A full debut for the £100m man, a no show from Harry Kane amidst transfer speculation, and a huge opening day loss for Manchester City. A goal from Heung-Min Son sealed the win.
For the opening game of Manchester City’s 2021/22 Premier League title defence, Pep Guardiola selected a strong team. Considering how few players were up to full fitness levels. Jack Grealish made his full Manchester City debut, operating in midfield ahead of Ilkay Gundogan and Fernandinho. Ederson returned in goals, behind Joao Cancelo, Nathan Ake, Ruben Dias and Benjamin Mendy. The attack was spearheaded by Ferran Torres with Raheem Sterling and Riyad Mahrez. Surprisingly, Kevin De Bruyne was selected for the bench. He was assumed to be weeks from fitness.
Manchester City went into this game looking for their first-ever win at Tottenham’s new stadium. It was not to be. City started the game brightly and it looked like Spurs would struggle to live with them. After just two minutes, Jack Grealish had won his first free-kick, but Ilkay Gundogan’s effort hit the wall.
City heavily preferred the left attacking channel from the start (by the 31st minute it was 55% of City’s play), with link-up play through Jack Grealish, Raheem Sterling and Benjamin Mendy. However, Pep’s men failed to create much real danger and eventually, Spurs grew into the game. Particularly Japhet Tanganga was doing a good job breaking up City’s attacks. Of course, it helps when you have a deal with Anthony Taylor that leaves you immune to yellow cards.
Around the 20-minute mark, Spurs began to make more a game of things and were breaking onto City with pace more frequently. Benjamin Mendy in particular was guilty of losing possession in dangerous areas on numerous occasions. In the 39th minute, Heung-Min Son almost found the bottom corner, but the cheeks of Joao Cancelo diverted the ball just wide.
Half time rolled around, and both sides would have been equally happy and unhappy. The second half began, and Spurs walked into the ascendancy. I say walked because that was all the pace they needed. For some reason, City just refused to run for huge chunks of the match at a time. It was bizarre.
The blow arrived against City in the 52nd minute. Yet another Spurs counterattack left Heung-Min Son one-on-one against Nathan Ake. I don’t think the Korean winger even noticed him as he cut inside and fired into the bottom corner. It just had to be him, of course.
It could have been put to bed shortly after as Steven Bergwijn missed a glaring chance in the 59th minute. At this point, Kevin De Bruyne, Zinchenko and Gabriel Jesus were warming up. Raheem Sterling made way for Gabriel Jesus, Benjamin Mendy for Zinchenko and Riyad Mahrez for Kevin De Bruyne.
Almost immediately City looked more dangerous, but the damage was already done. The substitutes were barely given ten minutes to go on and change the game. With the clear time wasting and feigning injury, there was just no more opportunity. Another loss for City away at Spurs’ new ground. Poor overall.
Up next, Pep’s men welcome Norwich to the Etihad on Saturday, August 21st.
THE £100M MAN
A full debut match for Jack Grealish, and how do we think he faired? I think he did well in parts, but City were far from good today all over the field. It was pedestrian, lethargic, and just off the boil. It is what it is, and we can only improve as our fitness does. Individually though, his drive on the ball is so entertaining to watch. We should all enjoy his football at the club, he'll light up the pitch. I wish at times we could transplant his desire to run into Raheem Sterling.
THE MENDY CONUNDRUM
How many more chances are we going to hand this player? I really try to give him the benefit of the doubt, but if the only upside to his sheer liability in defence and possession is a few crosses then it is not worth it. Spurs targeted him from the start, and he panicked numerous times. He’s not good enough. We know this, Spurs knew this, and every other coach knows this.
MAN OF THE MATCH
It has to be Fernandinho. It could have been Kevin De Bruyne, who was on for ten minutes. But Fernandinho, the 36-year-old, was probably our standout player today. The number of interceptions and tackles he made would be impressive for any midfielder, but factor in that he’s older than Wayne Rooney and it’s even more impressive. He just doesn’t seem to age.
EDERSON – 6 (Had little to do in fairness, and could do nothing about the goal)
CANCELO - 6 (Very average game from him today, he's so much better than this)
DIAS - 6 (A couple of decisive blocks, could maybe have done better on the goal)
AKE - 5 (Was left exposed on the counter, but should have made it harder for Son)
MENDY - 3 (Some decent crosses, but he lost the ball so often)
FERNANDINHO - 8 (Brilliant for large periods, but fell off in the second half)
GUNDOGAN - 6 (Looks a little slow for the pace of the game, mentally and physically)
GREALISH – 7 (So exciting, but drifted out of the game too often)
STERLING - 5 (Looks like a player arrived back in training less than a week ago, which he is)
FERRAN - 7 (Made some very good runs, just didn't work out today but good effort)
MAHREZ - 6 (Always looks dangerous but visibly tired in the second half)
Subs: De Bruyne – 7, Jesus – 6, Zinchenko – 6
Written by: @CityReportBen
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