MANCHESTER — The juggernaut that is Manchester City shows no signs of slowing down as they beat Tottenham Hotspur 4-1 to extend their record-breaking run of victories.
As the freezing fog rolled in and hung over the Etihad Stadium on Saturday, there was nothing misty about Man City’s play. Clarity remained as Pep Guardiola‘s men secured their 16th consecutive win in the Premier League with minimal fuss thanks to a goals from Ilkay Gundogan and Kevin De Bruyne and a late double from Raheem Sterling.
Here’s what we learned from the Etihad.
THE OLD SWITCHEROO
Man City played like Tottenham and Tottenham tried to play like Man City on Saturday.
City perfected the high-press in the first half, putting the usually unflappable Hugo Lloris under pressure with several skewed clearances to show for it. They continued that ruthless pressing in the second, even though Tottenham predictably had a spell where they dominated possession at the start of the second half but couldn’t break through.
Raheem Sterling, Sergio Aguero and Leroy Sane squeezed Spurs’ back four high and the rest of the team followed. Spurs looked dangerous on a few breakaways when they did manage to manipulate the ball away from their own box but City were relentless and they taught Tottenham, so often the masters of the high-press, a lesson in how to strangle your opponents from the first whistle.
City’s incredible winning run owes plenty to their incredible individual ability on the ball, but their relentless work rate without the ball is often overlooked.
Their 16-game winning streak shows no signs of stopping and they’re not only beating their title rivals. They’re humbling them.
They are the first team since the 1953-54 season to beat each of Liverpool, Arsenal, Manchester United, Chelsea and Tottenham in a top-flight season before the New Year. There is simply no stopping City.
DE BRUYNE DELIVERS AS CITY ROAR ON
With David Silva missing this clash due to “personal reasons” it was up to Kevin de Bruyne to run the show in central midfield without his partner in crime and the man who he sits alongside as the PL’s leading assist man.
He did it admirably, as we all knew the runaway leader for the Premier League Player of the Year award could.
Dominating proceedings in the game with his sublime range of passing, the Belgian ace clipped killer balls behind Spurs’ defense on multiple occasions in the first half with incredible ease.
With City leading 1-0, he was then clattered by Dele Alli with a studs up challenge worthy of a red card but Dele was only booked. You do not want to make de Bruyne angry. How did he respond?
De Bruyne picked himself up and on the next attack drove into the box and smashed a left-footed effort past Lloris. He then showed his class by holding up his fingers to signal “21” to salute Silva. Moments later he won a penalty kick (which Gabriel Jesus missed) and he helped City ease to victory with flicks and tricks galore.
KDB is on another planet.
DELE ALLI THE ENIGMA
Dele Alli hasn’t scored in his last seven Premier League games but aside from his reduced offensive output, you can tell something isn’t quite right with the reigning PFA Young Player of the Year.
This was supposed to be Dele’s year. He’s shown his class in spurts this season with a double against Real Madrid in the Champions League and a fine display against Liverpool in the PL, but it’s hasn’t happened often enough.
He is just 21 years old. We should remember that. His form over the past two seasons at Tottenham have rightly seen him labeled as one of the most promising midfield prospects in Europe. With that have come extra distractions off the pitch as “super agent” Jorge Mendes looks to sign him up and other commercial deals roll in. He seems distracted and off the pace, unable to influence games and connect with Kane as often as he did.
His lunging tackle on Kevin de Bruyne said it all. Aside from his nasty streak surfacing once again, he looks frustrated and low in confidence and was upset at being hauled off in recent games as his drought continues. Dele was also subbed late in this thrashing for Spurs with jeers coming from all around the Etihad.
Dele Alli can get out of this rut, but there’s no denying he’s hit the toughest patch of his career so far.