Category: Manchester City

Tottenham: If Sergio Aguero And I Were Friends

I can’t recall exactly when it became official, but Sergio Aguero is my favourite footballer. No doubt it started during Premier League matches in which Aguero ripped Spurs to shreds. He’s done this so often, that they all blur into one traumatically beautiful event. Up until their most recent three meetings, Aguero had scored 9 goals in 6 games against Tottenham. Whether from the penalty spot, inside or outside the box, there was nothing surer when Man City played Tottenham. A City win and a football clinic as presented by Sergio.

Spurs games against City were, for a half a decade from 2011-2015, horrific events for Tottenham fans. Apart from the one victorious aberration, the remaining encounters were mostly all demolitions in City’s favour. The vast number of goals they managed to repeatedly smash past us time after time, something both surreal and depressing. But amidst it all, I found a way to cope. And that way was Sergio. The 6-0 drubbing at the Etihad was perhaps the moment where Aguero fell in love with Spurs’ defensive frailties, and the game that truly confirmed my love for him. He would help me through these Hotspur horrors by juxtaposing them with his own beautiful football.

For if I could go into a contest fearing (and knowing deep down) that Spurs would be obliterated, at least I could also know that the probability of observing another Aguero masterclass was equally high. To fool myself into thinking that he alone was so good that it was just impossible for Spurs to compete. It wasn’t the other City players’ abilities or our own deficiencies, just him and his ability to make anyone look foolish. To cope with the shame and dissatisfaction with my team, I could secretly take comfort in watching the breathtaking Aguero in action.

Something about the way he moves, his low centre of gravity, his incredibly powerful lower half, his booming strikes on other side of the body. It’s like poetry in motion, the perfect striker. Somehow he even scores goals with his head, despite being vertically challenged. Diminutive, quick, clinical, explosive, all the superlatives wrapped in one. Most of all, he was the perfect man to take advantage of opposition mistakes in defence. And weren’t mistakes delivered in spades by Spurs’ defences of the early to mid 2010’s.

Recently and briefly, there were rumours that my team was interested in signing the Argentinian maestro. I could barely contain my excitement. For about 15 minutes the possibilities were amazing, my mind boggling at the thought of this incredible being appearing up front for the team I support. Of course, his fellow Argentinian Mauricio Pochettino put paid to that hope very quickly. And so emphatically that I couldn’t help but feel a little crushed. As if he’d taken away a small piece of my heart. And, in laughing off the suggestion of Aguero appearing in a Spurs shirt, burying all my hopes and dreams in the dust.

Okay, maybe that’s a little extreme. But it certainly was slightly deflating. My brief flirtations with the concept of Aguero fitting into our formation gone just as soon as they’d arrived. With Harry Kane playing off him, or in a dual striker role. Despite how unlikely this was always going to be, it was possibly the most exciting prospect I could hope in recent club history, other than the equally unlikely return of Gareth Bale. At a time when we were just starting to look like we couldn’t score goals too; in my mind Aguero was the perfect tonic.

There is more to it than that of course; his age, cost, wages, desire to actually represent Tottenham. Yet surely these are but minor issues…? So, I spent several minutes replaying the video of Pochettino’s emphatic response that rumours of Sergio’s arrival were nothing but 100% false. Trying to determine from his body language as to whether Poch was just surprised at the suggestion of him being attainable, or laughing at the possibility of us ever going after him. Surely the former. Would he not be in the mould of an Isco-type player that, if he rocked up on the doorstep begging to play, we would sign? Clearly I still haven’t given up ALL hope.

Aguero transcended my team’s abysmal performance and defeats with his pure and unadulterated brilliance. The one player in any opposition that I could watch for days on end. Perhaps it helped that we were never direct rivals in the traditional sense, yet I can’t help but envy Manchester City and how lucky they were and still are to have this brilliant footballer in their midst. I hope Pep Guardiola knows just how lucky he is to have him too.

Tottenham: Spurs Race Into Premier League Contention

Tottenham proved on Sunday that whilst other sides are grabbing the headlines, their own threat is real and growing. A dismantling of Manchester City at White Hart Lane brought glowing reviews.

We take a look at the best responses, opinion and reactions to Spurs’ blistering form in their push for Premier League success, starting with manager Mauricio Pochettino.

Pochettino: “A Complete Performance”

Describing Tottenham’s display as, “nearly perfect,” Pochettino was clearly more than satisfied with the showing.

