Clearly £400 million does not buy very much these days. Embarrassingly poor for 45 minutes, Manchester City were kept in contention only by Joe Hart, the goalkeeper preferred to a disgruntled Shay Given and the least expensive player in the starting XI other than the former trainee Micah Richards.
They did improve a little after half-time, but still looked nothing like a team who will win the trophy that Roberto Mancini has boldly promised or will live up to the boasts of their marketing department or their supporters. "This is gonna be our season," the club's PR people bragged, while double-decker buses in Manchester bear the message bellowed by a fan in Tottenham High Road before kick-off: "We're gonna buy the League."
In short, they looked nothing like a team. That was always a risk in introducing three new players (who had cost £85m) in David Silva, Yaya Touré and Aleksandar Kolarov after so little time together. More baffling was a formation in which Carlos Tevez was the only striker, with David Silva and Shaun Wright-Phillips alternating flanks.
Tevez took his new responsibilities as captain almost too seriously, dropping deeper and deeper to chase the ball, which had shown no sign of coming his way. At one point in the second half he appeared in the right-back position. Silva, too, worked back into a midfield where Yaya Touré, Nigel de Jong and Gareth Barry sat, showing little inclination to push forward.
Tottenham's central pair, Tom Huddlestone and Luka Modric, still had abundant possession and used it to feed Aaron Lennon and Gareth Bale down the wings, the former showing no loss of World Cup confidence and the latter outstanding with his running and crossing. "I couldn't have asked for any more," said their manager, Harry Redknapp, who by his own standards has done little summer shopping, acquiring only the Brazilian midfielder Sandro.
Yesterday he talked down the possibility of securing either Craig Bellamy or William Gallas, although an extra central defender would be useful for a European campaign that begins on Tuesday in Berne without Ledley King, who cannot play twice in a week. "In the hour that we had with the players this week," Redknapp added – he had been the fiercest critic of the disruptive international friendlies – "we worked on pressing them all over the park. But their keeper was fantastic and it was difficult keeping up the intensity of the first half."
Mancini had cut a frustrated figure for much of the game, regularly berating his players, though he was prepared to take grateful consolation from the second-half improvement. "I'm happy for the second half," he said. "It's difficult because Tottenham are a strong team and these players played together for the first time. We need time to work together."
He hopes that Given can be persuaded to stay, although Hart's heroics must have led the experienced Irishman to believe he will spend an awful lot of time sitting in the dug-out watching if he does.
In that first half the young goalkeeper now installed as No 1 by both Fabio Capello and Mancini made half-a-dozen saves. The best was to his left with one hand as Jermain Defoe attempted to capitalise on a Tottenham ploy as difficult to counteract as it is predictable: Lennon crosses, Peter Crouch heads down and Defoe shoots. Hart next pushed Huddlestone's 25-yard volley wide, and almost immediately saved a deflection from Benoît Assou-Ekotto's drive. He thwarted Defoe with his feet and then with a block and when he might have been beaten, Vincent Kompany stood tall in the way of Lennon's shot.
Yaya Touré's routine effort in the 37th minute was City's first, and there were only two more half-chances for them: Wright-Phillips wanted far too much time and was robbed by Assou-Ekotto, and his replacement, Adam Johnson, set up Tevez for a shot deflected over the bar. Emmanuel Adebayor did not appear until the last 10 minutes and with Bale and Roman Pavlyuchenko denied in Tottenham's last flurry, the first game of the Premier League season somehow finished goalless.
Referee: Andre Marriner
Man of the match: Hart
Match rating: 7/10