Hi, folks! Have you come down from Saturday’s match? I know I’m still buzzing. Tottenham Hotspur defeated Manchester City 3-2 at the Etihad this past weekend, their fourth win over the Citizens in their past six meetings. It was super fun, not just because we got to see Tottenham play with both of their new signings AND their first choice central defenders, but also because Harry Kane absolutely exploded, scoring two goals including the winner in extra time.
Now, look — I know all of you wanted bread to be the theme for this week’s player ratings. And honestly — that’s a pretty good one! I’m going to keep it in my back pocket for a future match. But I couldn’t resist this theme, as it gave me an excuse to go back and watch a crapload of old match highlights on YouTube. In what can only be described as “anti-Spursy,” somehow Tottenham has become the boogeyman club for City. For whatever reason, the open style that Pep Guardiola plays just matches up well with the way Spurs want to play. With every win over a City team that is just unreservedly better on paper than Spurs, I find it more and more hilarious that we just keep beating them.
So let’s lean into that. Here are your Tottenham Hotspur player ratings to the theme of Spurs wins over Manchester City. Take a trip down memory lane with me today, gentle reader.
6 stars: City 4-3 Tottenham (Champions League, April 17, 2019)
But we LOST this game! Yes, yes we did. Which is exactly why it is six stars. You remember this game, right? Spurs took a 1-0 home victory into the second leg at the Etihad only for Raheem Sterling to score in the 4th minute. Son Heung-Min then scored two goals in two minutes to put Spurs ahead only to see City equalize at 2-2, all within 10 minutes. City had a 4-2 lead in the second half only for Fernando Llorente to plonk in a late goal (the “Hip of God”) that (shh) might have grazed his forearm on its way in. But the coup de grace was a 92nd minute goal by Raheem Sterling that was called back by VAR because Sergio Aguero was marginally offside in the buildup. The match ended a 4-3 loss, but Spurs advanced to the Champions League semifinal on away goals. Probably the most consequential loss Spurs ever had, up until the loss to Manchester United this fall that resulted in the sacking of Nuno Espirito Santo and hiring of Antonio Conte. A loss that was nevertheless a win. Glory, Glory Tottenham Hotspur.
Harry Kane (Community — 5.0): I don’t often do this, but Harry Kane deserves six stars. One of, if not the, best performance of his Tottenham career, and that’s saying something. I was all set to write something about how well he played despite not taking a shot on goal, only for him to go supernova in the last half hour. I’m still annoyed at him for last summer, but the dude can sure kick a football. Wow.
5 stars: City 0-1 Tottenham (May 5, 2010)
It’s hard to overstate just how important this win was for Tottenham Hotspur. Spurs needed a win over a newly-bought out City, their main rivals for top four, in the penultimate match of the season in order to qualify for their first ever Champions League. It looked like it wasn’t going to happen, but then late in the 2nd half Younes Kaboul put in a gorgeous cross that was saved, but Peter Crouch was there to head in the rebound to send the travelling Spurs fans into raptures. It clinched fourth for Tottenham, which felt like a sea change at the time, as nobody had dreamed Spurs could pull this off. This was an incredible result for Harry Redknapp’s side. Spurs went on to make the Champions League quarterfinals the following season; it’s safe to say that match is what kick-started Spurs into the club they are today.
Dejan Kulusevski (Community — 4.5): To all those Spurs “fans” who were crapping on Deki after a couple of sub appearances, I say this: *raspberry noise*. Kulusevski was outstanding against City — was in the right place with the right run at the right time to score, he covered every inch of grass, pressed well, passed well, and assisted Kane for the winner. If this match is any indication, he’s going to be hard to dislodge out of Spurs’ starting lineup before long.
Cuti Romero (Community — 4.0): As good as he has been in the center of Spurs’ back line, he was imperious on the right side. He’s just so dang good with the ball in possession, and his aggressive defending style was a perfect foil to City’s vaunted attack. Unfortunate to give away the penalty, but that shouldn’t take the shine off of what was an exceptional defensive performance.
Son Heung-Min (Community — 4.5): Sonny left everything on the pitch on Saturday. You could see it in his face when he was subbed off. Didn’t get a goal, but his vertical runs terrorized City’s back line all match, and he had two assists. I can’t think of many better matches in the past year or so.
Antonio Conte (Community — 4.5): It’s easy to say “Conte got it right” when he played the GOOD players, but he set up Spurs very well against one of if not the best team in world football.
4.5 stars: City 2-3 Tottenham (Feb. 19, 2022)
Recency bias? Maybe. But Sunday’s win over a Manchester City team that’s likely going to win the Premier League and who dominated possession (if not xG lol) was incredible. An instant classic, and a match I’ll return to again and again whenever I need a pick-me up. I’m still buzzing.
