Manchester City ‘too nice. We have to be killers,’ says Bacary Sagna

City were surprisingly defeated by Tottenham at White Hart Lane

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Manchester City are falling back into bad habits. After an explosive start to the season, they have lost three of their last four games, their 4-1 beating by Tottenham Hotspur on Saturday the worst of the lot.

City manager Manuel Pellegrini did not want to go into detail afterwards but right-back Bacary Sagna was strikingly honest in his diagnosis of what has gone wrong and the mental softness that threatens to derail a second successive City season.

Tottenham equalised just before the interval with a goal that should not have stood, and City never recovered.


“Everyone was upset,” Sagna said. “We had to keep playing as a team, keep some composure, and we didn’t have it. We were too nice, we lost too many duels, and we have to be killers.”

Spurs overran City in the second half and Sagna pointed to the 2-1 Champions League defeat against Juventus, in which City took the lead, missed chances to kill the game, and then lost it.

“Not just now, but against Juventus,” he said, “we had the chance to score goals and we didn’t. At the end of the game, we lost the game. We have to learn, we have to keep positive. We controlled the first half and we have to keep reminding ourselves to be positive.”

Suddenly the picture looks very different for City, who won their first five Premier League games, scoring 11 and conceding none. It felt then as if City might stroll to the title. Now it is hard to judge where they will end up.

“Maybe we have shown too much confidence,” said Sagna. “I think we had to keep working hard if we wanted to stay on top. We know we have the quality players to make a difference, we know we are a good team, we know we can be champions, we know we can be competitive.”

Not all of City’s quality players have been involved recently, and that is part of the problem. Vincent Kompany limped out of the Juventus game with a calf injury and has not played since; he is unlikely to be fit to face Borussia Mönchengladbach  on Wednesday. David Silva has also missed the last three matches. Yaya Touré was taken off against Spurs with a hamstring problem that will be assessed today. Joe Hart was not risked after back trouble, but should be fit for Wednesday. Sergio Aguero, who has two goals in nine appearances this season, does not look fit.

City are having to play without the spine of their side, but they had enough big-money international players on the pitch on Saturday to put up a fight, which they did not.

Tottenham gave everything they had, overwhelming City physically. Mauricio Pochettino has overseen a slow start to the season but on Saturday night he felt a sense of vindication, after sensing before the match that Spurs would win.

“Friday was a special day; my feeling was correct,” Pochettino said. “You can see the special spirit of the team this week, and we deserved more against Arsenal [in the Capital Cup in midweek]. You can feel the spirit of the team is very good and very clean. My feeling was good because the players were very ready, very focused to compete today. This is the key.”