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Tottenham Hotspur vs. Manchester City Preview: A Nu(no) era begins

The 2021/22 seasons starts in the most dramatic way possible.

Tottenham Hotspur v Manchester City - Premier League Photo by Tottenham Hotspur FC/Tottenham Hotspur FC via Getty Images

Think back to November 21, 2020. Tottenham Hotspur snagged a 2-0 win over Manchester City to end the day atop the Premier League table for the first time in far too long. It seemed like Jose Mourinho’s tactics — and antics — may finally be working as advertised, and somehow this team had a real shot at something special.

Everyone knows what happened after that. Spurs quickly collapsed, embarrassingly dropped out of the Europa League, and eventually sacked Mourinho ahead of losing to this same City squad in the League Cup final. While Pep Guardiola and company cruised to yet another league title, Tottenham took nearly the whole summer to find its next manager.

The drama between the two clubs does not stop there. Star striker Harry Kane still may be on his way to Manchester to join the manager who once called his current club the “Harry Kane team.” As this saga will not be sorted out by this weekend, the storylines will be endless.

A quick housekeeping note: I will be taking over match preview duty this year, with the plan to have posts up each Friday before weekend matches and the day before for midweek fixtures. Thanks for following along and COYS!

Tottenham Hotspur (t-1st, 0 pts) vs. Manchester City (t-1st, 0 pts)

Date: Sunday, August 15
Time: 11:30 am ET | 4:30 pm UK
Location: Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, London, England

The questions heading into the match are abundant. Will new signings Cristian Romero and Bryan Gil see the pitch at all? What about Harry Kane, amidst transfer drama and training issues? Is Tanguy Ndombele ever going to be a consistent part of the starting XI? What formation will new manager Nuno Espirito Santo choose to begin his Spurs tenure?

In terms of the lineup, it is hard to have too much certainty when starting the season under a new manager with the transfer business not completely wrapped up. Last Sunday’s Mind Series friendly against Arsenal is probably a decent proxy, though, with Nuno playing most of his strongest options in a somewhat traditional 4-2-3-1.

With Kane most likely limited (or completely out) this weekend, the attention will focus on Son Heung-Min. He may be tabbed to start alone up top, which is not necessarily his best position. However, Son has provided some pretty memorable moments against City, including a fifth-minute opener last fall, and he will need to produce something again if Spurs are to snag a result.

Three themes

  1. While its pursuit of Harry Kane remains up in the air, Manchester City already owns the biggest transfer of the summer after completing a move for Jack Grealish last week for a domestic record of £100m. The champions have not weakened in any material way and will once again be expected to take the league title and attempt to earn that elusive Champions League crown. However, Grealish and some of the other international competition participants may wind up inactive for the opening match.
  2. Though City has won the last two head-to-heads, Tottenham has found surprising success over the past few seasons against England’s top side despite being outperformed nearly every time (2-2 VAR part two, 2-0 Steven Bergwijn’s debut, aforementioned 2-0 last November). The formula has been classic counterattacking football, and given Nuno’s style preferences and current personnel, this could be the plan again on Sunday.
  3. After a tumultuous two seasons, an extremely disorganized manager search, and high profile transfer drama, it is refreshing to simply enter into a new era. The squad may not be complete and Nuno may not be a miracle worker, but the light at the end of the tunnel is quickly approaching. Bring on the new season!