Rodrigo Bentancur (Community — 3.5): In my initial post-match write-up I mentioned how I noticed Lolo giving the ball away under pressure a lot. That’s true, he had a number of moments like that and City pressed like madmen. But Lolo also was hugely instrumental in and around Spurs’ box defensively, had some really good moments creatively in midfield, and was a big reason why Spurs put in such a solid defensive performance. On balance, that was an outstanding match.
4 stars: City 1-2 Tottenham (Feb. 14, 2016)
The thing I remember most about this match was that City absolutely DOMINATED Tottenham overall, with the xG something like 5–0.5 to City’s favor. Spurs went ahead thanks to a dubious penalty call on Raheem Sterling that Kane converted, Kelechi Iheanacho equalized with a thumping goal off a cross, only to see Erik Lamela feed Erikson for a brilliant late goal, the match winner. We football’d them on that day, and it was glorious.
Eric Dier (Community — 4.0): Cuti gets the headlines, but Dier’s return to the center of the back line was the catalyst for what happened in this match. His presence gives the defense a solidity that it was sorely lacking when he was out injured, and his comfort on the ball and long passing threat meant that Spurs had more freedom to build out of the back the way they want to.
Ben Davies (Community — 4.0): He wasn’t the most flashy of defenders, but he had a quietly impressive defensive performance. Was instrumental in setting up a couple of Spurs’ goals, and put in some good tackles in the box as well.
3.5 stars: Tottenham 3-1 City (April 21, 2013)
I remember this match because it looked like Spurs were going to get absolutely flattened by City, especially after Carlos Tevez scored in the opening five minutes and City went close numerous times in that first half. But Spurs put together an incredible second half comeback in what was an extremely open match. Clint Dempsey poked in the equalizer off a cross from Gareth Bale, and Spurs added goals from Jermain Defoe (“as you remember him!”) and Bale to get the win, all within 7 minutes. Glorious.
Ryan Sessegnon (Community — 3.5): Sess had a quietly solid performance in terrifying circumstances. He got spun once by Phil Foden, but was otherwise very good defensively against a pretty terrifying attack of Kyle Walker, Raheem Sterling, and Kevin De Bruyne. I don’t know if he’ll ever be great, but if he can be simply good, that makes him very useful and worth keeping around.
Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg (Community — 3.5): Pierre continues to be something of a limited player under Conte (to a much greater extent than under Mourinho) but he’s a better pairing with Bentancur than Harry Winks. He worked his tail off on Saturday, even if his passing was at times a little frustrating.
3 stars: Tottenham 2-0 City (Feb. 2, 2020)
Christian Eriksen had just left the club after being sold to Inter Milan the previous month, but Steven Bergwijn had joined late. This was Stevie’s first match — a start — and he scored on his debut against a 10-man City. One of the (few) bright spots of the Jose Mourinho era.
Hugo Lloris (Community — 3.5): Look, he flubbed a catch and basically was responsible for City’s first equalizer, but then followed it up with an absolutely mind-blowing acrobatic save on Gundogan. What do you do with that? Let’s just say “three stars” and hope he gets whatever it is out of his system.
Emerson Royal (Community — 3.5): Hey, this was a much improved performance, and he played well. Had a little trouble with Cancelo especially in the first half; City seemed to want to attack down their left flank more often than not. Had a couple of very good blocks and still needs to work on his crossing. He’s better than Spurs fans give him credit for; it’ll come.
2 stars: Tottenham 1-0 City (Champions League, April 9, 2019)
Nobody really remembers this match because of how bonkers the second leg was, but this was actually a decent win. Hugo Lloris came up huge with a penalty save on what was at the time a really stupid handball on Danny Rose (but eerily similar to Cuti Romero’s handball on Sunday). This was also the match where Harry Kane injured his ankle (again — we didn’t see him again until the final), and Rose put a hand to the face of Fernandinho and put him down in one of the most disrespectful stiff arms I’ve ever seen in a match. Sonny’s winner was pretty great too.
Nah, no Spurs stars were this poor.
1 star: Tottenham 1-0 City (Aug. 15, 2021)
Inasmuch as any win over City is a good win, this was a really fun win but also one that was pretty undeserved on balance. It was kind of a preview of the football we’d see under Nuno Espirito Santo — City dominated possession, Harry Winks very nearly gave up a penalty, Spurs didn’t really do much going forward, but somehow Spurs got a lucky win thanks to a brilliant goal from Son Heung-Min.
No Tottenham Hotspur players were as bad as the only bright spot in the Nuno Espirito Santo tenure at Spurs.
Tom Carroll Memorial Non-Rating
Lucas Moura, Matt Doherty, Davinson Sanchez
Erik Lamela Memorial Shithouse Award
Cuti Romero: Now that Cuti’s well and truly back we might just have to earmark this award for him permanently until someone else deserves it more. Slipped a number of the Dark Arts into his midfield performance on Saturday. This is good.