Over 56,000 fans packed into Nissan Stadium in Nashville, Tennessee to watch a highly anticipated preseason International Champions Cup match between league rivals Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester City. And while the bulk of the support in the stadium and in Nashville were Spurs fans, it was City who dominated the match, almost from the opening kick. City got goals from John Stones, Raheem Sterling, and Brahim Diaz as they cruised to a 3-0 win.
Spurs started the match with a very strong lineup: Harry Winks started in midfield in place of Victor Wanyama, who reportedly picked up a slight knock in training and was held out for precautionary reasons. Otherwise, it was first choice Spurs, with all their stars in their usual places, albeit in a 3-4-2-1 / 4-3-3 formation that featured Eric Dier dropping into central defense as needed.
City also played a strong lineup, with new fullback signings Danilo and Kyle Walker getting the nod, Gabriel Jesus starting up top, and Ederson in goal. The pro-Tottenham crowd at Nissan Stadium vociferously booed Walker with every touch of the ball, but it was Walker who played an important role in City’s first half of action.
The strong lineups suggested that both Mauricio Pochettino and Pep Guardiola were taking this first half of football seriously as they try to tune up their teams ahead of the Premier League season.
City drew first blood after just ten minutes. Kevin De Bruyne had a free kick that took a deflection off of a Tottenham player and somehow met the head of John Stones, who put the ball past Hugo Lloris. The goal was a little bit luck and a little bit bad defense, as Stones was pretty wide open and had a good look at goal.
City continued to press their advantage, and pushed forward almost at will. Their starting fullbacks of Danilo and Walker opened Spurs’ defense like a can, forcing Lloris into action on numerous occasions. Hugo made at least four quality stops in the first 45 and the halftime scoreline could have been significantly worse.
Spurs did have a few good moments. Midway through the half Kieran Trippier put a very nice crossfield ball to the foot of Dele Alli, but City keeper Ederson read the situation well and went low to block Dele’s shot.
A half hour in, Spurs had one of their best chances courtesy of a Christian Eriksen free kick. His 35’ blast was headed for the top left corner but Ederson dove to make another good save.
The match settled down after the first 25 minutes but City still had the bulk of the ball for the and were quite obviously the better team, with Spurs unable to get anything going through midfield.
There were a flurry of good chances in the waning minutes of the half. Hugo made another nice save on Gabriel Jesus on another City breakaway, and Jesus himself should’ve scored just before the intermission, but somehow managed to misfire from a simple cross. In between, Christian Eriksen threaded a fantastic through ball to an on-rushing Harry Kane, but Kane — who was starved for service for most of the half — uncharacteristically put his shot over the bar.
The first half ended with City in front 1-0.
Michel Vorm was the only halftime substitution, as he came in for Hugo Lloris. Spurs were hoping their first choice XI would be able to right the ship in the beginning part of the second half, but it was still mostly one-way traffic for City.
On a number of occasions throughout the match, Spurs’ frustration started to bubble over a bit. Dele Alli had two shoving matches with City players in the first half, and Eric Dier scuffled with De Bruyne after the latter went through the back of Dele in Spurs’ half.
At the sixty minute mark, City opted to make wholesale changes, bringing in Yaya Toure, Eliaquim Mangala, Samir Nasri, Sergio Aguero, and promising youngster Phil Foden. Aguero in particular wasted no time in attacking a Spurs back line that had been under siege the entire match.
Within eight minutes of coming on, Aguero had three very good scoring opportunities: one that provoked a save from Vorm, and two that careened off the post. Spurs’ defense simply wasn’t able to cope with the pace City constantly threw at them.
Spurs eventually made some substitutions, with Georges-Kevin N’Koudou, Kevin Wimmer, Vincent Janssen, and Tashan Oakley-Booth taking the pitch. It didn’t stop City, though, as Raheem Sterling doubled their lead on a breakaway goal, easily outpacing Ben Davies who was a good step behind.
Spurs did have a couple of positive moments. Christian Eriksen had a ripper of a long range shot parried away, and Vincent Janssen had a nifty bit of skill towards the end as he poked the ball over the keeper only to have his chance tipped away. But City had 20 shots in this match, 11 on goal, to only 8 shots (4 on goal) for Spurs.
City added the icing on the cake just before time after Brahim Diaz poked home a rebound effort after a nice save from Vorm. It was no less than City deserved, and based on that performance today they are going to be a formidable threat in the Premier League.
The final score was 3-0.
- It’s just preseason. It’s just preseason. It’s just preseason. It’s just preseason. It’s just preseason. It’s just preseason.
- This was, without equivocation, a beat-down by City and was painful to watch. It could’ve easily been 6-0.
- That said, getting smoked by a league opponent in preseason might be the best thing that could happen to Spurs. It’s rare that you get a sneak peek at a league rival before the season starts, and Spurs now know what they need to work on.
- Holy smokes does City look good. It’s easy to forget that they were on balance very good last year, and now they have fullbacks that are worth a damn.
- The 4-3-3 with Eriksen and Dele behind Kane played extremely narrow with the only width coming from the fullbacks. Ben Davies and Kieran Trippier were both caught upfield on numerous occasions. It might have been different if Rose were in for Davies, but it was a problem.
- Georges-Kevin N’Koudou was lively and bright as a left sided attacking midfielder. He made a number of nice football moves on the night and has not at all hurt himself in this preseason.
- Kyle Walker-Peters also had some nice moments as a late sub, but by that point City had mostly taken their foot off the gas.
- A note about Kyle Walker: he’s still every bit as good a player as he was for us last season. He created or assisted in several big chances for City, especially in the first half, and he’s going to be extremely good for them.
- It’s important not to panic after this result, but City look ready for the season. Spurs do not. A few signings would be fine, thank you, but even then it’s hard to say that anyone coming in will be ready in time for Newcastle...
- The attendance of 56,232 was the largest attendance of any soccer match held in the state of Tennessee. American Spurs fans turned out in force in Nashville. A shame they couldn’t see their beloved club get a win, or even a goal.