Manchester City City began with great pace and urgency, slicing Tottenham Hotspur open so frequently the game might have been over by 10 minutes. But after that, the mechanism started to fail and the system got jammed. The machine was not running the way Pep Guardiola expected. The opening match did not start the way Pep wished for as the Spurs left the stadium smiling.

While City looked to hit the foot on the right paddle, the Spurs were surrounded by doubts regarding Harry Kane’s stay at North London and the performance of newly appointed manager Nuno Espirito Santo.

The reason for Kane not being selected had been due to fitness issues, having taken part in only two training sessions since returning. But, while that may be factually true, it tells nothing like the full story. Every other player who started the final of the Euros for England managed at least some pitch time this weekend. Whatever ends up happening, the Kane affair has disrupted the start of this season for Spurs.

The interest was on how Jack Grealish would fare after the failure in the Community Shield final against Leicester City. Having come off the bench in the Community Shield and operated on the left-wing, and yesterday he was deployed on the left of the three midfielders, although early on he was so high he seemed almost to be playing as a second striker alongside Ferran Torres.

Grealish worked intelligently with Raheem Sterling to occupy the left half-space and left-wing. This will be a fruitful partnership and a great source of creativity.

Not for the first time, Pep Guardiola was out-thought by Nuno Espirito Santo. Not for the first time City were undone by a pretty simple counter-attacking approach. And all of a sudden, as the speed and emotionality of Premier League football returns to its pre-pandemic levels, the issues that plagued Man City prior to their post-autumn blitz in 2020-21 look set to return.

A waning press and softness through central midfield were allowing opponents to counter too easily as the Spurs exposed City more often and made them too blunt and predictable.

Nuno’s unusual deployment of a permanently high and narrow front three – Stephen Bergwijn, Lucas Moura, and Son Heung-min never tracked back or moved to the wings – ensured Spurs could break quickly.

Their closeness not only allowed for quick one-twos between them – as for the winning goal – but also meant Tottenham dramatically outnumbered Man City in midfield.

Nuno correctly predicted City would under-stock this area, leaving Fernandinho alone as Jack Grealish and Ilkay Gundogan moved wide to create from the half-spaces.

The opening goal may have been against the run of play but its sources were no great surprise: Moura hooking a ball clear to Steven Bergwijn who led the charge, feeding Son Heung‑min on the left who cut inside and bent a shot into the far corner. Benjamin Mendy had already seemed on borrowed time at City but Nathan Ake, too, may soon be joining him on a one-way trip to Lommel.


As for arrivals, on this showing City could do with a center-forward, a midfielder, and a left-back – they need a very competent goal-scorer in the middle of the forward position. It was evident against the Foxes and the same could be seen against the Spurs.

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