It is beginning to feel like a procession. This was the 16th league win in a row for Manchester City and they are now 14 points clear at the top and, as far as the chasing pack is concerned, little more than a dot in the far distance. Throw in their almost ludicrous goal difference of plus-44 and it would not be too presumptuous, one imagines, if the people who arrange these things started looked at provisional dates for the open-top bus parade next May. And, yes, it’s still over a week until Christmas.
Pep Guardiola will urge caution, of course, because that is what managers do in these circumstances. But he only being polite, and trying to guard against complacency, when he says it is too early to be talking that way. And what other conclusion can we draw when his players have now faced all of England’s Champions League representatives and outplayed them all with an aggregate score of 12-2?
Their latest rout would have been even more emphatic had it not been for Gabriel Jesus striking a penalty against the post, at 2-0, and Spurs were also fortunate that Harry Kane and Dele Alli had been properly punished for a pair of studs-high challenges that both warranted red cards. Kane was shown only a yellow for going over the top on Raheem Sterling and Alli, who was substituted after another listless performance, was even luckier to get away a potential leg-breaker on the brilliant Kevin de Bruyne.
De Bruyne chose the best form of retaliation, running away in the next City attack to lash in the second goal. The same player could later be seen chipping the ball over Danny Rose then running round the other side of the player to retrieve it. Spurs did have a 20-minute spell early in the second half when they threatened to get on top but, that apart, it was difficult to keep count of the number of times Hugo Lloris saved the visitors or Sterling spared them with some wasteful finishing.
No matter. Sterling might have missed a couple of open goals but he still scored twice on a day when City were without David Silva but quickly asserted their authority through Ilkay Gündogan’s first-half goal and the late consolation goal by Christian Eriksen
Silva was missing because of what was said to be personal reasons and there is a reasonable argument that City are never quite as stylish in possession without the man who knits it altogether. Not here, though. Leroy Sané, in particular, seemed intent on making it a challenging afternoon for the Spurs defence. Sané tormented Kieran Trippier at times with his ability to show the ball to opponents then change direction and glide away. Gündogan might not quite have Silva’s influence but he still fitted in seamlessly. Sterling was prominently involved on the right and De Bruyne advanced his case for being the outstanding performer in the league.
At one point early on, De Bruyne could be seen misplacing a relatively straightforward pass and it was such a rarity it felt necessary to check with the next person that it had really happened. He did it only once, mind. De Bruyne scolded himself for his carelessness and soon afterwards there was a lovely moment when he was running with the ball and Alli came in to challenge him. De Bruyne dragged his studs on the ball to change the speed of the attack, then moved away again all in one movement, deceiving a fine opponent in the process. Once again, City broke forward, as they did so many times after Gündogan’s stooping header had given them a 14th-minute lead.
From a Spurs perspective, it was a wretched goal to concede bearing in mind the scorer measured up as one of the shorter players on the pitch. Yet it was rare to see Pochettino’s team as disorganised as they were from Sané’s left-sided corner. Mousa Dembélé was guilty of letting Gündogan run away from him but there were another six Spurs players in the penalty area who either went the wrong way, misjudged the flight of the ball or waited for somebody else to take responsibility. Gündogan, hardly a player known for his aerial prowess, simply moved in and aimed his header, unchallenged, past Hugo Lloris.
Guardiola’s players were so dominant for the rest of the opening 45 minutes they must have been aggrieved not to have inflicted any more damage before the half-time whistle gave Spurs the opportunity to remind themselves that they, too, are a Champions League team and that maybe it was about time they started showing it.
Apart from one curling shot from Kane, the away team had scarcely troubled City in the opening period but there was a decent chance for Son early in the second half and for the first time Spurs started to examine the theory that City’s vulnerability is in defence, particularly now the injuries to Vincent Kompany and John Stones have allowed the accident-prone Eliaquim Mangala a way back into the team. Danny Rose started to advance more on the Spurs left, meaning Sterling had to think carefully about going too far forward, and finally it started to look a little more like the Spurs team that finished as runners-up last season.
Not for long, however. De Bruyne’s left-footed strike for City’s second goal came after a brilliant counterattacking move. Sané set up Sterling at the far post to make it 3-0 and Spurs were in disarray by the time Eric Dier’s mistake led to the next goal. Sterling went round Lloris and practically walked the ball into the net.