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Saints At Manchester City The Preview
Friday, 1st Nov 2019 09:47

A feeling of deja vu as I write a Manchester City preview for the second time this week, can Saints pull off a shock result.

The feeling amongst Saints supporters going into this game is that it is one we need to get out of the way so we can get stuck into the rest of the season, with this one out of the way we have a run of games we can actually win and pull ourselves clear of the bottom three.

Some will sneer at this theory but this is not happy clapping or pessimism it is the state of the Premier League these days and beating Manchester City at the Etihad in the Premier League is as rare as rocking horse droppings.

For each of the last 3 seasons they have lost only a single league game at home each season and after Wolves win recently, they will want to make sure that they keep that record up.

Even with that blip against Wolves in their other 4 games they have scored 17 and conceded only 2, that is the task that faces Saints.

The team they put out will be far different to Saints, Tuesday's City team was far from their first choice, but the reality is that in itself it would be strong enough to challenge for a top six spot and maybe higher and that is the way the Premier League is going these days.

So as we enter the 2020's the rich have got exceedingly richer and the poor if not exactly poorer they are poorer by comparison.

So these days the likes of City as shown rarely slip up against a lower half club at home, indeed we have gained only a solitary point in our last 8 visits and you can round the number of defeats up to 9 if you add Tuesday night and our FA Cup defeat in 2007.

Heavy defeats are not unknown, some Saints fans hark back at the good old days of 5-6 years ago, but even back then it was not easy, Mauricio Pochettino in his only visit as Saints boss saw his side beaten 4-1 and manage only a single shot on target.

Ronald Koeman did not fare much better, on the final day of the season in 2015 we were beaten 2-0 and the following year 4-2.

Claude Puel got our only point since 2004 in October 2016 when Nathan Redmond gave us a first half lead before Kelechi Iheanacho equalised in the 55th minute.

It was not an easy point, the home side had 65% possession and we had only 4 shots on target.

A look at the team showed that Puel's back four was Fonte and Van Dijk in the centre and Cuco Martina at left back and Sam McQueen at left back, indeed the shocking fact is that of the starting XI 3 years ago only Oriol Romeu and Nathan Redmond are likely to start today.

In many respects Puel's side was weaker than Ralph Hasenhuttl's at the moment, the big difference is in that centre of defence, both Fonte and Van Dijk were at the top of their game and could hold a team together, our central defenders could not hold water in a plastic bucket.

So Saturday is a tough task and the manager has to approach it as he did on Tuesday with a realistic approach and with his team focused on what they are looking to achieve out of this game, the likelihood is that like most sides we will leave with a defeat, so we have to look at damage limitation and avoiding another embarrassing rout.

But that will not be easy as both Brighton and Watford found out.

So I expect a similar line up to Tuesday night but with subtle changes.

In goal I would be surprised if Alex McCarthy doesn't start, Gunn has not been as bad as some would have you believe, but he is a young keeper still learning his trade, he needs to be out of the firing line for this one and Alex McCarthy deserves his chance after a good performance on Tuesday.

In defence I would have a central trio of Bednarek, Danso & Stephens, Danso brought some pace and strength into the side on Tuesday and Stephens although letting his man go on several occasions can at least control the ball and keep it simple, but we still have that achilles heal, make no mistake if we had had Fonte & Van Dijk on Tuesday we would have won the game.

As wing backs I would have Valery and I would also throw Jake Vokins in, if only because we have no one else, playing a central defender or a central midfielder for that matter at wing back is dangerous because City run you ragged, you need fast players to counter them.

In midfield I would go solid Hojbjerg & Romeu in the centre with Armstrong & Redmond on the flanks, although I do expect Ralph to employ JWP instead of Armstrong.

Up front it is going to be a lone striker, Shane Long could be employed again as he is able to hold it up and there is a case to let him run himself into the ground and then look to inject pace after the break, Danny Ings could be used as he is a clever player, but again I would save him.

A surprise choice could be Che Adams, he is young fit and fast and he needs a game where the pressure is not on him, he can just go out there and harass their back four to try and stop them building from the back, you never know he might get a goal and then that could restore his confidence again.

So can we stop the City hordes, the answer is yes we can but we will need to be focused, alert and very lucky, City do not shoot on sight, they take three touches when one is enough, they pass and pass and pass, they only shoot either when they have put themselves into a good position and likely to score, or things are desperate, which isn't very often.

That was the case on Tuesday night, they ran us ragged but rarely got a shot in 77% possession but only 9 shots on target, mostly from close range or at least in the box and only 5 off target, that is not a great total for that amount of domination.

So we have to be prepared to dig in and concentrate, the downside of Tuesday is that all three of their goals saw the City scorer left unmarked or unchallenged, if we can cut this out we have a chance.

So lets do things in small things as we did on Tuesday, be patient and build , then we can concentrate on the Everton game.

