Sure, they beat Liverpool 4-1 back in October, but Tottenham’s record against the very best teams this season is not exactly encouraging, what with the defeats at Manchester United and Arsenal, and the other at home to Chelsea. Meanwhile they have frolicked to victory against weaker sides such as Stoke, Huddersfield and Real Madrid. In short, they are capable of destroying lesser defences with the giddy inevitability with which Star Wars films trash box office rivals, but go into more testy encounters like they’re looking down the sharp end of a lightsaber and have forgotten all their fancy-dan Jedi mind control skills.
And so to Mauricio Pochettino’s thoughts on his side’s Saturday trip to Manchester City, in the expression of which he used words such as, but not necessarily including, “enjoy”, “excited”, “love”, “happy”, “pleased”, “fantastic”, “fairies”, “unicorns” and “Father Christmas”. The Fiver was not actually present at this press conference, but it sounded as if the only thing stopping the Spurs manager from following it by actually physically skipping his way up the M6 is that he was planning to float there on a rainbow instead. “We’re going to enjoy it,” he lied. “I’m so excited,” he fibbed. “I love to play against teams like [City] and managers like Guardiola, that are the best,” he pretended. “I’m so motivated and happy that we are going to play a team at their best,” he jived. “I am so motivated,” he whoppered, “it’s fantastic.”
The man’s positivity is a little confusing, but also quite inspiring. He is essentially going into a fight against a steamroller armed with a toothpick, a feather boa and a brand new pair of ballet slippers, and seems optimistic about his chances. Not since Dick van Dyke claimed that people whose jobs involved inserting themselves into soot-caked chimneys and cleaning them basically by rubbing said soot on to their own selves were “as lucky as lucky can be” has an opinion this deluded been foisted upon the general public. Because there’s no doubt about it: playing Manchester City right now is deeply unpleasant.
We don’t need to imagine how it feels to come up against this City side – because someone asked Paul Clement about it just last night, after his Swansea team were thumped 4-0 by the rampaging league leaders. “At times it was horrible, seeing my side trying but suffering for long periods,” he sniffed. “It was hard to watch at times.” While Pep Guardiola beamed that “if people are happy watching us, that is the best gift”, Clement countered that “it wasn’t nice to see from my point of view”.
Tottenham, to their very great relief, are not Swansea. There is a chance, small but definitely existent, that they will not lose. But Pochettino could at least be respectful enough, both of the record-smashing league leaders and the concept of logic itself, to be petrified about the prospect. “What is going to happen, who knows?” he mused. “I am positive. We go to Manchester thinking that we can win. Then football is football, anything can happen.” This has been true of every City league game bar one this season: anything could have happened. But the fact of the matter is, only one thing has.
QUOTE OF THE DAY
“Psychological violence by giving you €6m a season and signing your parasite brother? It’s time to leave … our patience with you is over!” – miffed Milan ultras enjoy the twin success of somehow jamming this wordy barb on to a banner, while also reducing their 18-year-old goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma to tears.