If this keeps up Manchester City fans, with their backs-to-the-game Poznan celebration, are going to miss a lot of football. What they do see, however, will be worth watching.
A forward line to put even Joe Mercer's stylish 1968 champions in the shade, and for that matter the Don Revie-inspired FA Cup winners of a decade earlier, tore Tottenham apart yesterday to take their tally of goals to 12 in three matches. Edin Dzeko, a hapless figure last season with two goals in 15 league appearances, led the way with four goals including a 21-minute hat-trick taking his total this season to six in four. Suddenly the £27m City paid Wolfsburg for the Bosnian in January looks very well spent.
So, too, the £23m laid out to Arsenal for Samir Nasri last week. The way he, Sergio Aguero and David Silva interchanged positions behind Dzeko, and linked with him and each other, it seemed as if the £112m quartet had been together for years, not three training sessions. Where this leaves Mario Balotelli and Carlos Tevez, a tempestuous pair who will not have enjoyed another 90 minutes on the bench, is perhaps Roberto Mancini's only worry.
What Luka Modric thought of it is anyone's guess. Reluctantly making his first start of the campaign the Croatian lasted just over an hour. A lack of match sharpness, and Spurs' need to try and keep the deficit down, were the reasons, rather than a paucity of commitment, but Modric must have looked at Nasri's revels and wondered if he, too, should insist on moving on.
Harry Redknapp, the Spurs manager, wants to keep him, and he is likely to use a result like this to tell chairman Daniel Levy he needs more players, not fewer. His most pressing requirement is for centre-halves. Younes Kaboul and Michael Dawson received little support from their porous midfield, but also struggled with their individual battles.
To look at the team-sheets was to imagine the respective dugouts were still occupied by Ossie Ardiles and Malcolm Allison. To counter Mancini's front four, Redknapp paired Modric with his fellow Croatian Niko Kranjcar in central midfield and flanked them with Aaron Lennon and Gareth Bale. As a consequence there was, for a long time, little creative difference between the teams, but City's defending was to prove more solid and their finishing sharper.
Lennon, Kranjcar, Nasri and Rafael van der Vaart all had chances in the opening eight minutes but the most telling passage of play was the last 15 minutes of the first half. After 34 minutes Nasri linked with Gaël Clichy, exchanged passes with Aguero, and ran off Lennon before squaring for Dzeko to toe-poke in ahead of Kaboul. Spurs should have levelled five minutes later but Peter Crouch, making his first start of the season, headed wide from Bale's first-time volleyed cross. City broke almost immediately through Yaya Touré, Aguero and Nasri, Dzeko rising above Kaboul to twist and head in the cross from he latter.
Redknapp brought on Tom Huddlestone at the break, but the thoroughbred had bolted. Ten minutes after the break Touré ran around the back of Spurs' statuesque defence and Dzeko tapped in his cross. Soon after the hour came the fourth, Nasri releasing Aguero who wrong-footed Dawson before shooting past Brad Friedel. Tottenham gained a small measure of respect when Kaboul headed in Van der Vaart's corner but the afternoon soured again as the Dutchman limped off with a torn hamstring leaving Spurs down to 10 men for the last 17 minutes. They were fortunate that City chose not to rub in their advantage, but eased up until, in injury-time, Dzeko and Gareth Barry reprised a training-ground routine for Dzeko to curl in from 20 yards.
It was Dzeko's first four-goal haul since a German Cup tie against a part-time regional league side, FC Oberneuland. This was against opposition of an entirely different calibre but City are beginning to look a team capable of brushing anyone aside. When the Champions League draw was made last week Franck Ribéry, Bayern Munich's French winger, and a player who would not be out of place in City's team, put his head in his hands and groaned "Non, Manchester City. Oh non". That reaction from opponents will become common.
Substitutes: Tottenham Huddlestone 4 (Kranjcar, h-t), Defoe 5 (Lennon, 53), Livermore 5 (Modric, 66). Man City Richards 7 (Zabaleta, 64), Savic 6 (Aguero, 75). Booked: Tottenham Assou-Ekotto, Van der Vaart. Man City Zabaleta, Barry, Savic, Y Touré. Man of the match Dzeko. Match rating 8/10.
Possession: Tottenham 45% Man City 55%.
Attempts on target: Tottenham 10 Man City 9.
Referee P Dowd (Staffordshire).
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