The season hadnâ€™t even kicked off before I had my first disappointment of the new campaign. After ten minutes standing in the queue watching fans get served with coffees and packets of crisps, I finally got to the front and was told that alcohol was no longer being sold â€“ we were within 15 minutes of kick off. The people in front of me had bought bottles of cider, so I was therefore the first to be denied a beer.
Hot words followed, and when the game started, so did much incredulous head in hands. Joe Hart was everywhere it seemed â€“ giving a profoundly impressive display between the City sticks, and adding credence to the theory that he is potentially Englandâ€™s best number one for some time. In the seasonâ€™s opening 45 minutes, he kept Spurs out almost single-handedly. On another day, it might have been 4-0 by half time. Hart was superbly acrobatic in foiling Jermain Defoe twice, Tom Huddlestone and a deflected effort from Benoit Assou-Ekotto. He had luck too, with Gareth Bale beating him but seeing his low drive cannon back off the post, and the bits and pieces from various of these situations not falling kindly for our anticipating forwards.
It was a relentless performance from Spurs in that first half, the kind of bravura onslaught that can threaten to overwhelm visitors to the Lane â€“ not as sustained and precise as that which beat Chelsea last season, but very much a business-as-usual display after success last season.
All that was missing was a goal.
Thirst slaked at last, in the second half I was hopeful that we would force the issue, but things were more equal. City were tighter at the back and threatened a little more, and Spurs were indebted to Assou-Ekotto for an excellent last-ditch tackle on Shaun Wright-Phillips. He was soon replaced by new England starlet Adam Johnson, and he looked good. But though Spurs couldnâ€™t touch the heights of the first 45 minutes again, the lionâ€™s share of chances still came our way. Bale had the best, but scuffed wide when it was easier to score.
So it was frustrating day, as the final whistle confirmed the 0-0 scoreline. It was a pretty good 0-0, as they go. And what of our cash-laden opponents? Itâ€™s too early to say how good or bad this Man City team might turn out to be, but after blowing another Â£100 million of Monopoly money so far, you might expect a side to show a little more menace, and a lot more ambition than this one did yesterday. Perhaps itâ€™s an Italian manager thing – the stereotype suggests an embrace of caution before courage. Selecting a threesome of the pedestrian Gareth Barry, Nigel De Jong and the gigantic Yaya Toure in the middle of the park stank of damage limitation. Debut-making David Silva was peripheral. Itâ€™s not obvious that he will have same appetite for battle as Luka Modric, for example. I think Iâ€™d want a bit more for my money.
Certainly I wouldnâ€™t swap many of our players for theirs. Huddlestone for Barry? No way. Modric for Yaya Toure? Give me the Croatianâ€™s flair and fighting spirit any time. Bale for Silva? Not by a long way at this point. Lennon for SWP or Adam Johnson? SWP, never; Johnson, maybe one day. Any of their defenders instead of ours? No thanks.
For example, theyâ€™ve spent Â£16 million on a left back. He didnâ€™t appear for the second half, and was probably sitting in a dark corner waiting for his head to stop spinning after marking Lennon for 45 torrid minutes. In comparison, Assou-Ekotto was diligent in defence and supplied a stream of fine passes for Bale to gallop onto.
I would however take the unwanted Craig Bellamy off their hands, but there seems as much chance of that happening as there is of getting a beer at the Lane with 15 minutes left to kick off.
By Andy Knaggs
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