After Pep Guardiola’s first season in the Premier League, most people would have predicted that we’d currently be looking back on a season that boasted silverware and world class football.
City ended with no trophies, but they did manage to produce some truly world class football on occasion. But only on occasion.
There is a clear style of play pervasive in Guardiola’s side, however. It’s exactly what everyone expected, of course, and even if it didn’t yield the most sensational results, there was enough promise to suggest that next season will be a better one. We could be about to witness one of the most technically gifted English footballing sides in generations, mainly because the way they play doesn’t allow for misplaced passes – when they do give the ball away, their defence has looked porous and their goalkeeper even more so.
But in the Premier League this season, of all the teams who managed to come away with a victory over Pep Guardiola’s team, you’d be hard-pressed to find a team who did so by taking them on at their own game, just as Tottenham did when they became the first team to beat the Catalan coach in the Premier League.
Others were effective in sitting deep and hitting City on the counter, but Mauricio Pochettino’s side pressed them high and refused to let them play out from the back.
Indeed, the fact that Tottenham’s approach is a similar one to City’s can be in the stats. Spurs finished one place and eight points above Guardiola’s men, and so if the approaches are similar, Tottenham’s is a step up.
Mousa Dembele, the Tottenham central midfielder is the player with the highest pass accuracy this season, marginally ahead of City’s John Stones, whilst Harry Winks – who, in fairness has played fewer minutes – pips Yaya Toure, too.
Reflecting on the season, it’s clear that Spurs and City were two of the best teams to watch, certainly when in full flow. They were both effective more often than not, too. And that is reflected in the stats: the top four players in terms of pass accuracy all belong to one of the two clubs, whilst the rest of the top four aren’t even represented. Only Juan Mata of Manchester United makes the cut from the other top six clubs.
We all knew that Tottenham had a good season, but seeing Dembele at top of the pass accuracy list shows just how good a side they really are. While Harry Kane, Dele Alli and some of the other, bigger names – deservedly – take most of the plaudits, the fact that a player who is less of a leading light, though clearly vitally important, can be the most accurate passer in the league is impressive. Especially when you consider the fact that his crucial role in the team isn’t based on his passing, but his other qualities: his dribbling ability and strength.
For a whole host of reasons, next season will be tougher for Tottenham. They’ll have Wembley to deal with full time, as well as the possibility of losing some key players this summer. On top of which, you’d expect teams like Manchester City to get better next year. But it’s not just the fact that Spurs have looked easy on the eye this season which should give them hope for next year, it’s the stats, too.