Wins over Manchester City just hit differently for fans these days, and Sunday was no exception for Tottenham supporters.
They had plenty in the pre-match build-up to motivate them. Pep Guardiola’s ‘Harry Kane team’ jibe a few years ago. The speculation surrounding the striker before the game. The £100m signing of Jack Grealish which showed the financial disparity between teams like City and those scrapping for the spots below them.
While cash can win you league titles and cup competitions in bucketloads, it won’t win you every game, and that’s what we saw when an undercooked City came undone at Spurs courtesy of Son Heung-min’s curler from distance.
It was the perfect opening result for Nuno Espirito Santo, mainly because it wasn’t a one-man show. It demonstrated the strengths of every single player in their starting XI.
Japhet Tanganga, linked with a loan move to Turkey earlier in the window, gave Raheem Sterling and Jack Grealish barely anything to work with on City’s left. While Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg and Oliver Skipp looked a little nervy early on, both midfielders grew into the game and won possession frequently to give Spurs the proper platform to perform. Eric Dier and Davinson Sanchez, so often scared to death and petrified to be proactive last season, cut out and cleared everything City threw at them.
While you could probably find a few similarities, this wasn’t like Tottenham’s win over the same opposition under Jose Mourinho last season. They were so much more comfortable expressing themselves in possession, with players like Son, Lucas Moura and Steven Bergwijn happy running with the ball at their feet. There were a couple of moments of indecisiveness from Son early on, but soon he got into the swing of things and later had the confidence to breeze past Nathan Ake and curl in the game’s only goal.
City dominated early on, barely giving Spurs a sniff during the opening 25 minutes, but the desire displayed by the home side showed the players available to Nuno are more than capable of producing brilliant and resilient displays.
At points last season, Tottenham stopped using their brains during football matches, but Sunday’s win was truly pragmatic. It saw Tottenham defend proactively and pick the right moments to play on the counter. While previous wins against City have been a little fortuitous, this one was richly deserved. The opening stages aside, they never looked in trouble.
There will, of course, be teething problems throughout the season for Nuno, but this is the ideal starting point to show Tottenham can be competitive. They may not have the squad City, Manchester United, Chelsea or Liverpool can boast, but that shouldn’t mean they should be written off against those sides, as Sunday showed.
Tottenham’s players have often been mocked and ridiculed for below par performances, when in reality last season threw up an incredibly toxic atmosphere for them to attempt to play their best football.
With more of an emphasis on squad cohesion and fan unity from their new boss, and without a manager who revels in creating division, Spurs can move forward and attempt to enjoy a positive season without all of the annoying background noise.
Well, once it’s known whether Harry Kane will stay or not, anyway.