Harry Kane was absent from Tottenham’s side to face Manchester City, for what manager Nuno Espirito Santo described as fitness reasons. It looked like he was never going to play, and any suggestions he could have were a bluff. However, City have been the happier of the two sides to see Kane out.
Not only were they relieved to have to face last year’s top scorer and assistant, but they were also spared an afternoon where every move by Kane would have been the center of attention. They could go after the task at hand on the pitch, helped (on paper) by the absence of Spurs’ main threat.
The posh-seated directors will surely have discussed Kane’s transfer status in conversations that could define where Kane plays his football this season. Ultimately, that decision is up to Daniel Levy, but City will be quietly pleased that Kane is not made for this opener. Coming back late in the pre-season, Kane knows he has won a small victory over Levy by refraining from facing the team he wants to join. He won this battle, but time will tell if he wins the war.
Ake and Mendy have a hard time trying their luck
Nathan Ake has declared his intention to get more playing time this season after a turbulent opening campaign at City, and secured the vote of confidence at Spurs alongside Ruben Dias despite his mistake in the Community Shield last week. . Pep Guardiola said John Stones and Aymeric Laporte could have been available to start if needed.
Likewise, Benjamin Mendy got the nod in front of Aleks Zinchenko after a full preseason, but none of the defenders have particularly impressed as Tottenham have targeted City’s left throughout.
Ake was solid but unspectacular, but that might not be enough to keep his place ahead of Stones and Laporte. Son Heung-min easily passed him to score, but he had been completely isolated by Mendy who was well out of position and was too late to come back. There have been a few improvements from Mendy, but too many inevitable mistakes to persuade Guardiola he has the tactical conscience to play in a four-back. Aleks Zinchenko will surely return when he is in good shape.
City’s best summer signing quietly impresses
Jack Grealish will dominate the post-match analysis, and rightly so, as the Premier League’s first £ 100million player has taken the pitch for his new club for the first time in the league.
But while City saw the promise of their new signing, another summer deal showed why he could still be their best signing of the transfer window.
At Fernandinho, City have a natural leader who sets an example and has highlighted why his one-year contract extension will prove to be a vital affair. Fernandinho will continue to quietly keep City’s pace and his reading of the game is better than any other midfielder. Especially if Grealish is tasked with pushing a three-way midfielder further, Fernandinho’s reliability could be key to keeping the balance this season.
Implications for the title race
It seems silly to talk about the title on opening day, but City will be well aware that many of their rivals have gotten stronger. Games like this against a Big Six club, or at least a team capable of taking points away from them, could be decisive when the title is decided in May.
Guardiola predicted a slow start due to City’s fitness issues, and except for a brilliant 15-minute opener, he was right. A weekend where United, Chelsea and Liverpool all won, he could spoil the fact that his players haven’t surprised him by asking them to come at the end of the season.
One record stretches while another is broken
A winning round was due to end on Sunday, as City surrendered to Spurs with ten straight wins on Matchday 1. To make 11, they had to end a frustrating three-of-three losing streak at the new Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.
Once again, however, it was Son Heung-min and Steven Bergwijn who proved to be City’s enemies, with Tottenham securing four straight wins over City in their new home, and the Blues not taking a loss for the first day since 2010/11 when they drew with Spurs just a stone’s throw from former White Hart Lane.
Who needs Harry Kane?