‘Why Man City’s defeat does not mean they desperately need a new striker’

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August 17, 2021
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    MOTD2 analysis

    It would be foolish to start thinking there is too much wrong with Manchester City, purely on the strength of their 1-0 defeat by Tottenham.

    Whenever City lose, it is seen as a catastrophe. Even more so when they don't score.

    So, much has been made about how drawing a blank on Sunday supposedly showed how badly they need a new centre-forward to successfully defend their title, whether or not they sign Spurs striker Harry Kane.

    I disagree on that. Yes, they struggled in the final third against Spurs and I can understand why their fans were disappointed by their performance, but you have to give a lot of credit to Tottenham for their organisation and work-rate in keeping City so quiet.

    City didn't have the solid defence we got so used to watching last season either, but then it wasn't their usual back four who lined up.

    Graphic showing Man City's starting XI v Tottenham: Ederson, Cancelo, Dias, Ake, Mendy, Gundogan, Fernandinho, Grealish, Mahrez, Torres, Sterling

    When you look at the players Pep Guardiola still has to come back to all areas of his team, there is absolutely no need to worry about the defending champions going forward.

    We know that from last season – we doubted them then after they made a slow start, but they came good and ended up dominating despite playing without a recognised number nine most of the time.

    You have to remember that now. I wouldn't just look at this game in isolation and think City need Kane or someone else to have any chance of winning the Premier League, in the same way I wouldn't say they have suddenly got defensive issues because they struggled a bit at the back against Spurs.

    Why we know Man City will bounce back

    Man City forward Ferran Torres (r)Ferran Torres did not touch the ball in the Tottenham area in the first half. His best effort after the break came when he got on the end of a Joao Cancelo cross at the near post, but he could not find the target

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    Ferran Torres was given the central striker role for City against Spurs, and did not make much of an impact.

    There is much more to come from him, I'm sure, because he is only 21 and has all the attributes to play anywhere in a front three.

    At Euro 2020, as Spain progressed through the tournament, I thought he was superb on the left or right. That wider role is probably his best position.

    As a back-up centre-forward for City right now, he is fine – but I wouldn't want to see him play there every week. He is a young player who is learning about a very difficult position.

    It's a specialist role that you grow into and become accustomed to, like Kane has done for years and years and become better and better at it.

    I think Gabriel Jesus is more suited to playing in that position on a regular basis for City and he is more likely to be the go-to option once he is properly up and running.

    Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola says new signing Jack Grealish was 'excellent'

    Of course, if City can sign Kane, he would improve their attack from last season because he's a wonderful player but, without him, they are still going to be there or thereabouts at the top of the table.

    And, while Sunday was a poor result for City, there were still some positives for them. Jack Grealish is still adjusting to his new surroundings and team-mates, but he did OK on his debut.

    He started off in a midfield three with Fernandinho and Ilkay Gundogan with Raheem Sterling to the left of him, and he showed some nice link-up play and rotated his position.

    Grealish looked as confident as ever, demanding the ball and very rarely losing it. He nearly got in early on when he was fouled on the edge of the box and, although he did not hit the heights we know he can, I still think he can be reasonably pleased with his performance.

    It wasn't the debut he would have dreamed about, but with City's quality and experience, you just know they are going to bounce back quickly. He will be a big part of it.

    Why Tottenham's plan worked perfectly

    I don't think it's fair on Tottenham to just focus on Manchester City's issues and say their attack wasn't good enough or talk about who they were missing, because I thought it was an outstanding display by Nuno Espirito Santo's side – especially in defence.

    Japhet Tanganga stood out at right-back because he was putting himself about so much against Grealish and Sterling.

    But the whole back four did brilliantly in one-on-one situations and their positional play was good. They defended crosses well and, although City had a couple of very good chances early on, they limited them to very little in front of goal in the second half.

    Graphic showing Tottenham's starting XI v Man City: Lloris, Tanganga, Reguilon, Dier, Sanchez, Skipp, Hojbjerg. Moura, Alli, Bergwijn, Son

    Spurs were set up the way I'd expect, with a three-man midfield protecting their back four, and trying to leave the front three up the pitch to play on the counter.

    It worked perfectly and, as the game wore on, they actually looked more and more of a threat.

    The crowd galvanised them and I thought Lucas Moura was outstanding, arguably their best player – not just with his attacking play on the break but also with his tenacity and defensive work going the other way.

    That's the kind of performance and mentality you need from all your players to get a result against City, on top of the right game plan too.

    Danny Murphy was speaking to BBC Sport's Chris Bevan.

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