I saw Man City do something they've never done before vs Spurs and it might win the title

Man City won 2-0 at Tottenham to regain pole position in the Premier League title race
Man City won 2-0 at Tottenham to regain pole position in the Premier League title race -Credit:Justin Setterfield/Getty Images

Pep Guardiola said his players love playing under the intense pressure of a title race like this, but even he may not have expected the 90 minutes that unfolded at Tottenham on Tuesday.

City experienced every emotion at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, leaving elated and on the verge of another Premier League title. But don't let the 2-0 scoreline make you think this was easy - as Pep Guardiola had to pull out a new trick from his well-worn book of motivational tools to inspire victory.

After all, scoring at Tottenham was his main goal this season. They only got that strike (in the league) after doing something they had never done before.

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Guardiola needed the phrase 'squeaky bum time' explained to him on Friday before admitting he does get nervous before games and this one would be no different. Arriving at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium he said he had butterflies - but 'it's a good sign'.

Early on, Guardiola looked like he was right, and there was no change in City's warm-ups. The players looked focussed, but were still joking around and fizzing passes to each other. They roused the away end when they jogged over to their corner, and were geeing each other up before returning to the dressing rooms.

As the game got underway, they were calm under pressure and played themselves out of trouble. It was a typical City performance in that they kept things simple and didn't overthink anything. Slowly, though, Spurs got into the game.

They tested Ederson early, and after Vicario denied Phil Foden from close range, it was the hosts who had the better of the opening half in terms of chances. City's calmness began to slip away and there were uncharacteristic loose passes from Rodri. Guardiola was getting agitated on the halfway line, dropping to his knees at times and despairing when moves broke down. He ended the half annoyed at everyone - even assistant Juanma Lillo.

If the pre-match and first half instructions were to keep things as they were, not to change anything and trust the system, then it was notable that the City players did something completely different at the start of the second half.

After emerging from the tunnel, Ruben Dias led a huddle before the restart, giving a passionate speech to his teammates on the pitch as Spurs did the same. City have huddled pre-match for over a year, with the recent Netflix documentary revealing that it was an instruction from Guardiola after learning of the Premier League's charges against City. They have never huddled before a second half, though.

Was this another Guardiola plan to inspire something in his players? You can imagine this will be one of the half-time talks that will have required more thought than most. If there is another documentary following this season, this game will feature heavily.

The talk did the trick. Six minutes later, City were ahead through Erling Haaland. If this was a Guardiola intervention, it could be a title-winning masterstroke. It helped turn around their season last year and could have had a similar impact once again.

There were still nervous moments, Guardiola spending as much time on one knee as on two towards the end. Ederson's concerning injury and emotional reaction added to the tension, as did the sight of Kevin De Bruyne walking off after a nasty foul. There were a number of mistakes creeping in towards the end as the three points got closer.

He fell backwards when Manu Akanji slipped to allow Heung-min Son through on goal, but saw Stefan Ortega stand firm to keep City in the title race.

Guardiola won't need 'Squeaky Bum Time' translating after this one. He, just about, kept his nerve to keep City going until the final day.