Manchester City dominated the Premier League last season in a manner which no club before them has managed to achieve, but they have not began their title defence with the same vigour and imperious swagger which characterised their record-breaking 2017/18 season.
Meanwhile, one of their undisputed rivals for the top prize in English football, namely Tottenham Hotspur, started the season in promising form before they were brought back down to earth with a bang against Watford at the end of a week in which they recorded a sensational 3-0 win at Old Trafford.
In the aftermath of their 2-1 defeat against the Hornets, Craig Bellamy and Paul Merson discussed their respective views on the result on The Debate (as produced by Sky Sports) and what it says about Tottenham Hotspur as a club. Merson claimed the issue is “down to the mentality of the team”, whilst Bellamy took a different standpoint by suggesting that the players are suffering from burnout after the World Cup.
Bellamy’s suggestion is certainly the more plausible of the two arguments being put forward, although Pochettino’s post-match admission that Tottenham needed to “respect more this competition” would suggest there is an element of validity to Merson’s argument.
Bellamy’s defence of Tottenham players on the basis of physical tiredness can be supported by the struggle of Manchester City to emulate the form they demonstrated last season.
After finishing at the top of the Premier League table with 100-points, a whopping total of 16 players were cherry picked from Man City’s squad to represent their national sides at the World Cup – with no respite afforded to a team whom won 2 trophies and reached the quarter-final of the Champions League.
With no winter break to fall back on, plenty of players at both City and Tottenham have been playing football almost non stop since they began pre-season in the summer of 2017. To put it simply: they are beginning to suffer the inevitable effects of burnout and the World Cup may yet prove to be a secondary factor in determining the shape of the title race.
City may well be unbeaten from their first 4 fixtures, but they looked vulnerable and sloppy against Wolves and they struggled for rhythm against Newcastle before Kyle Walker sealed 3-points with a truly exceptional long-range strike.
It’s important not to get carried away by Tottenham’s defeat against Watford or by two average performances from the champions but, Bellamy’s claim that Pochettino’s men are struggling for fitness on the back of the World Cup is certainly a point to bear in mind throughout the season, and the international tournament could ultimately prove to be detrimental to the ambitions of two of the Premier League’s title-favourites.
Man City and Tottenham fans – thoughts on Bellamy’s verdict? Let us know below!