For a couple of weeks it has been possible to imagine a Premier League world where the champions-elect were not really that much better than their closest pursuers. United beat them at the Etihad; Liverpool beat them twice; Maybe this was a team who had shot their wad in the first four or five months of the season and were coming back to earth. And who better to prove that point than a Spurs side who hadn’t lost in the league at home since August and had earned more points than anyone since the New Year? And we were catching them at just the right time, coming off of three defeats. This was the moment to stake a claim.
Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. And wrong. I don’t want to spend time castigating our players or the manager. None of them were up to snuff tonight save Jan Vertonghen. After a horrid start, they played hard. And kept at it until the very end with the likes of Lucas and Sissoko doing their darnedest to bring one back when most of their mates were knackered from all the effort. But it was obvious to anyone that but for about a half hour bridging the two halves when Spurs’ press started to dictate the game—and even then it took a fortunate richocet to produce the lone goal as City’s back four was impressive throughout—City were simply better. They are one of the best sides in Premiership history. The now 87 points on the way to 100 are not an illusion. And if it had been Aguero and not Sterling, well what would the score have been then? 5-1? An AVB spectacular?
They showed intent from the start—I felt this game was going to be a 3-1 affair all along—I just got the roles reversed. But the likes of Silva and KDB controlled the midfield and they knew they could go Route One on Davinson Sanchez all night. Yes, the second goal was unfairly given, as Sterling was outside the box when Lloris made contact, but why quibble? Sane hit the post, and Sterling wasted at least three or four gilt edged chances, or maybe three or four each half. And when Spurs woke up we found the defence for City resolute—once the press turned the ball over to Dier, Dembele, Eriksen or Vertonghen, little would come of it. Can you remember a quieter game for Kane this season? (Which is why without studying all the evidence, my first blush judgment is that Vincent Kompany was MOTM, not Sterling.)
And I’m not even faulting the selection, for while Lucas and Son added some verve to the final fifteen minutes, I saw no evidence that they would be able to break down the City defenceany more than Kane, Lamela, Eriksen and Dele did. The crosses from Davies and Trippier were maddeningly inconsistent, but maybe that’s also a product of the players we are trying to beat. We’re not there yet, folks. Which makes the trophy even more crucial and the game with Manchester United season defining. Liverpool have a dream-like run that may continue all the way to Kiev and the CL final. Man United have the League Cup and, in all likelihood, a second place finish plus the satisfaction of denying City the title on their own home field. And City have a double.
We need the trophy not to reaffirm our place—being 2nd, 3rdor 4th best to a team as good as Man City is no shame. Nor is losing to Juventus. We need it to silence a lot of the noise that will build if we fail, particularly after this beat-down. They are better. Next year we’ll see. But for once all the naysayers have it right—win something and build on it. And if it means we can’t get the desired result at Brighton Tuesday, well then we ‘ve got bigger problems, don’t we?
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