CITY Cham­pi­ons had to earn Spurs by over­com­ing Tot­ten­ham

Manchester Evening News - - CITY - Si­mon.bajkowski@reach­plc.com @sp­ba­jko

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

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