After the Villa game and ending the second half positively I thought this game (City) would be different (in a sense, we would have learnt my our first half failures against Villa). We didn’t. The players seemed unsettled, whether it is as Pochettino says, about the European transfer window or not we weren’t firing on all cylinders.
Even before the match and journey up to Manchester the players seemed hesitant and that feeling didn’t leave once we arrived, during and after the game. Just a sense of relief that we got a point.
City behaved like possesses tigers, running, here, there and everywhere. They knew what they had going for them, our players seemed startled on occasions, like a rabbit caught in the headlights. But to be fair, there were times where we dominated. But they were few and far between.
The arrival of midfielder Tanguy Ndombele from Lyon for a club-record £55m (Independent) sparked understandable excitement among us. He was so impressive during pre-season, grabbing an assist against Juventus with his first touch as a second-half substitute, and scored a fine goal on his Premier League debut against Aston Villa last week.
But despite working hard and winning more tackles than anyone else (five), he couldn’t provide the spark that we needed at the City ground, while Christian Eriksen put in a performance that said he wasn’t settled, amid all the transfer speculation. Pochettino said that once the European window closed he hoped the players would be more settled.
Any time our warriors did break through the high-pressing line of City, we were halted by the strong presence of City’s new signing Rodri or deceived by the offside trap successfully laid by the home side’s back four. Moussa Sissoko had some extraordinary success down the right in the first half when he flicked it over Ilkay Gundogan’s head, but he lacked composure at the final moment, blasting his pass straight into Aymeric Laporte. Kane was frustrated throughout the match and he showed it.
A frustrating day for us, and City, because their final goal was disallowed. The good news is that we’ve only got to play City once more in the league, and even though we’ve got to play Liverpool twice we still can win the title. There are only two really tough teams in the Premier League and one of them we got a lucky draw against and luck does play an essential part in winning things. Our problems have occurred when we’ve faced those under the top four. Last season we lost silly matches, if we had won them we would have given City, Liverpool and Chelsea (who finished fourth) a run for their money. So we can do it. Last least Liverpool had only lost one match in the league but drew too many. City lost a lot more but didn’t draw so many. So get the arithmetic right, and anything is possible.
Looking at the league table after two games is a waste of time and doesn’t really tell you anything. City are third and Brighton are 4th. A fool’s paradise. By Christmas I expect Liverpool and City near the top still fighting for the number one spot, I do believe we are better than Chelsea, United and Arsenal, but that doesn’t mean we haven’t got it in us to be there or thereabouts (top 2). Of course, we also can’t dismiss those under Chelsea, United and Arsenal… but I doubt any of them will be challenging the top four. Last season Everton started coming on strong at the end of last season and that was about it. Those that came up will struggle with at least one of them being relegated. One other will be fighting to stay above the relegation zone, while the third will get a comfortable spot.
Newcastle game next week will be a lot harder than it looks on paper. They’ve lost their first two games and there is nothing worse than a wounded animal. After that, we travel to Woolwich Arse-nal and there we must get a win. It is lowly teams – or lowly teams last season – that we must beat and beat well. If we get a draw, we can just about live with it, if we lose we will have to reassess the whole situation. But think positive. The players shouldn’t be pushed around by the fears in their mind, but led by the dreams in their hearts. Turn them into reality and those fears will evaporate.
A man I once met, actually met on many occasions, was Bill Nicholson. He famously said once ‘It is better to fail aiming high than to succeed aiming low. And we of Spurs have set our sights very high, so high in fact that even failure will have in it an echo of glory.’
I also believe that this is Pochettino’s final season to get it right, fail, and we should look somewhere else so that that person can take us to the next level. Succeed and he could start to wobble Bill Nicholson’s status… but just one season alone won’t replace the man. Pochettino would have to build on success year after year and some.
As I said at the beginning of this article “VAR came to our rescue”. It can become our friend (as well as our enemy), but we can’t rely on it… we must take the initiative, luck always plays an integral part in success, but it is not the sole benefactor.
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