Pep Guardiola was a happy man on Saturday night. Happy, and satisfied. Relaxed enough to declare he was going to play golf with his son rather than watch second-placed Manchester United play West Bromwich Albion in a match that will have implications on his team's ability to clinch the title. If the Baggies manage to upset the Red Devils, City would be crowned champions, their lead over United growing to an unassailable 16 points, with five fixtures to go.
There were a few doubts starting to emerge after three consecutive losses suffered by Guardiola's side over the last 10 days, a period where they were emphatically knocked out of the Champions League by Liverpool and suffered a tough loss to their derby rivals United in the league. The Citizens needed to eradicate these doubts, and they did, putting in a brilliant performance, that led to their comprehensive win.
David Silva and Kevin De Bruyne were phenomenal in midfield, pulling the strings and directing traffic every minute of the game, helping their team get into better attacking positions. They combined beautifully with Ilkay Gundogan, who deputised ably for Fernandinho in the defensive midfield role. Leroy Sane was a threat all night on the left flank, running beyond Kieran Trippier, fashioning clearcut chances and offering himself as an option. Raheem Sterling and Gabriel Jesus combined smartly, changing positions frequently to keep the Spurs defenders guessing, and were deserving goalscorers on the night.
This was a statement of intent from the Sky Blues, as they were intent to get over their recent losing streak and show that they had the mental strength and resolve to recover from tough situations. Though the eventual score was 3-1, City had at least three more good chances to widen the margin, and it was just their inability to find the finish that let them down at times. Sterling did well to get into great goalscoring positions, stretching the Tottenham defence, and though he did miss a couple of easy chances, he scored the third and exorcised some of his demons from the previous weekend, when his profligacy in front of goal was one of the reasons his side lost to United.
Mauricio Pochettino's side, on the other hand, was disappointing in what was a great chance for them to cement their credentials as one of the most dangerous teams in the league. Despite wins over United, Liverpool and Arsenal at Wembley, they were outplayed and outsmarted by City on the night. Despite their endeavour, they only had a brief 20-minute spell at the end of the first half when they looked like a team that could defeat City. It was in that timeframe that they scored their only goal of the night, a neatly taken goal from Christian Eriksen, after being put through by Harry Kane.
Bad decision-making plagued Spurs throughout the night, especially in the final third as they failed to carve out many clearcut chances, let alone test Ederson in the City goal. Eriksen and Alli tried their best to infuse energy and creativity into the team's play but they were unable to break down an organised opposition defence, with the main man Kane forced to feed off scraps and marked out of the game by Vincent Kompany.
Their defence was unusually static for the first goal, Jesus pouncing to score after a long ball from Kompany. Similarly, the second goal resulted from a swift counter-attack that eventually saw Hugo Lloris come way off his line and foul Sterling to concede a penalty (although contact happened outside the box), which was dispatched with ease by Gundogan. Overall, despite having 47 percent of the ball, the Lilywhites were plagued by a lack of composure in their play and their inability to get things right in the second half caused them to fall further behind late on in the game.
City impressed with their ability to control the game and not let it get out of hand despite missing chances at the other end, something they found tough to do so in the three defeats they suffered in the last few days. That, and the fact that they overcame the setback of those losses, and put themselves in position to clinch the league with ease, bodes well for their future as a team, and shows Pep Guardiola has them making great strides in the right direction and that they would be the team to beat in the Premier League and one of the best in Europe next season as well.
Tottenham were one of the teams that troubled City last season, with their aggressive pressing and high-tempo play. They took four points off of Guardiola's side and finished above them in the league. However, this season, City have comprehensively defeated Spurs in both encounters, scoring seven goals in the process and conceding just two. That shows their growth and how their manager's methods are working just fine as they continue working to establish their dominance over the rest of the Premier League.
Updated Date: Apr 15, 2018 13:28:11 IST