Manchester City 4 Tottenham 1
Samir Nasri may still be absent and they might only have three strikers but goalkeeper Joe Hart believes something is starting to click for Manchester City.
Manuel Pellegrini has been criticised for his tactical inflexibility since he arrived in England last summer but tomorrow’s Champions League match at CSKA Moscow could see him start with the axis of Fernando and Fernandinho, to maximise the benefits of Yaya Toure, for the first time.
After doing the running of two men for the last 14 months it will come as some relief to Fernandinho and it will certainly mean the Premier League champions are less open than they have been at times under the Chilean.
But when they are at their ruthless best in attack, as they were going forward against Spurs, it is almost a shame to consider that pragmatism is likely to see City playing with one less attacking player for the big games from now on.
Having managed four or more goals in nine of their 19 Premier League home matches last season, this was the first time they have achieved that feat in the current campaign, with Sergio Aguero accounting for all of them against Spurs.
Even Hart is not worried about Pellegrini’s occasionally cavalier view.
“It’s not a goalkeeper’s ethos, but it’s understandable when you have the firepower that he has at his disposal,” Hart said.
“If you ask any of the back players we wouldn’t agree with that, but that’s because we are very professional in what we do and don’t want to concede goals. Having said that, if you offered us a 7-6 victory in every game, we would take it. We are building and have a lot more to offer this season. It was a difficult start but it’s difficult for any top team, because their players get to semi-finals and finals, and you have to deal with that.
“We are chasing Chelsea but we have our head down and focussing on Manchester City. We know if we do what we can do, we will be there or thereabouts.”
Saturday’s game, which included four penalties for only the second time in Premier League history, could certainly have swung in the other direction.
Aguero bent in a low shot after Erik Lamela gave the ball away in midfield to give City the lead but Tottenham responded when the outstanding Christian Eriksen thumped in off the bar.
Argentina striker Aguero converted a penalty and had another saved by Hugo Lloris before the interval but Roberto Soldado was also denied from the spot, by Hart, after the break.
Tottenham defender Federico Fazio was sent off for bundling Aguero over to give away the fourth spot-kick of the afternoon, with Aguero making no mistake this time, before then curling in the host’s fourth.
If Aguero had remained fit through last season, when he started just 20 of City’s league games, they could certainly have enjoyed a more comfortable run to their title, not that he bowls Hart over day after day.
“He is one of those players, and I don’t think he will be unhappy with me saying it, that some days you look at him in training and he is useless!” Hart added.
“That is just down to him, and you know that when it comes to games he is going to score, because he is that talented, that good a player.
“He is a big-match player and deserves to be at a big club like this, scoring goals for these fans, and I can’t be positive enough about him.”
It is early days for Tottenham under Mauricio Pochettino but they were nothing like the rabble that was thumped 6-0 at the Etihad under Andre Villas-Boas 11 months ago.
The introduction of Ryan Mason, a 23-year-old who was on-loan at Swindon last season, to central midfield is among one of the Argentine’s intriguing tweaks.
“The lads are devastated. We came here to win the game and had a good chance of that. The penalty miss was massive and the sending off killed our momentum,” Mason said.
“The gaffer wanted us to press high up the pitch. It was difficult at times but when we got it right, we countered and our first goal came from that.”
MANCHESTER CITY: Hart 8; Sagna 7, Kompany 7, Demichelis 6, Clichy 6; Navas 8, Fernando 7 (Toure 76), Lampard 7 (Fernandinho 28, 6), Milner 8; Silva 7 (Jovetic 70, 6); Aguero 9.
TOTTENHAM: Lloris 7; Dier 7, Kaboul 5, Fazio 5, Rose 6; Capoue 6 (Dembele 60, 6), Mason 7 (Vertonghen 70); Lamela 6 (Townsend 60), Eriksen 8, Chabli 7; Soldado 7.
Referee: Jonathan Moss.
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