The Big Match

Spurs desperate for citizen Kane to fire

Spark often needed to beat star teams; City on the other hand, are less reliant on Aguero

It is a tale of two strikers. They were the most potent in England last year, scoring a combined 63 goals for their clubs.

Now their tally stands at two, and one of those was a penalty. Sergio Aguero has scored both, Harry Kane neither.

After finding the net 31 times for Tottenham last year, he has done everything but score. Now his barren run this season entails 626 minutes of fruitless football.

It is a sign of Manchester City's attacking prowess that Aguero's uncharacteristic impotence has only mattered once - in last week's loss to West Ham, which cost them their 100 per cent start to the campaign.

City spent £103 million (S$224 million) on attacking midfielders and Kevin de Bruyne and Raheem Sterling are both reasons why they can source goals from other players.

Tottenham may have a productive addition of their own, in the £22 million winger Son Heung Min, who has scored three goals in his last two starts, but are more reliant on one forward. Kane's season requires kick-starting and, as a result, Spurs' campaign has not caught fire.

They have played five home games this season and won only two, both with major contributions from Son, against the Azerbaijanis Qarabag and Crystal Palace.

Their League Cup defeat by Arsenal highlighted a broader issue in Mauricio Pochettino's reign: No matter how fit and eager his players are or how progressive his pressing game seems, they have been dependent on individual inspiration to beat more gifted teams.

Their two landmark wins, 5-3 against Chelsea and 2-1 against Arsenal last season, came when Kane appeared unstoppable. Apart from that, they have played nine games against Arsenal, Chelsea, City, Liverpool and Manchester United under the Argentinian, drawing two and losing the other seven.

The talent gulf to City has proved particularly hard to bridge. Spurs have suffered some particularly chastening thrashings in their meetings.

City have a propensity to run riot, whether it was Aguero scoring four times at the Etihad last season or Jesus Navas starting a 6-0 hammering with a goal after 14 seconds the previous year.

While City's strikers tend to be prolific, the root of Spurs' problems tends to be an inability to contain the attacking midfielders.

Now Manuel Pellegrini has such a wealth of riches that it may not even matter if David Silva recovers from his calf problem to start.

There were injury concerns over Vincent Kompany, Kane's probable marker, as City have been less solid without him, and Ryan Mason and Nabil Bentaleb, but the captain has been passed fit to play.

If Pochettino is without his preferred central-midfield pairing, it will be still harder to stop Aguero's supply line.

The attack-minded 19-year-old Dele Alli could have a huge responsibility to thwart Pellegrini's expensively assembled team.

Because while City's away record is perfect, Spurs remain distinctly imperfect.


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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 26, 2015, with the headline 'Spurs desperate for citizen Kane to fire'. Subscribe