CITY Champions had to earn Spurs by overcoming Tottenham
CITY have been peerless over the last 12 months as they romped to a record-breaking 100 points in the Premier League, but Tottenham have been a crucial marker in their success.
Pep Guardiola arrived at the Etihad in 2016 hoping to continue a remarkable record that had seen him win the league in seven of his eight seasons as a coach.
It looked initially like there would be instant success for the Catalan as they won their first ten games in all competitions, but it was a defeat at Spurs before the October international break that convinced the City coach his team were going to be in trouble for the remaining fixtures.
“We face Tottenham, a Mauricio Pochettino team,” Guardiola recalled, “and see how good they were. I said ‘Wow, we are going to suffer. This season is going to be tough.’
“The people didn’t think about Tottenham going to win the league and I suffered, I lived, I experienced it for the first time away at White Hart Lane against physicality, an amazing team the way they play, high pressing, good build up. I said to my friends, ‘It will be tough this season here,’ and we started to drop points.”
Guardiola’s fears were soon realised. That Spurs defeat was part of a stretch of six winless games, and key defeats at home to Chelsea and away to Leicester in December left the Blues facing an uphill battle for the title that they never looked like climbing.
Third place and 15 points off the champions in the final table made it appear significant work was needed to bring success. Step forward Tottenham again. Pochettino’s side were one of the teams City faced in a transformative summer that saw the squad reshaped and galvanised and Real Madrid and Spurs convincingly beaten. Danny Rose remarked on the disbelief among their players at the strength in depth City had, and Guardiola saw enough from the 3-0 win to be confident for the season ahead. “In pre-season against Tottenham, that was so important,” he said as he reflected on City’s title win – clinched the day after the Blues had won at Wembley to complete the double over Pochettino’s men.
“We could not beat Spurs last season but in LA the way we played made me say ‘wow.’
“That level was so, so good in terms of the result and the way we were hungry and aggressive with and without the ball.” Simon Bajkowski
Pep Guardiola with Spurs boss Mauricio Pochettino