Pep Guardiola’s beleaguered Manchester City side will have little time to lick its wounds from Sunday’s 4-0 defeat at the hands of Everton. Next up for the Citizens is a visit from red-hot Tottenham Hotspur.
Despite being many pundits pick to win the league and coming out of the gate hot with a 10-game winning streak, it’s been difficult going for City of late. The loss to Everton left City in fifth place, 10 points adrift of leaders Chelsea.
Guardiola, who won multiple titles at Barcelona and Bayern Munich, admitted that the title was now out of reach this season and the objective going forward will be to finish in the top four.
It’s been a rude awakening for Guardiola, a manager used to not just winning, but winning his way. On the bench against Everton, he looked like a man who had no answers as his leaky defense capitulated once more.
Although City have in fact won five of their last seven matches, it’s the way they’ve lost that should be of particular concern for Guardiola. Ronald Koeman’s Everton team largely sat back and allowed City to have the kind of possession Guardiola’s teams are known for. However, they would not be broken down and were clinical on the counter; launching four attacks that resulted in four goals.
While Guardiola’s commitment to possession football has been regarded as a virtue up until now, many in England are beginning to accuse the Catalan of tactical inflexibility. Others are questioning some of his decisions – mainly the decision to boot out Joe Hart, a seasoned Premier League keeper, for Claudio Bravo, who has yet to come up with a big save for City, despite his ability to pass the ball from the back in the manner Guardiola prefers.
With his team in such disarray, City could be ripe for the picking for Tottenham. Mauricio Pochettino’s side sits in second place, seven points behind Chelsea and have won their last six games in a row while conceding just three goals.
However, Pochettino received a blow this week as it was announced defender Jan Vertonghen would be sidelined for up to two months with an ankle injury sustained against West Brom. Vertonghen has been the lynchpin in a Spurs defense that’s arguably been the best in the Premier League this season. While Spurs' success has not just been about influential Belgian, the replacements in line for him, Kevin Wimmer and Ben Davies are a significant step down.
The last time the two met, in October at White Hart Lane, Spurs ran out 2-0 winners, putting an end to City’s early season winning streak. Pochettino’s team will arrive at the Etihad Stadium riding high on the confidence of not just a six-game winning streak, but of being the team that snapped Chelsea’s winning streak.
While the absence of Vertonghen may deplete Spurs in attack, going forward the North London side boast the formidable pairing of striker Harry Kane and midfielder Dele Alli. With Danish playmaker Christian Eriksen pulling the strings, Tottenham are a match for any team in the league at the moment, meaning that win or lose, Guardiola’s City team will have their hands full when Pochettino’s Spurs come calling on Saturday.
Watch Manchester City vs. Tottenham this Saturday, January 21 at 12:30 p.m. EST on NBC.