One of the 2 most inventive passers on Manchester City’s books was within the beginning 11. He had an help after 14 minutes. Not for City, admittedly. Joao Cancelo was within the Bayern Munich group. The beneficiary of his provide line was not Erling Haaland however Kingsley Coman. He was dealing with Wolfsburg and a former Wolfsburg playmaker, Kevin De Bruyne, turned the most recent public goal of Pep Guardiola’s displeasure. There was no pretence of a minor damage. His demotion was tactical. “Definitely,” mentioned Guardiola. was
There are totally different types of exile, to the Bundesliga and the bench. One will final for 5 months. The different spanned 58 minutes. It provided scant proof City are higher off with out the participant with probably the most assists within the Premier League this season and the fifth most in its historical past. It did show the restlessness of Guardiola, the fractiousness with a few of his gamers that has prolonged past Cancelo’s dramatic fall from grace.
As City suffered their annual defeat on the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, the end result was the identical, the small print totally different. Guardiola’s group misplaced and didn’t rating: for as soon as, neither did Son Heung-Min. But if Tottenham had been depleted by the lack of their supervisor, with Antonio Conte watching on from residence after keyhole surgical procedure to take away his gallbladder, City felt weakened by selection.
Rewind per week and there was a case for arguing their strongest aspect at Tottenham would have featured De Bruyne, Cancelo, Ilkay Gundogan and Ruben Dias. The eventual aspect included none. As Riyad Mahrez had tormented Tottenham in a second-half comeback 17 days earlier, the logical expectation is perhaps that the Algerian, having already struck the bar, would retain a pivotal half in Guardiola’s plans. Instead, he was sacrificed when De Bruyne was summoned.
If Guardiola continues to confound, overthinking has led to underachievement of late. The City supervisor has misplaced to Cristian Stellini and Nathan Jones in a couple of weeks. It could endlessly stay a novel double, albeit not one to cherish. Tottenham’s lugubrious-looking assistant had picked the group, chosen to not embody new signing Pedro Porro, and should congratulate himself on his positive contact. There had been no shocks in his group choice, simply within the end result: Tottenham, with no win towards big-seven opponents this season, lastly proved their big-match pedigree.
Guardiola, in the meantime, experimented by doing one thing that was as soon as the epitome of orthodoxy. On a weekend when Sean Dyche didn’t play 4-4-2, he did. It was partly a mirrored image of his makes an attempt to cram Julian Alvarez into the group: the alternative for maybe the world’s finest midfielder was a World Cup-winning striker. It additionally highlighted a bespoke gameplan: Alvarez has made 5 Premier League begins and two have come towards Tottenham. He had scored within the first however there was no repeat of City’s four-goal second half then.
Alvarez however not less than provided the promise of an equaliser. Haaland didn’t: eight City gamers had a shot, Kyle Walker and Manuel Akanji amongst them, however not the Norwegian. For virtually an hour, he was missing his provider in chief: De Bruyne has arrange 5 of his targets. Belatedly showing, the Belgian provided urgency whereas extending a private drought to 12 video games. Yet it was solely logical that his targets would grow to be extra rare after Haaland’s arrival. Instead, he was a part of a midfield that turned stretched as City sought an equaliser and Tottenham threatened to catch them on the break; whoever the supervisor, it has been a worthwhile formulation for Spurs towards Guardiola.
Dropping De Bruyne might be framed as an try to do one thing totally different to halt that shedding run, however he has solely really solely began on two of these 5 journeys to Tottenham. He is nicely acquainted with the plush seats of their dugouts.
And in his absence, and whereas Haaland was nameless, the sport was determined by a midfielder Guardiola inspired at Bayern and a participant who might be each scorer and creator: the irrepressible Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg arrange Harry Kane’s document 267th aim for Tottenham. Guardiola had known as Kane probably the greatest strikers he noticed in his life; now he has overhauled one of many most interesting he was too younger to see.
Jimmy Greaves’ ultimate Division 1 recreation got here when Guardiola was three months outdated, the final of his 266 Tottenham targets the yr earlier than. His document had gone unchallenged for half a century. Greaves was the byword for targets, the quicksilver predator. With his low centre of gravity and seamless acceleration, the best way he glided previous defenders made him seem like the Sergio Aguero of the Sixties.
Kane was by no means as slick, however it’s a colossal feat for a self-made participant. Greaves was a teenage phenomenon. Kane was not. Instead, he was the good improver, the ahead who polished his expertise till he shone. It is eighteen months since Guardiola tried to signal him, 5 years since he branded Tottenham “the Harry Kane team”. It is more true now than it was then. Manchester City have usually been the Kevin De Bruyne group. Not when he isn’t on the pitch, although.