“I feel very pleased and proud of the performance. We worked very hard…all the players were fantastic…the mentality was to go forward, play football and try to win the game. Our players showed commitment to the philosophy and the way we played was fantastic. Today was an example of how we work and want to play. If we play with the passion we showed today, we have enough quality to fight against the big teams.

Our mentality was to be aggressive and play in the opposition’s half. It’s the commitment of the team, and their belief in the way we play.”

On the altercation between Erik Lamela and Son Heung-Min leading up to Lamela’s penalty shot that was saved by Claudio Bravo: “Lamela, Sonny, Eriksen, it’s the moment and whoever feels better (able) to shoot. It is better that two players want to shoot than nobody wants to take the ball. Maybe Son takes the next, but it is not an issue.”

Full Pochettino press conference:

Thierry Henry on Sky Sports had this appraisal of the second goal:

“What vision, what a pass from Son, what a finish from Dele Alli. They deserved to be 2-0 up. The pressure was too much, that’s what we want to see and that’s how you have to play against Man City.

Jermaine Jenas on BBC highlighted the intensity with which Spurs play:

“It was not just the result that was impressive, it was how they got their 2-0 win. Right from the start, the intensity of their play was frightening, and they carried out Pochettino’s game plan to perfection.

Gary Neville on Sky Sports was glowing in his appraisal of Spurs’ defence:

“I’ve not seen many teams run at the speed and with the level of tackling Spurs did. They were incessantly relentless, they put their foot in, they risked giving fouls away and being beaten but then they knew their mate was going to be behind them.

Pochettino for me is an absolutely brilliant coach, there is no doubt…

To watch Rose, Walker, Jan Vertonghen and Toby Alderweireld – their covering positions, their detail and attentiveness in the last 25 minutes when Iheanacho came on was brilliant. Sensing danger, awareness, getting their foot in, blocking shots, even the full-backs blocking crosses.

Their way of playing in the first hour, pushing up the pitch, contributed enormously to how Tottenham played. Every time the ball shifts back they shifted with it aggressively and did it really quickly. To get a team to do that every time is tough, they make it really easy for the midfield players in front of them, who also put in a real shift in. It’s a dream back four and that’s Pochettino’s work.

There is no way if you’re a Pochettino defender that you can see the ball get passed back and just stand, you have to shift with the ball. To get a back four drilled is very difficult and Pochettino is building a back four which is probably as consistent as any in the Premier League.”

Dele Alli on the result and performance post-game:

“It’s massive. I think it’s a big statement from us. We knew what we’re capable of, we knew we’d have chances if we stuck to our game plan and took it to them…we showed what we’re made of.”

Victor Wanyama, arguably man of the match, on hard work:

“I’m happy to take three points. We knew we had to work hard, we enjoy working hard, when it comes to games we have to work extra hard. The hard work paid off.”

Tottenham head into the international break as the only undefeated side in the Premier League, just one point off City in top spot.

Premier League: Top 4 Contenders Reviewed

Can we rule out Chelsea after the efforts (or lack thereof) in recent weeks and particularly on Saturday? Is the top 4 set just 6 weeks into the season? We take a look at each of the current team’s chances of reaching the Champions League next term. Note to clubs: You need ten points minimum to qualify for our analysis after match day 6, and conveniently that is a top 8.

Manchester City – Current Position: 1st
Don’t they start seasons well? Reminiscent of last year, but seem to have a fair bit more about them this time around. Look the real deal, and it’s disingenuous to include them in discussions about the top 4 when it seems they will win the league comfortably. Kevin de Bruyne’s injury on the weekend may hamper them for games against Tottenham and Everton, but Pep Guardiola has flagged Raheem Sterling as the man to step up. And with 4 goals in 6 games so far, you wouldn’t put it past him. If Vincent Kompany can stay injury-free, and Sergio Aguero continue scoring for fun, it’s a matter of how far City. Predicted Finish: 1st.

Tottenham – Current Position: 2nd
The only other undefeated team, and despite a slow start with two draws in three games to open the season. Certainly have added more depth this season. The risk is that Champions League football is too draining, but maintain current form and they are every chance of pushing City next weekend, as well as throughout the season. Don’t rely on one or two players anymore and have barely missed a beat since Harry Kane’s unfortunate injury. The next few weeks will be crucial if they hope to hang to both the unbeaten streak and top 4 chances. Predicted Finish: 4th.

