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John Ellis's "third eye" report on Man City v Spurs, 16.12.17

John Ellis is known to many Spurs fans and we have over 450 mutual friends on Facebook. I am pleased to add this "third eye" feature article written by "El Gringo". This time John offers his thoughts on our 4-1 defeat at Man City.

John invariably comments after every Spurs game on his Facebook page, and I usually agree with everything he writes. That applies to John's detailed eye-witness report on this game, which is published below, with kind permission:-

Manchester City 4-1 Tottenham Hotspur

Firstly, Manchester City are a very, very good side - arguably the best in Europe on current form. There were question marks as to whether Guardiola could develop a Barcelona style side in the Premier League. After 17 victories and a draw when having ten men for most of the drawn game, scoring 56 goals in the process, the answer is a resounding yes. Amassing a +44 goal difference in just 18 games is an average 2.5 goal margin of victory in every game. The score lines may not have reflected their dominance away to Chelsea and Man Utd but the reality is they have thrashed all of the teams generally regarded as their title rivals.

They are no doubt on course to win the Premier League and will probably break a number of records in so doing. They may well go on to win the Champions League as well. Yes they are bankrolled by an oil state which gives them the wealth and riches to hoover up the top talent. It is sadly modern day football but as a club they are investing their monies wisely and in a long term sustainable model through world class facilities, management, coaching staff and players.

Having said all of that, other than for a spell just after half time yesterday, the Tottenham Hotspur team we know just didnít turn up. Since the Arsenal game, without being able to pinpoint the reasons why, the ďteamĒ just doesnít seem to be playing with the same joie de vivre, panache, style and possibly work rate and energy.

Undoubtedly, the loss of Alderweireld has had a destabilising impact on the defence which compounded by Sanchez being suspended has had the knock-on affect of losing Dier from his screening role in front of the defence. As well, the shape of the side has changed from the customary more solid back five to a four. As a consequence, the team has looked more exposed defensively than hitherto and especially when attached on the break and at set pieces.

Yesterday, all the goals came from our own making with three from our players losing possession and the other from yet another set piece.

Letís not kid ourselves though, this was an abject surrender and on another day, City could have more than doubled their tally. We had already got away with granting a free set piece header and didnít heed the warning. At times it was City versus Lloris who pulled off a number of fine saves to keep the score down and benefited from some woeful City follow-ups to his parries and uncharacteristic City mis-controls at vital times. City also missed a penalty and could have been awarded another for a needless irresponsible push by Rose in the box. This was as big a hammering as I have seen Spurs suffer for some time and to think before the match as fans we were delighted to hear Kompany and Silva were out.

A number of players are looking out of form, the obvious being Dele and Winks which is exacerbated by the shortage of options from the bench in these key positions. Wanyama canít come back quickly enough and whilst Pochettino doesnít normally like to operate in the January transfer window, he may need to freshen up the squad in the coming weeks.

Trippier was torn to shreds by Sane and offered very little support inside or in front of him by his team-mates. Dier is prone to the odd lapse in concentration which is more likely to lead to a goal as a central defender in a back four. This was exemplified by him wishing City a Merry Christmas with a gift-wrapped fourth goal when Lloris didnít cover himself in glory either. Lloris though can be forgiven as he kept us in the game far longer than we could have been. Having said that his kicking and passing was a constant worry in the first half.

Most were surprised to see Rose start ahead of Davies which was presumably because of his rivalry with Walker? Whilst his judgement and final ball were poor going forwards, he did quite well defensively. Our midfield seemed overwhelmed in terms of numbers and at times quality. It was sad to see Dembele out-muscled for the third goal.

Eriksen scored with a quality finish but flirted on the edge of the game for the most part. Kane had a couple of decent efforts but since returning from injury has not completely looked himself, particularly in pressing defenders. Lamela came on and waltzed through the City defence but somehow Spurs contrived to mess up the good opening he created.

As well as having the quality, City players are playing 100% for the team in working hard all over the pitch. Their players always pass to a better placed team-mate. Spurs have lost these attributes of late. During the first half Dele could have passed an easy ball out to Rose but instead chose to cut inside and effectively forwarded a pass back to the City keeper. In the second half, Rose shot over when a pass to Eriksen seemed the better option and as we know Kane has a shoot on sight policy which though not necessarily evident yesterday has been in other games. Letís hope Pochettino and his coaching staff quickly pick up on this.

The match had a few interesting side observations worthy of mentioning. It was a bitterly cold afternoon but given the quality of football on show it was still surprising to see quite a lot of empty seats in the City end. As well, there were quite a lot empty seats in the middle tier of the away end.

Spurs fans were singing disparaging songs about the history of Cityís support which was a little embarrassing. Even during the darkest of days, when they had plummeted to the third tier of the English game, more than 40,000 were turning out at a time when their then more illustrious neighbours were winning titles for fun and carrying all before them. For many years, I always thought of City, Everton and ourselves being in the difficult situation of playing second fiddle to more successful neighbours but as fans sticking by our clubs.

The match itself was played in what from the second tier was a surreal bizarre looking waterfall of fog pouring into the stadium which created quite a spectacle.

Laughably in the 66th minute after Lloris had saved and Sterling somehow scooped the ball over the bar, I wrote the following note...

ďSpurs fans finding their voice. Writing in real time, we have ridden our luck but are starting to come back. I may be proved wrong but we just might at the very least get a draw if not win this.Ē Oh dear - how wrong was I...

Pochettino talked of positives from yesterday. I can only assume he meant in strengthening his negotiating position with Mr Levy for the January transfer window!

So as heavy as the defeat was, it was only three points lost to a team from whom so far only Everton have taken a point. For the first time in many weeks, we can all (including the fans) have a midweek rest ahead of what is now a crucial match away to Burnley. Sanchez will be back to strengthen our defensive options.

The key will surely be in cracking Burnleyís miserly defence which has only conceded three home goals in nine games. As they have only scored seven, those three conceded goals cost them two defeats and a draw. A much needed win at Burnley would set us up nicely for the Christmas period. Letís hope Pochettino can work his magic in training this week!


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El Gringo's Once in a Lifetime - John Ellis's account of the 2014 World Cup in Brazil

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