Back in October, Tottenham Hotspur gave us an insight into what was to come for Manchester City. Pep Guardiola’s side headed to White Hart Lane having won 10 of their previous 11 matches but Spurs deservedly inflicted a first loss on their opponents’ new manager. Since then, consistency has evaded City and they have fallen to fifth in the Premier League table and 10 points off leaders Chelsea.
The team’s patchy form highlights a squad which should not be this flawed considering the towers of money at their disposal for recruitment. Guardiola has borne the brunt of the criticism, because it was presumed that his track record of winning would seamlessly translate. But while he has been culpable for some of their problems, sometimes the tools are to blame as well as the workman. Pablo Zabaleta, for example, is not Philipp Lahm.
What City cannot afford is a repeat of meekness shown at Everton when they host Spurs on Saturday evening. Just like at Leicester in December, City conceded four versus Everton, with their defence at sixes and sevens. And the trouble for Guardiola is that when Tottenham are good, they are very good. Mauricio Pochettino’s players were sensational in their last outing, putting four past West Bromwich Albion. Spurs suffocated West Brom, were ferocious in their 50-50s and razor sharp to every loose ball. In fact, Pochettino’s team played how Guardiola might envisage City performing when he gets in the right personnel. While the Catalan might no longer see City as part of the title race, a win for Tottenham would put them within four points of Chelsea for 24 hours at least.
If you’ve conceded the most goals in the league so far this season what you probably don’t want is a visit to the division’s top scorers. Poor Swansea City. The Welsh club have shipped a quite remarkable 49 goals in 21 matches in 2016-17. Liverpool, on the other hand, have thumped in 49 at the right end. After suffering a 4-0 loss to Arsenal last weekend, Saturday lunchtime’s match at Anfield is soon to be followed by trips to Man City and Chelsea. To be honest, it would have been understandable if Clement had delayed taking the job until after this sequence. As for Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool, a failure to hold onto leads in their previous two games sees them third rather than second and three points off the table-toppers. A routine return to winning ways is the dish of the day for Klopp, what with Chelsea next up in the league on Jan. 31.
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