Manchester City came into Sunday's fixture against Tottenham Hotspur as they do most days -- as the heavy favorites to take all three points. This particular matchup felt like it would be a lopsided one considering Spurs' injury and suspension crisis that meant they would be without the likes of James Maddison and Cristian Romero, among others. By the time the final whistle blew at Etihad Stadium, though, the two teams were level after scoring three goals each.
City may have survived Son Heung-min's sixth minute goal to give Spurs the lead, but as the game began to fit the reigning champions' liking, they did not exactly rise to the occasion. It provided the perfect opening for a Tottenham team that just might have a successful strategy in place despite the unavailable personnel in a match that is equally about their triumph as it is about City's missed opportunities.
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In the end, Sunday's 3-3 draw serves a fascinating status update for both teams ahead of a busy stretch of the season that could set the tone for the rest of the campaign or provide meaningful lessons ahead of a course correction.
Here are three takeaways from the exciting Premier League matchup.
Wasteful City attack
Son's opening goal felt like an anomaly for a first half that played out just as many expected and ended with them 2-1 up. City was fully exploiting a Spurs back line that featured Ben Davies and Emerson Royal at center back, a position that does not naturally suit either, and had 63.5% of possession, a passing accuracy of 92.3% and 12 shots to Tottenham's two. There was just one problem -- they had little more than those two goals to show for it.
The hosts put just two of their 12 shots on target and their expected goals tally sat at just 1.62. Erling Haaland and Jeremy Doku had two of the more notable misses of the first half, but it was obvious that City could have built a cushion by halftime.
They lived to regret it after a second half in which Spurs came back from behind twice to level the score. City clearly took their foot off the gas and ended the game with just 54.9% possession and added just six shots to their tally, only two of which were on target. They still won the expected goals battle considerably -- 2.64 to 0.49 -- but during a second half in which they shed the fear factor that can frequently render opponents useless, it will be difficult for City not to reflect on the missed chances of the first half.
Worrying trends for Pep Guardiola
Pep Guardiola's side now have three draws in a row in Premier League action, which has seen them slip from first to third in the table. Each of them have come against notable opposition -- the first one was a wild 4-4 draw at Chelsea and the subsequent one was a 1-1 result against Liverpool -- but it raises questions about City's ability to kill off matches, especially since they had the lead for long stretches of this three game run.
It's demonstrative of the fact that City is building a habit of creating ideal scenarios for themselves, only to relinquish their firm grip on the game at some point. Ten of the 16 goals they have conceded in Premier League play this season have come in the final 30 minutes of games, which is not costly in games that they have already built impressive advantages during, such as the 6-1 win over Bournemouth right before the Chelsea result. It becomes a problem when the margins are tighter, as they have been in recent weeks.
The good news for City is that if any team has the tools to overcome such a conundrum, it's this one. Between Haaland, Doku and the in-form Julian Alvarez and Phil Foden, Guardiola is spoiled for choice. Ahead of the busy holiday window, though, they may need to find that fix sooner rather than later to ensure the three-point gap between them and first place Arsenal does not widen.
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Spurs came into Sunday's match on the back of a three match losing streak, much of which can be attributed to the fact that they were missing a handful of their starters. They arrived to the Etihad without nine first team players and manager Ange Postecoglou was plagued by questions that his attack-first preferences were not pragmatic and may need to change if Tottenham were to reverse course.
The Australian promised not to change, though and reaped the rewards despite a nervy first half. City's lax approach was a perfect opening for a Spurs team that exudes belief and ultimately, tactical buy-in. They went from having just 39% of the ball to finishing the game nearly even on possession and made the most of their eight shots, putting four on target and scoring three.
Dejan Kulusevski, who assisted Son's goal and scored the 90th minute equalizer, was arguably the standout performer at the Etihad. He started in a central attacking midfielder role because of the absences and was able to boot up Spurs' attack in the first half despite City's dominance. He continued that habit after moving to his more familiar wide position. By the end of the game, he was able to complete 24 of his 28 passes and took home man of the match honors.
That said, Tottenham's best days all season really feel like a successful group project, a sentiment that has only grown amidst the injury and suspensions that have gotten the best of them at times. The team should get a boost on Thursday when Romero returns from a three-game suspension and eventually when Maddison, Micky van de Ven, Rodrigo Bentancur and more are back, but Sunday's draw at City showcases that Postecoglou's side might be on track to rediscover the strong form they started the season with, or at least have a fighting chance even in difficult times.