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Premier League hits and misses: Harry Kane delivers again for Tottenham | Man City's problems mount

Plus: Nottingham Forest boost their Premier league survival hopes with victory against Leeds, while Jesse Marsch continues to search for Leeds' missing ingredient

Muddled formation is far from City's only problem

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FREE TO WATCH: Highlights of Tottenham against Manchester City in the Premier League

Manchester City's issues are mounting up. They have lost three away games in a row for the first time in six years. They are still five points off Arsenal even though the Gunners were beaten at Everton on Saturday. And despite rare public outbursts from Pep Guardiola, they are showing no signs of being kicked into life.

Pep went back to defending his team at Tottenham on the back of a performance far removed from any amount of positive spin, but he knows the issues that are staring him straight in the face.

City's 4-2-3-1 turned 3-2-5 isn't working. Pep is bold, he is an enigma. He is one of the greatest managers of all time because he has never been bound by convention.

Perhaps we will laud his forward-thinking yet again in the near future, for turning the defined wisdom of tactics on its head.

But for now, it's not right. Shifting Rico Lewis into midfield with the ball leaves City horribly exposed out wide when they lose it, and at Spurs on Sunday they lacked the attacking power to make up for it.

Erling Haaland did not have a single touch inside the area, Hugo Lloris did not make a save that would have given him any difficulty and Spurs won the xG battle as well as the real one.

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His players look confused with their responsibilities but more concerningly, they look unmotivated.

Not that they don't still have a desire to win. They are born winners. Some of them have four Premier League medals in the last five years.

But Pep isn't lying when he says that keeping up that motivation season after season of relentless intensity borders on impossible.

Can he do anything about it? As he told Sky Sports' Adam Bate last week, that same drop happened to him as a player and he didn't even realise it.

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Pep Guardiola describes Tottenham as a complete team that can punish you and says Man City can’t think about the Premier League title, only the next game

He will be a master of psychology if he can delve that deep into his players' psyche to lift them, though if anyone can do that then this managerial wizard can.

What isn't helping is asking his players to play in roles where they feel clearly uncomfortable. If there is a day when this new style clicks, it isn't today.
Ron Walker

Record-breaking Kane inspires Spurs

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Gary Neville says Harry Kane has showed great strength to shrug off his World Cup disappointment, and is comparable to Wayne Rooney and Alan Shearer

It was an emotional scene at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium as Harry Kane was serenaded by the Spurs faithful before addressing the crowd as the club's record goalscorer for the first time.

He picked the perfect time to break Jimmy Greaves' record. This was a huge game against the Premier League champions at a time when the club needed a lift.

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Harry Kane's record-breaking 267th goal for Tottenham, seen from all angles

Spurs were without head coach Antonio Conte but Kane led by example on the pitch and gave everyone else the platform from which to perform.

Emerson Royal and Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg were among the Spurs foot soldiers that were inspired by their captain as they outfought City and took yet another three points against Pep Guardiola's side in north London.

So often derided for failing to perform for the full 90 minutes, Spurs were the better side from the first to the final whistle and always looked more threatening. They stood up in Conte's absence, when it really counted.
Zinny Boswell

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Graeme Souness and Micah Richards discuss Harry Kane's ability after he became Tottenham's all-time record goalscorer

All possession, no punch for Leeds

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FREE TO WATCH: Highlights from the Premier League match between Nottingham Forest and Leeds

Jesse Marsch has made Leeds very easy to play against. Even tactical novices can work out that if you stop his side from being able to counter-attack they simply don't have the required guile and creative nous to unlock a defence.

Leeds have now won just two of their last 17 Premier League games - the last of those wins came at Anfield where Marsch's men had 31 per cent of the ball and were allowed to unleash their pace and power on the break. That's how they like it.

In their last two games vs Brentford and this defeat at Nottingham Forest, their possession average has been 65 per cent as teams have dropped deep and asked Leeds to break them down. It's worked a charm. Leeds failed to score in both and created just a total of 1.19 worth of expected goals. In the second half at the City Ground, after a bright first-half display where they were unfortunate to be behind, the lack of courage and creativity on the ball was staggering. The longer the game wore on, the more the belief seemed to ebb away.

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Jesse Marsch was left ‘frustrated and disappointed’ after Leeds' 1-0 loss to Nottingham Forest and says they keep playing well but finding ways to lose

"I have to find a way to get more out of us to make sure when we're on top of games, we don't lose them," Marsch said.

He needs to find that fix, and fast.
Lewis Jones

Forest have all the ingredients for simple survival

They say the sign of a successful team is they can get points even when playing badly.

They also say that home form is crucial to relegation candidates achieving survival.

Brennan Johnson volleys Nottingham Forest in front against Leeds
Image: Forest have scored in every Premier League game bar one since the start of November

Nottingham Forest are ticking both of those boxes - they are looking like a real outfit under Steve Cooper now. They're unbeaten in 2023, have three clean sheets in four games and have failed to score in a match only once since November 5.

They have managed to get a fixed defence out of 30 signings this season, with Neco Williams, Willy Boly, Scott McKenna and Renan Lodi stepping up to the mark against Leeds, along with Serge Aurier who came off the bench at half-time.

But Keylor Navas may just be the key signing out of the 30. His calmness on debut saved his side when under pressure early on at Leeds. More displays like that and the threat of relegation will be a distant thought in a few months' time.

And the other end of the pitch, local boy Brennan Johnson has the Premier League's joint-most goal involvements in 2023. All these ingredients, plus a passionate City Ground atmosphere, make them ideal survival-getters.

Next at home is Manchester City in two weeks' time. That now looks a difficult setting for the reigning champions.
Sam Blitz

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