x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

City and Tottenham meet to evaluate their purchases

When the summer's big spenders meet on Sunday, it will be a test of two sides still looking for their newcomers to gel, writes Richard Jolly.

Alvaro Negredo has four goals in seven Premier League matches for Manchester City. Lindsy Parnaby / AFP
Alvaro Negredo has four goals in seven Premier League matches for Manchester City. Lindsy Parnaby / AFP

If money makes the football world go around, Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur have done plenty to keep the planet circulating. A clash of clubs whose meetings twice came with the prize of a place in the Uefa Champions League – secured by Spurs in May 2010 and City 12 months later – is the meeting of two big spenders.

They were England’s most extravagant movers in the summer transfer market. Tottenham broke their transfer record three times, in luring Paulinho, Roberto Soldado and then Erik Lamela to White Hart Lane.

They also bought Etienne Capoue, Nacer Chadli, Christian Eriksen, Zeki Fryers and Vlad Chiriches, and their total outlay, of around £110 million (Dh655m), was the highest in Premier League.

City had the biggest net spend. Around £90m went on bringing Fernandinho, Jesus Navas, Alvaro Negredo, Stevan Jovetic and Martin Demichelis to the Etihad Stadium. So, between them, they have £200m of new talent at their disposal.

As ever where football finances are concerned, the reality is a little more complicated.

Tottenham are entitled to argue that Gareth Bale’s world-record move to Real Madrid, coupled with the cheaper sales of Clint Dempsey, Steven Caulker, Scott Parker and Tom Huddlestone, enabled them to balance the books in the transfer market.

City, too, had vacancies in their squad to fill with the departures of Carlos Tevez, Mario Balotelli and Kolo Toure, while Scott Sinclair and Gareth Barry were loaned out. Nevertheless, such details can be obscured in a blur of big numbers and pound signs.

Because expensive arrivals generate enthusiasm and increase expectation.

Thus far, both clubs have had mixed returns from their investments and they kick off outside the top four on the points table.

The intrigue in the meeting of the money men comes partly from the comparisons. In Fernandinho and Paulinho, for instance, both have bought box-to-box Brazilian midfielders whose energy has allowed them to become integral parts of their new sides quickly. Few have deemed either move a mistake.

Negredo and Soldado, meanwhile, are Spain strikers who were almost equally prolific in their homeland last season, when the City newcomer scored 31 times for Sevilla and his Spurs counterpart had 30 for Valencia.

Only Negredo, who has formed a terrific partnership with Sergio Aguero, has adjusted to life in England quicker than his compatriot, who has relied on penalties for his goals.

As a result, Spurs manager Andre Villas-Boas is considering recalling the outcast Emmanuel Adebayor. City have been predictably prolific, Tottenham unexpectedly impotent.

On the flanks, Navas and Lamela are yet to make the expected impact. The Spaniard has lost his place in the City team to a resurgent Samir Nasri, while the underused Argentine has only played 68 minutes of league football.

To put it another way, that is only 19 minutes less than the injury-hit Jovetic, another who is yet to justify a sizeable price tag.

At the back, questions have been raised if Demichelis and Chiriches are quick enough. While City have lost two of the three league games the Argentine has started, however, Tottenham have only conceded one league goal with the Romanian on the pitch.

And it is an indication why, even if the league table suggests these are over-funded underachievers, it is only partial failure so far.

Tottenham have mustered a mere nine league goals but have kept 13 clean sheets in all competitions. Their defence, breached only once on the road in the Premier League, has functioned superbly. So, too, has the City attack, setting up a contest of immovable force against irresistible object.

City manager Manuel Pellegrini’s side have 28 league goals to their name. Their last two home games, against Norwich City and CSKA Moscow, have produced 12 goals alone and they have a 100 per cent record at the Etihad Stadium in domestic football.

Their expenditure has generated exciting football, while Tottenham’s spending has brought solidity. The challenge for each now is to build on that platform and prove new-look sides can acquire consistency quickly.