How do you solve a problem like figuring out how the hell you’re going to beat Manchester City?
It’s a head-scratcher for sure, and an issue that Tottenham will have to solve this weekend when they face the defending champions, who began the season by sauntering to a casual 5-0 evisceration of West Ham.
On Thursday’s edition of the Totally Football Show, our panellists pondered how Mauricio Pochettino’s men could get the better of City, although Michael Cox doesn’t really fancy their chances.
“I have a suspicion that City are just going to be even better than last season and blow a lot of teams away,” he said.
“I do fear for a lot of sides coming across City this season, with Kevin de Bruyne coming back, Mahrez was in and out of the side last season – if he gets towards his best that’s two extra players from last season.”
South American football expert Jack Lang added: “Gabriel Jesus too. I watched him a lot in the summer and he really looked like he was on it. Especially now Leroy Sane is out, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him play on the wing every now and then. So that’s three top-rate players who weren’t perhaps on it last year.”
These two met in that extraordinary Champions League quarter-final last season, so could Spurs take some inspiration from their remarkable win on that occasion?
“Weirdly City could hope for the same result, because they won that game 4-3,” said Duncan Alexander. “That game was notable for the sheer ridiculousness of the start, with five goals in the first 20-odd minutes. I think if Spurs are going to do anything in this game they need to start in the same furious fashion – they were a bit sluggish at the start against Aston Villa last weekend.”
Conversely, Jack Lang suggests a slightly different approach, inspired by the first instalment of that tie.
“I would say the first leg of that Champions League tie that would be a more appropriate model for Spurs to follow. That was one of the few times I can remember, in the last 12 months or so, when City were knocked out of their rhythm.
“I just think teams trying to go blow-for-blow with City, you might get lucky and score every now and then, but it’s hard to see anyone stifling them if you’re just going to attack all the time. I think playing fairly conservatively would be the way I would go.”
And if Spurs do lose, it would complete a rather unwelcome statistic, Duncan telling us that “will be seven away defeats in a row in the Premier League, which is something they haven’t done since the glorious George Graham era.”
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