That’s probably not how Mauricio Pochettino drew it up, but he’ll take the result. Tottenham Hotspur came from behind twice to level the score against Manchester City and benefitted from a late VAR decision that waved off the Citizens’ potentially winning goal as Spurs earned a 2-2 draw at the Etihad Stadium on Saturday.
There aren’t many people, even Tottenham fans, who wouldn’t admit that City deserved more than a point from that match after outshooting Spurs 30-3 and dominating xG 3.3-0.2. But that’s football, and Spurs have certainly been on the receiving end of a proper “footballing” like this in the past, just when the shoe’s been on the other foot.
After the match, Pochettino admitted that City were the “better” side but praised his team’s tenacity and mindset to earn an important point at the home of the two-time defending champions.
“I think [City] were better. I think they dominated the game. It was clear the game. Of course with the different circumstances of both teams I am happy with the result. It was a very positive result for us here, one point. I’m happy because of the point but like I said after the game against Aston Villa we need to improve a lot.
The most important thing is the faith and the belief we showed today and the character. For two times going behind and to come back each time, in the way we fight I am so happy. But in the same time I am critical because we need to improve a lot. I think we are going to improve because with this sort of positive result, four points after two difficult games, I think it’s a very positive start to the season.”
According to the metrics, Spurs got spanked at the Etihad. But football isn’t always about metrics — sometimes you get stubborn and lucky, and Spurs were both on Saturday. But that also glosses over the fact that Spurs were without Son Heung-Min, who served his final match of his suspension from a red card incident last year, along with Dele Alli, Ben Davies, and Juan Foyth who were all injured. New signing Giovani Lo Celso made his Tottenham debut against City, but only played 9 minutes and will need some time to acclimate to his new team and teammates.
Throw in what Poch called an “unsettled” squad that still could see a couple of player departures — most notably Christian Eriksen, who was not at his best on Saturday — before the close of the European transfer window, and you have the potential for some early slip-ups. Pochettino admitted as much in his remarks to the press.
“The squad is still unsettled. We’ll have to wait until the transfer windows close in Europe to see which players we are going to have. That is never easy and we face today the last Premier League winner, for the past two seasons. They are a very consistent team, improving every season, signing players that came from different teams who were winning, like Cancelo from Juventus. We are in a different process. That is why we cannot compare both teams.
“...I think it’s not an excuse. I am not complaining about the situation, only explaining it. Of course we still need to wait to see what happens with our squad. Maybe some players are still in a situation where things can happen. We are not a closed squad where nobody is going to move. Maybe nobody will move. The circumstances are that things are still open. The market in Europe makes things difficult in the way that we work and this type of situation doesn’t help the coaching staff to create a good dynamic.
“Of course we are going to start our sixth season at Tottenham and I think we’re world champions at adapting ourselves to different circumstances. It’s a great experience. We are going to be one of the best coaching staffs in the world at adapting to circumstances. Today when you play against a team like Manchester City, with all the circumstances we have inside our team, I think 2-2 and a point is massive.”
Saturday’s draw showed that Spurs can grind out results even when they’re not playing especially well and against top-tier opposition. This could have been a demoralizing defeat. Instead, Spurs head into next week’s match at home to 0-2 Newcastle with some confidence, the wind at their back, and the return of a prodigal Son.