Tottenham Hotspur - Manchester City = £££
Compare Tottenham with Manchester City, you will find several similarities. Both are regular title contenders with only two points currently separating them in the table.
The pair play an exciting, modern style, a result of their managers’ devotion to Marcelo Bielsa’s teachings. Mauricio Pochettino learned it first hand while working under him at Newell’s Old Boys. Guardiola, meanwhile, travelled to Argentina to learn it.
Compare the first teams and the similarities continue. A star goalkeeper, flying full-backs, talented creative midfielder, thrilling wingers and a clinical striker make up the starting eleven of both teams. It is here, though, where the parallels end. The reason for this is money. One club has an abundance of it and the other does not. The effect that this has had is telling.
Last season, City spent a whopping £176million more than Spurs improving their squad. As a result, they finished no less than 23 points ahead of their title rivals. This summer the champions spent £65 million, £63 million of which went on Riyad Mahrez, a player they wanted but did not need. Tottenham, on the other hand, became the first ever Premier League club not to sign a player in the summer transfer window. While Guardiola has a plethora of talent at his disposal, Pochettino does not.
When the Catalan boss loses Kyle Walker, he replaces him with Danilo, a two times Champions League winner. If Kevin de Bruyne is missing, as has been the case this season, in comes Bernardo Silva. Mahrez is there to back up Raheem Sterling and Leroy Sane. Gabriel Jesus, the starlet of Brazilian football, plays rotation with Sergio Aguero. When it comes to marquee players, City are never short of one to call upon. Even their second string would be title contenders, top four at a minimum.
Spurs are the opposite. Squad depth is the major trait they currently lack. It is already costing them this season. Harry Kane is creaking after a busy summer at the World Cup while Christian Eriksen has been sorely missed as he’s struggled with injuries. Dele Alli, Jan Vertonghen and Danny Rose are currently on the injury list.
There is no one in the squad to replace either Kane or Eriksen in the first team. It is a similar story when Pochettino has to look for backups to Vertonghen and Alli. Four key players and nobody to replace them.
The recent Champions League results provided further evidence of the point. While City were able to make changes and strolled, Spurs were not and paid for it with a costly 2-2 draw against PSV Eindhoven. While City are flying, empowered by their ability to change things around, Spurs are stumbling along.
Pochettino would be forgiven for feeling a little peeved at the situation. During his time with the Lilywhites, he has proven he is a top manager in the making. He has competed with the best teams in the league year on year often finishing higher than they have any right to. Yet, each season, his team have fallen at the final hurdle.
One of the principal reasons is that lack of depth in his squad. While the likes of City can change at will and still be all-powerful, Spurs cannot. It leaves them struggling to cope with the many demands on them.
If the Argentine had the resources of the Etihad hierarchy at his disposal, it is easy to imagine his trophy cabinet would not be as empty as it is. His football, tactics and management are up there with the best in the world.
Perhaps in future, he will have such resources available. Big clubs are already circling, Real Madrid chief among them. The suggestion from Spain is that Pochettino is viewed as the long-term target for Los Blancos and they usually get their man. Julen Lopetegui’s struggles may hasten their need for a new manager.
For now, Pochettino’s focus will be on finding a way to beat Guardiola in their latest encounter. That’s a challenge he’s overcome before and will likely do so again in future. Aside from Klopp, he is arguably the only other Premier League manager that Guardiola does not like facing.
It is also a challenge that would be made easier to overcome if Spurs had a little more money. It is only the abundance found in City’s coffers that is the difference between these two sides. Everywhere else, the similarities are striking.