Return of the Pep

Image Credit [The National]

Two sides playing back to back, like Spurs and Manchester City have, is the footballing equivalent saying goodbye to a friend, that you end up going the same way as; both have run out of things to say each other, and is the same in football: surprises are mollified, the tactical nuances have worn off, and everyone is simply a bit tired and just wants to get on with their day. Nevertheless, young Phil Foden in his second ever Premier League start got his first Premier League goal in the fifth minute, a 1-0 lead, which unlike the mid-week dramas, City was able to maintain.

Bernardo Silva was City’s paragon on a scorching day at the Etihad as he continuously showed bright energy, he played a pivotal role in the early opener and was debatably wrongly not awarded a penalty for his scuffle of legs with Jan Vertonghen. He was rightly awarded the man of the match for his performance, which led to us seeing his altruistic nature revealed even further, as he gave his award to Phil Foden – to honour him for his first Premier League goal.

Much has been spoken of whether Phil Foden should leave City, especially when you see the life which Jaden Sancho has made for himself in Germany, and these questions are rightly asked – as, after all, we want to make sure his talent blossoms as beautifully as his potential suggests. Even though Sancho has prospered in Germany, the circumstances for Foden, at the minute, seem to be right at City for him; he may not be getting a tremendous amount of game time, but he gives the impression that he is really enjoying being coached under Pep and playing a bit part in what might be the best team in world football (some will even say ever). Borussia Dortmund has been a fantastic home for Sancho, but that doesn’t mean it would be for Foden; however much Fifa and Football Manager will lead you to believe footballers are automated machines, not people, Foden and Sancho are different people with different needs. The question of course for Foden: is when will he be able to be regular for City? With De Bruyne now questioned with injury for the rest of the season, this might be Foden’s chance. Only after time will we know, but at the minute he is enjoying himself and clearly learning – so if he’s happy, let him be happy.  

The evidence of these two sides just being purely sick of each other, extended into the tactics, as for the last 10 minutes each side pretty much just played long balls – adverse, for both of them – City brought on Otamendi, shifting away from their playful passers, but sometimes liable, centre-halves of Stones and Laporte; while, Spurs brought on, their 6ft 4inch mascot of positive net spend and scorer of Champions League quarter-final winner, Fernando Llorente. In the end, City had enough to hold off a tired Spurs team, on what must have been one of the hottest days of the year, as they returned to the top of the league.

It showed the great mentality of this City team to secure all three points, they started the game extremely nervous, with Son being afforded a stellar opportunity which was crafted by the ever more world-class Christian Eriksen. Nonetheless, City was able to restrain the game to their pleasing, and Phil Foden scoring so early certainly went a long way in helping steady the nerves.

There remains, at time of writing, four more games for City, the silver Premier League medal must feel palpable now.