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New contract, same old problems for Pep: Mourinho & Son bring Man City crashing back down to Earth

20:17 GMT 21/11/2020
Pep Guardiola Jose Mourinho Son Heung-min Man City Spurs GFX
Manchester City were beaten 2-0 by Tottenham just days after the former Barcelona coach agreed a two-year contract extension at the Etihad Stadium

The news that Manchester City fans have long been craving arrived this week when it was announced that manager Pep Guardiola had signed a two-year contract extension, prompting an understandable outpouring of positivity.

However, less than 48 hours later, the Catalan's nemesis, Jose Mourinho, brought everyone connected with the club crashing back to Earth with a sobering thump.

As Saturday's 2-0 loss at Tottenham hammered home, the harsh reality remains that Guardiola has a lot of work to do if he is to get his current City side back playing like the one that swept all before them in winning back-to-back titles in record-breaking fashion.

There was even an air of predictability about their setback in north London. It just felt inevitable that it was Mourinho who immediately reminded everyone of City's flaws with a textbook demonstration of how to withstand their constant pressure before ruthlessly catching them out on the break.

Guardiola and Mourinho have been trading blows for years now, during their respective spells in charge of a variety of European heavyweights, from Barcelona to Inter.

However, there had previously been nothing but one-sided fights in England. Indeed, during Mourinho's time as Manchester United boss, he even claimed that finishing second to Pep's all-conquering City side was one of his greatest managerial achievements.

On the one-year anniversary of his appointment as Tottenham boss, though, Mourinho proved that not only are his new team potential title challengers, but also that City have a plethora of problems.

Spurs are now top of the Premier League table, for 24 hours at least, and eight points clear of City, who have just one game in hand.

Former Chelsea manager Mourinho has rediscovered his mojo back in London and clearly has plenty left to offer as a master tactician.

City had two thirds of possession on Saturday evening but Tottenham's defence and midfield were expertly drilled, as they stopped the visitors from creating the kind of clear chances that their dominance would normally bring.

And, in Harry Kane and Son Heung-min, Mourinho has two players that have developed a brilliant understanding of how to pick off sides on the break.

Spurs had just two shots on target in 90 minutes but, so ruthlessly efficient are the front two, that was all they needed to see off City.

Mourinho was at his mischievous best in the build-up to the clash, questioning Raheem Sterling's exclusion from England duty, as he tried to once again get under Guardiola's skin by suggesting the winger had been advised to feign injury in order to remain fresh for the trip to London.

As it was, though, the winger began on the bench and the two managers were all smiles before kick-off, although only one of them was laughing at full-time, with Mourinho having secured a decisive and deserved victory.

If it wasn't at all shocking to see the Portuguese spoil Guardiola's good mood, it was arguably just as unsurprising to see Son serve as a party-pooper.

The South Korean's fifth-minute strike was his fifth goal in his last five appearances against City, and his 11th in total this season.

From City's point of view, it was a poor goal to concede, too.

Coming into the game, the burgeoning defensive partnership of Aymeric Laporte and Ruben Dias had been starting to fill in the cracks that have opened up in City's defence over the last 12 months.

However, they were both dragged towards the clever Kane, allowing Son to dart in behind to latch on to Tanguy Ndombele's lofted ball over the top before neatly finishing under Ederson.

With the South Korean now having six goals in total against City, only Jamie Vardy (nine) has scored more times against Guardiola's side.

And that's not insignificant. Both are explosive forwards that break directly and quickly to expose the risk that comes with playing a high line.

Countering that kind of attacking threat is a puzzle that Guardiola has yet to work out. He's willing to take risks, of course, but it becomes an even more dangerous ploy when his own forwards prove so profligate in front of goal.

Indeed, with City having netted just 10 times in their opening eight Premier League matches, adopting such a bold approach now looks like a bigger gamble than ever before.

At least the new contract means that Guardiola has a bit more time to figure out if the risk is still worth the reward...