Man City get physical vs. sluggish Tottenham on the way to a 3-0 ICC win
NASHVILLE -- Here's what we learned from Man City's 3-0 win vs. Tottenham at Nissan Stadium in the International Champions Cup.
1. Man City get physical
Preseason can sometimes offer a false impression of the campaign ahead, but Manchester City's convincing win against Spurs in Nashville might just have offered a glimpse at what lies ahead for Mauricio Pochettino's team this season. City were quicker than Spurs and more ruthless in front of goal, but they also won the game by challenging their opponents in a physical sense.
To put it bluntly, City bullied Spurs, winning the game 3-0. Vincent Kompany, Kyle Walker, Nicolas Otamendi and Fernandinho all seemingly took it in turns to leave a heavy challenge on Spurs players, and it was a show of force that was akin to saying, "We're a team of men against youngsters still finding their way."
Spurs are a team of great talent, but their mental strength has been tested before, and they have been found wanting, most notably when their Premier League title bid in 2015-16 ended in a stormy game against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.
City threw their weight about in Nashville and -- by winning so convincingly with goals from John Stones, Raheem Sterling and Brahim Diaz -- they will see the result and performance as an early psychological jolt ahead of the new season.
Spurs have given City problems in recent seasons, so perhaps the physical element of City's game was a warning of what they and others will do to Spurs in the coming season.
2. Alli walks a tightrope
Dele Alli is a player who can be drawn too easily into confrontation, and the Tottenham midfielder continued to walk a disciplinary tightrope in Nashville. For the large part, the England international was on the wrong end of some pretty strong challenges by City players, with Kompany and Otamendi, in particular, targeting him.
It was unusual to see a team attempt to rile an opponent in a preseason friendly, but Alli was certainly the man City were trying to get into trouble with referee Fotis Bazakos.
Alli's problem is that he is too prone to react with a shove or a verbal volley, and there was one incident in the second-half when he looked ready to stamp on Walker following the former Spurs defender's late challenge on Christian Eriksen.
Alli pulled back at the last minute, perhaps sensing that he could have red-carded had he followed through. Maybe that was a sign of growing maturity and experience, but the counter argument would be that he should never have considered it in the first place.
Great player that he undoubtedly is, Alli will continue to be targeted by opponents, so he has to learn how not to react, to avoid himself landing into trouble on the pitch.
3. Walker impresses
Spurs believe they have done well by banking £50 million with the sale of Kyle Walker to City, but Pep Guardiola's team also look to have benefited from the deal.
Mauricio Pochettino has Kieran Trippier as a ready-made replacement, with youngster Kyle Walker-Peters regarded as a more than able understudy. But while Spurs might not miss the England right-back, City certainly look a much more convincing outfit with Walker down the right.
His pace and strength are two obvious upgrades on his City predecessors, Pablo Zabaleta and Bacary Sagna, who were both past their sell-by dates last season.
Walker gives City real balance on the right side and enables Guardiola to operate a three-man defence with the confidence that, with Walker powering up and down the right, he has a man capable of getting back to do his defensive duties.
John Stones, named man of the match by the sponsors, also looks much more comfortable in a City defence that has Walker in it, and that is another reason why the investment looks to be a wise one.
4. Guardiola hasn't calmed down on the touchline
Guardiola appears to be getting increasingly animated on the touchline with every season. There are those who see it as the City manager's intensity showing through, while others regard it as a negative sign of his micro-management.
His record suggests it is the former, but it was interesting to watch the former Barcelona and Bayern Munich coach during the 90 minutes against Spurs; Guardiola did not waste an opportunity to engage in lengthy tactical discussions with his players on the touchline and during drink breaks.
And when he was speaking to Fernandinho after half an hour, Guardiola was waving his arms around in almost manic fashion as the Brazilian midfielder listened in. Otamendi and Stones were also on the receiving end of Guardiola's mid-game coaching, which was more like a schoolteacher dishing out a rebuke rather than a measured discussion over position and shape.
Guardiola will hope that his intensity works in his favour, however, rather than it coming off as overbearing to his players.
5. Spurs must sharpen up
Tottenham are notoriously slow starters in the Premier League, and, with the opening game against Newcastle at St James' Park just two weeks away, Pochettino may look at this performance and wonder whether his team are ready to hit the ground running.
Despite playing their third game of preseason, just like City, they were distinctly second-best in all departments against Pep Guardiola's men. Tottenham's attacking play was sluggish, and Harry Kane, whose failure to score in the early weeks of season has become a theme, also struggled to make an impact.
Spurs have just one more friendly before the big kick-off -- a Wembley clash against Juventus next week -- but they may need to squeeze another one in, perhaps behind closed doors, to shave off the rough edges.
Mark Ogden is a senior football writer for ESPN FC. Follow him @MarkOgden_