Featured Image by Cartoonist Afthab Akbar
Nuno’s rapid front three caused carnage against a surprisingly sidewards Cityzens. If Kane does indeed sign, defeats like these will be less and less tolerated by owners, investors, and supporters drooling over new purchases.
Column by Sports Editor Rory Morrow
As fans returned, shuffling through turnstiles and reacquainting themselves with match programmes and club-poured pints, a comforting familiarity was returning to their team. On the field, Tottenham Hotspur, for the first time in a while played effective attacking football. Not since the glorious Poch era have they seemed so threatening. And without wantaway star Harry Kane, who despite his (and City’s) gently forceful rap-a-tap at the window, remains cocooned, imprisoned in the foreboding, gloomy attic of Levy economics. Essentially, if Man City yearn desperately for him enough, they have to pay a hefty but justified fee. Money shouldn’t be a problem but then, as Irish terrorist Patrick McCann once outlined to MI5, “money’s not our only concern”. Kane is simply priceless to Tottenham Hotspur. He is the Victoria to How I Met Your Mother’s Ted, apart from the fact the club feels fantastical; something that could only be enforced by evil agents of Manchester City. It is not and should not be a conundrum for Pep; with the money available to him and recent departures, he has to spend. But the whispered £150M price tag for Harry Kane – in the same window as paying £100M for Grealish – further illuminates the chasm in the club’s wealth, predominantly, from the “Big Six” down.
Don’t get me wrong, City’s astounding success is a lot to do with Guardiola and his irrefutable coaching drive to improve players. Yet their most noteworthy defeats have also been twanged by panicky, overcomplicated, haunting-Pep like decisions. Pep, who during his City tenure has had the Champions League trophy within fingertips reach, is a man nails desperately extending outwards yet tries to raise it from its marooned island plinth with his ears instead of his hands. The total of £250M for any two players – no matter how good they are – will still wrinkle noses, and portray a resounding victory for football capitalism for neutrals, whilst also seemingly propelling City to another title rout. Goal scorer, captain, and role model, Kane is a poster for ‘local boy does exceedingly well‘. This gripping crime drama is still to conclude; for how long will Kane be ransomed to honour his Tottenham contract? Check the contract length (3 years remaining) to find out! In reality, this is a saga, similar to their acquisition of Riyad Mahrez, that will drag on until Sky Sports, in satisfying theatrics, slam the transfer window shut.
But boy did Kane’s colleagues produce. Throughout City passed harmoniously the ball, gliding to and from the sky blue shirts like fridge magnets instantly being teleported to their intended location. Yet for all their pristine passing, there was a glaring lack of final third penetration. Joao Cancelo poked horribly wide, Jack Grealish toiled like a player shackled by an immovable object, in this case Japhet Tanganga. A courageously fruitless header from Fernandinho was one of their better openings. All that came alongside a hasty hopeful fling by Kevin de Bruyne that forced Hugo Lloris into practicing the position of goalkeeper. Spurs meanwhile played like a team fully liberated from the doldrums of a Jose Mourinho management tenure. A front three of Son Heung-min, Lucas Moura, and Steven Bergwijn wreaked havoc on the counter attack; Nuno once more utilising the devastatingly pacy players at his disposal to unsettle and ultimately triumph over Pep Guardiola.
Two seasons ago, in 19/20, Nuno’s Wolves did the double over Manchester City scoring five goals. More rocket than footballer, Adama Traore scored 3 of those, repeatedly searing clear of flailing legs and exchanged glances of horror in City’s midfield. This recipe again produced a tasty result. With the midfield robust and meaty, led by the grizzly Pierre-Emile Hojberg and muscly Dele Alli, this enabled Son and co to grit their teeth. The South Korean forward was a constant menace and ball carrier, with Bergwijn and Moura nosediving on darting raids and support runs to astounding effect. Pressing in sync bore dividends, distracting City defenders – plus some Frenchman known as Benjamin Mendy – from tracking the various driving thrusts while also rendering their defensive nous to nil. The winning goal perfectly illustrated this, as a crunching tackle birthed a counter attack. The trio drove forward purposefully, Bergwijn skipping along before Son received possession. With Moura – a lively presence best not left unattended – this obstruction enabled Son to gander into shooting territory and let fly with a whippy, venomous swing of the boot. Aptly aided by the reluctance of Nathan Ake and co to uncharacteristically not apply pressure. Not withstanding that the winner itself resulted from a well-planned and terrifically executed Nuno gameplan. Towards the end, Ferran Torres roamed hopefully and Kevin de Bruyne sprinkled some much needed creative dust. But Tottenham resolutely held on, Tanganga tenaciously outstanding and Oliver Skipp an understated, mature cog in the midfield ranks. The Harry Kane team as once famously dubbed by Guardiola, had another statement victory. More consistent wins like these and Spurs will finally have an eternal season statement to cherish, in the form of long-lost and much sought silverware.
Although their subsequent loss in the Europa Conference League last night is a glaring reminder of why the trophy cabinet has been so bare for so long, Spurs now embark on a winnable (including Arsenal) run of games before Chelsea and Aston Villa will provide stiff examinations of top four – …never mind title…– credentials. Wolves on Sunday will be a tricky but potentially profitable reunion for Nuno. City won’t panic but perhaps, despite doubters, their main striker Gabriel Jesus should start now more than ever; perhaps the only noteworthy Community Shield lesson is that they rue the sale of an in-form Kelechi Iheanacho. In their next six games, City face severe tests against Leicester City, Chelsea and Liverpool. Potentially some early title defining matches. Guardiola is more realistic than the club’s half-deluded, fully-biased Instagram who generously labelled Cancelo a creator and Grealish a glider against Spurs. Both were applicable – especially Grealish – but niether materialised at the ecstatic, joyful humdrum of the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. As for suggestions that Spurs are City’s bogey team: Pfff! Maybe at White Hart Lane, but recent 3-0 and 4-1 Etihad thumpings are not a hex in action. They are more an irritating sibling, inflicting Pep’s first Premuer League defeat, oop there’s that irksome Fernando Llorente hip again. It’s a compelling, entertaining rivalry because, (suprise!) it’s really not one-sided. Tottenham’s surprise win proves that more than anything.
City will roam on, and heartily spank Norwich. But should they get Kane? It could cause complete domination but also many disruptive ripples in the pond of football’s somewhat level playing field. With Messi at PSG – who, as a sportsperson, I would love to see win – the Kane signing will also bring a demand and expectation of top tier trophies. This season, more than ever, if a capitalist club aren’t successful, nor City quadruple candidates, or ‘blingy‘ Les Parisians the Champions League victors, then football as a whole, will have a win to savour.