with 14 points – pending Manchester United’s visit to West Brom.
Do you see a team like this losing four games on the bounce? Can they even lose as many as four games this season in the Premier? For a team that has only lost once in all competitions this season, it is confirmed that a show-off is in full display. But have they wrapped up the title? What do you think?
Leave me a comment. I’d like to hear from you.
Author: Rotimi “Papi the Great” Daramola
Rotimi Daramola aka Papi the Great is the owner of ForTheGoal.
A freelance sports writer who focuses on football, Rotimi is also a freelance writer, a copywriter and a football analyst who regularly appears on radio and television to talk football. You can follow him on twitter @papi_thegreat to keep up with his writings, engage him and also find out about how you can secure his writing services.