“Should Mauricio Pochettino’s Tottenham win today, he’ll be the first manager to ever do the double over Pep Guardiola in a league season.”
Those were some of the words with which the commentators welcomed me as I started to watch the clash at the Etihad Stadium. It was a game of 2nd vs 5th, with both teams looking to get one over the other.
It was a great game of football. There were several goal attempts and it was end-to-end stuff; the football fan’s ultimate dream come true. There were no goals in the first half but the game ended in a 2-2 draw.
In this article, I’ll be looking at some of the talking points from the game.
1. Pep Hasn’t Lost His Mojo Yet… He’s Just Handicapped
I’ll admit it: While comparing the form of both teams going into this game, I just had that ‘pity’ feeling for the Citizens and their gaffer. The 4-0 <a href=”http://www.halftimeng.com/it-was-crazy-out-there-for-pep-at-everton-but-crazy-just-got-started/”>drubbing</a> at Everton still rang a bell and I half-heartedly expected them to be run over by a rampant Tottenham side.
But the first half display of Pep’s men proved me completely wrong! Their performance in the first 45 was one reminiscent of that glorious UEFA Champions League match against Barcelona at the Etihad last year.
The Manchester City players pressed Spurs so hard. They did a lot of running, closed down on their opponents quickly and had a handful of opportunities come their way in the process. Harry Kane’s first touch of the ball in the game came in the 20th minute. That’s how good Guardiola’s men were. But, how did the game end in a 2-2 draw if they played this well?
While a case can be made for Mother Luck not being on Pep’s side on the day, it was more of not having the ‘right tools’ at his disposal. The tactics he set out to use worked fine. Rose and Walker were busied by Sterling and Sane. Aguero did well with charging at the Tottenham back line, but these names weren’t good enough to carry out the Philosopher’s tacts.
As usual, in a bid to protect his players, Pep came out to say that maybe he was <a href=”http://www.halftimeng.com/manchester-city-pep-guardiola-says-i-might-not-be-good-enough/”>not good enough</a> for his current team. But the opposite is obvious: Those 30-year-olds are gradually sucking life out of Pep Guardiola and the legend that used to be once fearsome.
Their tired legs can’t seem to keep up with the Spaniard’s style of play and it’s majorly because of them Pep’s merely been hanging on in this league (waiting for the season to end so the exodus can begin, I guess).
<U>2. Jesus! Iheanacho is an Endangered Specie</U>
Pep must have deemed it fit to give his latest Brazilian, a shot towards the end of the game, in a bid to slowly introduce him to the almighty Premier League and Gabriel Jesus did not disappoint, scoring a goal (which was eventually ruled offside) and showing glimpses of greatness.
Things must have gone according to plan for all but what about Iheanacho? The medical team may have blamed Kelechi Iheanacho’s exclusion from the squad on some sort of mysterious injury. They would have advised that Gabriel Jesus be included in his stead, since he’s fit but what if that wasn’t the real reason Iheanacho was left out?
What if Kelechi was fit enough but was overlooked, <U>just this one time</U>, to see how good Gabriel really is? And now that the Brazilian has shown what stuff he’s made of, what next for Man. City’s golden youngster? A summer move? A loan move? Who knows?
What’s certain is this: Gabriel Jesus is a football genius (no exaggeration). He had 10 minutes to show off and he did just that. Putting one and two together, his presence at City is a threat to Iheanacho’s existence. Sounds harsh but, that’s the truth.
<U>3. The Players</U>
None currently knows the City players like Pep and his back-room staff. He probably watches the team train everyday. He knows where who fits in best. That’s why he’s the coach.
As a writer, I can only write about these players as touching their performances on Matchdays. And boy, do I have a lot to write about after the Spurs game.
Bravo would have been a great place to start. But it turns out that everybody knows he was a Brave (Grave) Mistake made by Guardiola. Otamendi is a shining light at the end of Pep’s darkened defense tunnel. Zabaleta should just retire already. Yaya can be transformed into a Viera.
Silva needs to take a trip to City’s sister team in New York and join them. De Bruyne needs to bring back the good ol’ days. Aguero will help the team a lot if he can reduce his selfishness. Sterling? His work rate is beautiful, but he needs to work on his career as a footballer, rather than as an actor. He also needs to work on his finishing and dribbling skills. Sane has loads of potential up his sleeves. Clichy needs a youngster who he can start grooming to replace him.
Chelsea seem a long way off now but at least, Pep can still push for a Champions League spot. Or better still, forfeit European football for at least a year and concentrate on building a team that can play the Philosopher’s way.