Arsenal – Current Position: 3rd
A 3-0 belting of London rivals Chelsea on Saturday was quite the statement. Any questions over Arsene Wenger have been put to bed, at least for the time being. Shkodran Mustafi looks a class defender and forms a back pair with Koscielny that the Gunners have been desperate for. Shouldn’t concede as they have in the past if these two stay on the pitch. At times they looked far too good for the Premier League at the weekend, let alone too good for Chelsea. Maintain their best form and a top 2 finish beckons. Predicted Finish: 2nd.

Liverpool – Current Position: 4th
With so many goal scoring options and Jurgen Klopp at the helm, it’s been a sight to behold with Liverpool in full flight. Save for a poor loss at Burnley, they have been nothing short of electrifying in the front half. Yet the defence and consistency appears the difference between a potential top 4 finish and just missing. We think they have too many threats up front though, and that this will cover for any failings at the back. Predicted Finish: 3rd.

Everton – Current Position: 5th
Potentially the biggest manager move in the off-season was Ronald Koeman coming in at Everton. What an effect he has had, turning a talented yet severely underperforming Everton squad into one that now actually plays. Came back to Earth on the weekend, and may not quite have the depth of talent to finish in the four. But they’re a massive threat, and will push hard at least for a Europa League return. Predicted Finish: 7th

Manchester United – Current Position: 6th
It was back to the Manchester United of old on the weekend. Consistency is an issue though, not to mention what Mourinho will do with Rooney. Half an hour of football produced in the first half on Saturday was the best we’ve witnessed in 12 months. At their best, and with such weapons of Ibra and Rashford up front, they could be unstoppable. At their best, they can rival the best of Arsenal and Liverpool. But the soft underbelly remains. We think they might just miss the 4. Predicted Finish: 5th.

Crystal Palace – Current Position: 7th
Another strong start to the season for Alan Pardew’s men with ten points. Three wins in a row will prove crucial as we’ve seen what happens when Palace or Pardew teams get on a poor run. Should definitely avoid relegation, and aim for a top half finish. The Townsend and Benteke combination will be crucial for goals, if they can develop an understanding then the bottom three will be out of the equation. Predicted Finish: 11th

Chelsea – Current Position: 8th
From what we’ve seen so far, Conte’s Chelsea is not too much better than the Mourinho/Hiddink’s equivalent. It’s hard to see them making up enough ground to finish in the top four, when it had seemed a possibility early. Glimpses of improvement early have been replaced by a shocking performance against a rampant Arsenal. Until the Blues bring in defensive reinforcements, it seems impossible for them to challenge for anything other than the Europa League. Predicted Finish: 6th

Will Pep Guardiola Get His Yaya Toure Apology?

Pep Guardiola has finally delivered the answers as to why the once mighty Yaya Toure is not in his squad. A supreme and dominant figure at the heart of Manchester City’s Premier League winning team just the season before last, his fall from grace hit a new low after the arrival of Guardiola. Now Pep has suggested that Yaya was essentially removed due to the antics of his agent.

Describing Toure as, “A good, good guy,” Guardiola indicated that leaving him out of his Champions League squad was, “Not easy.” But seemingly, Yaya’s team going straight to the media (rather than addressing his concerns with the club over early-season absence from first team football) has only exacerbated the problems. Now will the forgotten figure be able to force his way back into calculations? Guardiola seems to suggest that an apology to the club and his teammates will give him every chance.

According to the manager, Toure, “will have the same chance to play all the games,” should he apologise to both club and teammates for the episode’s handling. However, what are the chances of the stubborn Yaya bending to Guardiola’s wishes? Currently collecting his significant wages whilst teammates dominate the early stages of the premier league, there seems little motivation for him to do so. Following a distinguished career at club and international level, it is hard to see him suddenly performing an about-face and saying, “Sorry Pep,” when the saga has already gone on for many weeks.

Yaya would surely be all too aware that while an apology may be welcomed by Guardiola and seem him back in training, that is most likely where it would end. It is hard to see him regaining a spot in the first team at all, and certainly not any time soon. At this point in his career, it appears working exceedingly hard to prove himself to a new manager with whom he has gotten off on the wrongest of feet, is not part of the remit. So why not just take the pay check and see out his time at City before heading off to China or the US for one giant payday.

It seems that with our without an apology, Toure’s time at City is all but up. And given how well the blue side of Manchester is travelling, that may not be the worst thing for either party. City needs motivated players in and around their group, Toure has seemingly been there and done that in his mind. Time for both parties to move on, if not in the January window then certainly come the end of the season.

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