City and Spurs can forget about EPL crown
As the dust settles on a pulsating 2-2 draw between Manchester City and Tottenham, the flaws begin to reveal themselves.
Here are the reasons neither club will chase down Chelsea for the silverware.
1) Pep doesn't win from bench
Pep Guardiola deserves credit for reducing Tottenham Hotspur to only two shots on target yesterday morning (Singapore time).
Predictably, several commentators have already trotted out Guardiola's secret to stopping Spurs.
But he didn't reinvent the tactical wheel. He reverted to a back four, which pushed back Danny Rose and Kyle Walker and Spurs suffered an off-night.
It's important to focus on the latter point here.
Mauricio Pochettino certainly did at half-time, removing the ineffective Kevin Wimmer, sending on Son Heung Min and shoring up the defence.
It took time to settle - and City went ahead - but Guardiola then failed to counter the counter.
He'll focus on wasted chances, but of the two managers, only Pochettino altered the complexion of the game .
It would be in City's best interests not to lament the obvious push on Raheem Sterling in the box, but examine why an initial tactical advantage was wasted.
2) Spurs face defensive crisis
In the first half, Wimmer succeeded only in proving that he's no Jan Vertonghen.
Harry Winks did his best to fill in when Toby Alderweireld tweaked his hamstring, but suggested he's no Alderweireld and Eric Dier will always be a defensive midfielder at heart.
Hugo Lloris' rough day at the office drew attention away from the worrying ease with which City carved trenches through Spurs' makeshift defence.
Kevin de Bruyne found more gaps than a Trump speech to release galloping teammates.
When fully fit, Tottenham's trio of centre backs, along with Rose and Walker, combine to form the EPL's most devastating, counter-attacking defence.
But Vertonghen is out for six weeks and Alderweireld remains an injury doubt.
Spurs' backline, from the goalkeeper onwards, finds itself riddled with uncertainty at the worst possible time.
BY THE NUMBERS
Man City have failed to win an EPL game despite taking a twogoal lead for the first time since December 2014, when they drew 2-2 with Burnley.
Eleven out of the last 12 EPL goals scored by Tottenham players have come through either Dele Alli (six) or Harry Kane (five).
Man City goalkeeper Claudio Bravo has conceded 16 goals from the last 24 shots on target he has faced in the EPL
3) Aguero gone AWOL
Guardiola's 4-1-4-1 formation shackled Tottenham for long periods, but also isolated Sergio Aguero and therein lies the striker's dilemma.
His manager respects Aguero's calibre and poaching instincts, but sends out a line-up that negates those strengths.
On so many occasions, the game appeared to pass Aguero by. He's scored 18 times in all competitions this season, but never looked like improving on that tally against Tottenham.
Indeed, Gabriel Jesus twice came closer to scoring in a 10-minute cameo.
English champions - or even top-four challengers - have rarely prevailed without a dominant striker at this pivotal stage of the season. Right now, City don't have one.
4) Spurs too timid when it matters
Remember Spurs' infamous collapse at Stamford Bridge last season? Or the dropped points against Arsenal, Liverpool, West Ham and, crucially, Leicester City in the second half of the campaign?
Echoes of mental blunders past returned to haunt Spurs at the Etihad.
Tottenham were strait-jacketed by their own timidity.
Lloris' errors were the most obvious, but his stage fright was contagious, particularly in the first half.
Wimmer was a bundle of nerves and Christian Eriksen was largely anonymous, a worrying trait of his in big matches.
Harry Kane didn't touch the ball until the 21st minute, an inevitable consequence perhaps of City's suffocating play.
But the monstrous Diego Costa, for all his obvious faults, relishes these occasions.
He spoils for a fight from the first minute. So do Zlatan Ibrahimovic, N'Golo Kante and even Yaya Toure, who pulled on the proverbial knuckledusters and practically taunting Victor Wanyama and Mousa Dembele to come and have a go.
The obvious similarity being Toure, Kante, Ibrahimovic and Costa are all domestic title winners, neither threatened nor cowed by the challenge.
Tottenham, for all their tempestuous attacking brilliance, are still far too shy to take home the silverware.
WHAT THEY SAY
I didn’t say that... They said we’d been ruled out of fighting for the trophy, but I’m never going to give up, never.Man City manager Pep Guardiola, denying that he had conceded defeat in the title race after losing 4-0 to Everton the previous week
It’s true that Man City were better than us, but... sometimes you can be better but don’t win.Spurs manager Mauricio Pochettino