The statistics behind Tottenham’s win on Sunday might suggest it was another Jose Mourinho masterclass. In reality it was more a story of Manchester City’s missed chances.
Yes, in the early stages Spurs looked quite solid and strong, which is the way Mourinho likes to set his sides up in these big games, but City did what they always do and broke them down.
Spurs showed character and hung in there thanks to a couple of big moments – the biggest one being Hugo Lloris’ first-half penalty save, which is when they might have started believing this could be their day.
But if City were anything like as clinical in front of goal as they usually are, they would have put the game to bed long before Steven Bergwijn put Tottenham ahead with their first shot at goal after 63 minutes.
I have been involved in games like that before, where my team have ended up winning despite being outplayed for long periods.
You come off thinking ‘yes, we worked hard, dug deep and we really deserved to get something’ then, after the dust settles and you maybe watch it back, you realise you got away with one, like Spurs did here.
The reality was they were hugely fortunate not to be at least a couple of goals down before Oleksandr Zinchenko’s red card gave them a way back into the game, and even then their first goal came out of absolutely nothing.
Tanganga got told ‘you are going nowhere’
I don’t blame Jose for playing the way he did against City, because of the way results went when he first took charge of Spurs.
He knew he had goals in his team so he went out and just let them play, and they had some crazy results in the first few weeks when they were winning by all sorts of scores.
That was never going to last. I could feel it coming where, in his mind, he went ‘enough is enough’. He could not trust his team to go out and score goals, especially when Harry Kane got injured, so instead he started setting them up not to be beaten. That was clearly Tottenham’s approach against City on Sunday.
Look at Japhet Tanganga at left-back, for example. He was basically told ‘you are not going anywhere today’, so he had to stay back all game.
It paid off for Mourinho in the end, but Spurs fans will not allow that kind of negativity in every home game.
So he still needs to work on his side’s style of play, but of course getting a result this way still has plenty of positives.
Mourinho has been talking a lot about how his players lack confidence, which he probably did not expect when he arrived at the club.
Well, getting through games like this one will give the players lots of belief, and we saw some other important signs too.
Mourinho has sorted out Christian Eriksen’s situation, by selling him to Inter, while Jan Vertonghen, another player whose future is uncertain because he is out of the contract at the end of the season, was on the bench.
I looked out on the pitch and there was not a Spurs player out there whose focus I would be concerned about any more. Everyone was playing for the shirt, and giving everything.
Red card will annoy Guardiola more than the misses
I honestly think City just have to write this game off.
From their perspective, I had plenty of experiences like it in my career too, when we did everything we needed to do to win a game. Normally that means you do, and it is especially rare that this City side don’t.
Pep Guardiola’s teams look to play in a certain way, and they did that. They executed his gameplan to perfection apart from every time they got in the box, which is where it matters most.
Some of their misses were inexplicable, and from players as good as Kevin de Bruyne, Sergio Aguero or Raheem Sterling, who over-hit a simple pass in front of goal.
You could see Guardiola was infuriated by all of that, but at the same time he will understand that it happens. Essentially his team’s effort and character and the way they performed was good, and they created enough chances to win the game. They just could not score.
It is Zinchenko’s red card that I think will annoy him more, because that is what cost City.
If City had stayed with 11 men, I don’t think they would have been beaten. They might not have gone on to win it, but I don’t see them losing the game.
Race for top four is wide open
This defeat saw City lose more ground on leaders Liverpool, and the only real race left at the top of the table is the one for the top four.
It is wide open at the moment – one minute Wolves look like they might be serious contenders, then Sheffield United and now Tottenham. Manchester United might come back and have another run at it too.
They are all having a go, but essentially it all depends on Chelsea and Leicester now. The Foxes have had a bit of a wobble but I still think they are too far ahead of fifth place to be caught.
Chelsea, however, have a genuine problem. They seem unable to hold on to leads, home or away, and we have seen the first bit of friction from their manager Frank Lampard with regards to the transfer window and him not getting what he wanted.
Suddenly, Lampard has got a few players at the club who do not appear to be happy – Kepa Arrizabalaga, Olivier Giroud, Marcos Alonso, Willian and Pedro – which is going to have an impact on things.
They all have a big influence in the dressing room, and that could be a problem for Lampard. How much are they behind him to go and get a top-four finish now?
He has backed his young players so far – which is fine – but have they got enough to get him in the Champions League places from here?
I am not sure, so the next few weeks are going to be very interesting.
Results like this will give Mourinho and Spurs more confidence and increase the pressure on Chelsea, who are now only four points above them.
Jermaine Jenas was speaking to BBC Sport’s Chris Bevan.
Article courtesy of BBC Sport