It was first against second in the Premier League, and much of the prematch emphasis was how far ahead of the field Manchester City would be once the Pep Guardiola bandwagon rolled past Tottenham at White Hart Lane. Commentators on national radio asked if the limit of Spurs’ ambition might be to challenge for a place in the top four this season. As it happened, both theories were misguided.
Spurs took full advantage of the vulnerabilities that City has shown in the last week–first against Swansea last weekend and in midweek against Celtic in the Champions League–and deservedly won 2-0. It could have been more, had Erik Lamela not missed a second-half penalty. Guardiola would have known that Mauricio Pochettino’s side would press goalkeeper Claudio Bravo and his defense, but City seemed shocked by the host’s intensity.
This performance could prove a pivotal point in the season. City under Guardiola is still a joy to watch and a favorite to win the league, but remains a work in progress, and it misses the injured Kevin de Bruyne more than any other player (although Spurs were without Mousa Dembele and Harry Kane and did not miss a beat).
As for Tottenham, a top-four spot should not be the limit of the club's ambitions this season. The steady progression under Pochettino, as well as the regular contract renewals that keep this young squad in place, point to a bona fide title challenge this campaign. Even after this game, bookmakers are placing Tottenham fourth in the betting odds, behind Man City, Arsenal and Liverpool. For all the talk about this season being a Manchester-based battle between Guardiola and United coach Jose Mourinho, the most serious challenger to City is actually Pochettino’s hungry young side.