>
My tribe

Poch v Pep: Why Spurs can stop Man City juggernaut

COMMENT: City at the Lane on Sunday. Now that's a test. Let's see what Pep's team is really made of. Let's see the whites of their eyes.

Tottenham are without Harry Kane. And sure, that's a blow to Mauricio Pochettino's plans. But Guardiola will travel to London without Kevin de Bruyne. Manchester City's most decisive so far this season. Sergio Aguero has been brilliant. No doubt. But everything good about City has come through De Bruyne. He's driven City. Inspired them. He's scored goals. He's created them. He's even managed to stop them. The Belgian is in career best form. All that energy his teammates were feeding off... Now gone. The outlet that he was on-field is no more. Yeah, Kane's absence hits Spurs. But a missing De Bruyne, no matter the options available to Guardiola, genuinely hurts the manager's system.

For City, Manchester United was the outlier. Take that game out of the equation and the so-called champions-elect have managed a winning five-match run against five of the bottom six teams in the Premier League. No club in the country has been granted an easier start. Even for their trip to Stoke City, Claudio Bravo was still in Barcelona, so 'forcing' Guardiola to go with the bigger presence of Joe Hart. Jammy doesn't begin to describe how it's fallen so easily for the Catalan.

But Spurs and Pochettino are a different story. There'll be no sitting back on Sunday. It'll be on from the first tackle. Pochettino won't accept anything less. Ever since that listless display at Wembley against Monaco. He's be on at them - both at Spurs Lodge and in the press. No-one was singled out. But Pochettino made it clear - Wembley was unacceptable:

"The human mind is a very difficult matter to deal with. We need to accept that and work hard to try to recover it on the field. Not aggression with the opposition, but to be more aggressive with the ball, to be more hungry."

Three games on, Spurs have six points, a Cup win and eight goals. Pochettino has Tottenham sitting in second-place - four points behind City. And they say his team's don't kick into gear until October...

For the moment, Spurs are an after-thought. Today, it's about Pep and the tippy-tappy of City. The gegenpress of Liverpool. The crises of Chelsea and Manchester United. Oh, and apparently London is now 'Red' thanks to Mesut Ozil's Arsenal.

Poch's team just don't warrant a mention. But maybe that suits them. Quietly, the manager and Daniel Levy, the chairman, have gone about transforming the club's reputation. Week after week. One after another. Last season's heroes, on Poch's say-so, have been offered - and accepted - new contracts. It doesn't produce headlines and won't lead the six o'clock news. But quietly, the manager and chairman are ridding Spurs of its 'stepping stone' rep.

Players. Big players. Now see a future at Spurs. And want to stay and be part of it. Hugo Lloris, Eric Dier, Kane, Dele Alli, Christian Eriksen... the list goes on and on. They could all move onto what many would regard as a bigger stage. But there's belief inside Spurs Lodge that last season was no one-off. And their ambition is now being met by those who hold the purse strings.

City is the opportunity to justify that faith. The point at home against Liverpool is now looking decent, given what the Scousers achieved at Arsenal and Chelsea. But Spurs, in a big TV game, left the pitch that day barely having moved out of second gear. Sunday is the chance to make the country sit up and take notice.

The 'Pepitas' in the media claim Guardiola has his peers rattled. They don't know whether sit back, or press deep. Do they target Bravo or mark the second man? But, again, we're talking about Bournemouth at the Etihad. Swansea with a manager just about out on his ear. Victories against five of the bottom six...

At the Lane, let's see how they cope with Poch's pressing. How Bravo handles Vincent Janssen chasing down every lost cause. Whether John Stones can stay calm with Alli and Heung-min Son snapping at his ankles. And that's Spurs without the ball. At Middlesbrough on Saturday, Son hit his first-half brace, but Spurs had the ball flashing across Victor Valdes' goal time and again. And we know City will concede. Pleasing for Pochettino was his players' reaction in the aftermath.

It was comfortable. They played some good stuff. But Lloris summed up the feeling inside the away dressing room when admitting: "It's true that today we had a good performance but the result is not enough, we should have scored one or two more goals, especially in the first half."

This team isn't willing to settle. For the players, nearly enough isn't good enough. And, with so many new contracts now in Levy's safe, they feel it can all be achieved in a Tottenham shirt.

After last season's heroics, Sunday is Spurs' opportunity to remind us all they're still around. And to do everyone in the Premier League a favour.


INJURY TIME

It isn't always this smooth. But if you want an example of how things are running at Spurs, just consider Harry Winks' emergence.

Spurs manager Mauricio Pochettino, having handed the 20 year-old his Premier League debut against Liverpool, gave Winks another valuable cameo in the win at Middlesbrough on Saturday.

It was 2-1, Boro were pushing for an equaliser, but the manager still had enough confidence in the young lad to throw him on to steady the ship.

Such an opportunity only came after the sale of Ryan Mason to Hull City for a Tigers' record of £13 million. Like Winks, Mason was Spurs through-and-through. He didn't cost the club a penny. But as one moves on - and for a massive profit - another is available from the academy to step up and take his place.

Les Reed eat your heart out....

Chris Beattie
About the author

Chris Beattie

Have your say
  • Add your favourite leagues and clubs
  • Build your own personal news stream
  • Easily share your favourite stories
  • Connect with what your friends are saying

Select your favourite
leagues and clubs
to get started.

Already part of MyTribe?