Photo: Action Images

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saintmark1976 added 10:24 - Nov 1
Nick, they say that if you look hard enough you can find humour in near enough all situations. I can only suggest that last Friday's abomination has affected you more than you realise when you finish by saying " So let's do things in small things as we did on Tuesday". Does your comment contain a subliminal football tactical message of some sort? Because in truth, I can't make head nor tail of it.

darthvader added 10:34 - Nov 1
So with Two left backs will we be a tad exposed on the right? 🤣
We will probably be in for a hammering but id like to see us defend from the front, get it forward quick, use danso's long throw, they are not invincible at the back. However they are brilliant coming forward. Don't give up if the goals go in. Give them a game show us we can compete.
Saints fans in good voice will remind the players we care, we support.

NewburySaint added 10:48 - Nov 1
Lets take the heavy defeat and get out of there.

On a separate note i'm loving the clubs response to last Friday, more accurately lack of response. Now i'm not on any social media so cannot comment on if anything has been coming out of those platforms but the lack of news stories on the official site, even a lack of pre & post match stories / comments to the midweek game, astounds me-it's almost as if the club are taking the "if we don't say anything about anything all will be forgotten" approach.

Yes we should move on but the worst day in the clubs history should never be forgotten until all who were involved last Friday-club, backroom & playing staff-are no longer with Saints.

I'm amazed that us supporters & fans are still be treated as t%^&s by Saints....

highfield49 added 11:28 - Nov 1
Sorry Nick but I can't agree with you, what is the point of playing three at the back when it has failed to produce any defensive coherence so frequently? Give Bednarek and Danso a go fair enough but why waste the opportunity to play two up front by picking Stephens as a defender? We all know he can't defend so either boost the midfield or forward positions? Maybe get Adams and Obafemi up front and Slattery in midfield instead of JWP? Damage limitation short changes the supporters like a boxer back pedalling without throwing a punch before the inevitable knock out blows. Playing with fear destroys passion on and off field.

petedoors1 added 13:02 - Nov 1
Can Saints pull off a shock result. Not a chance in Hell in fact if we only lose 5-0 that would be a shock. On Tuesday we used 5 central defenders none of which can defend. If we want to keep the score down we must play with only 4 at the back. Adams and Ings upfront with Boufal and Redmond out wide. No Prowse.

Blue added 13:48 - Nov 1
Sorry Nick, but you're deluded if you think having Fonte and van Dijk would have resulted in a Saints win on Tuesday. City played at around 60% for most of the match.

I see this being a difficult match for us, especially if it is level at half time, playing 3 at the back could be genius, if you push us back up the pitch a bit, or suicidal if you allow us too much space down the flanks.

Safe trip up for those going, and good luck for the rest of the season after tomorrow, excluding the return fixture, obviously!

arfurdent added 14:12 - Nov 1
shock result?
do not turn up and only lose 3-0

they have had plenty of practice of not turning up

Peterx added 15:24 - Nov 1
Agree, lets start Bednarek, Stephens, Danso. I still think these 3 could be our mong term comination Too early for Cedric but otherwise he would have been in. Vokins is a risk but agree in playing people in position. JWP works hard I would still have him in with Redmond and then play Long/Adams with Inggs and Armstrong to come on for last 20. When we had Peligrino we kept them to a last minute winner, still think we could keep the score respectable.

Saint4Life247 added 15:36 - Nov 1
I reckon go back to a basic 4-4-2 formation (surely the players must be able to understand how to play that one!). We are almost certainly going to concede (probably a lot) so we need to have 2 upfront to give us half a chance of taking anything away from it and/or reducing the damage to our goal difference. I'd give Boufal, Djempo and Armstrong a go in midfield with Romeu (although i'm not his biggest fan). Adams and Ings up from and Obefemi on the bench. McCarthy in place of Gunn. The back 4 is anyones guess - all as sh*t as each other but maybe Bedrenek and Danso in the CB positions. Cedric if he's fit at RB and perhaps give Vokins a start at LB (can't do any worse). After that just keep everything crossed and hope City are kind to us

SanMarco added 20:24 - Nov 1
Definitely 4-4-2 Danso and Bednarek as our least worse CBs. This is a free hit and if we can keep it to under 5 then we can draw a line under it and look to games that we might get some points from. Needless to say the first 20 mins are crucial. I think it was 3-0 by then last year...

Colburn added 02:37 - Nov 2
I agree with your back 5 for this game Nick, time to see Vokins or McQueen, someone natural to that position. And also the midfield to an extent, but rather see Adams start this one with Boufal just behind him with Romeu, Hojbjerg and Slattery/Armstrong in mid.

We gonna win 3-2!

underweststand added 06:31 - Nov 2
so much can be said about his game but IMHO we must continue to have McCarthy in goal Angus Gunn's confidence must be shot to pieces after the Leicester game, even if he doesn't get blame for all of the goals..he'd still worry about the defence in front of him..(or lack of ).

Last season Jack Stephens was thrown into the fray on odd occasions and didn't always have a good game, but in the present situation -can he be worse than anyone else. Perhaps Yoshida should be rested - (if for no other reason than Nick won't be able to blame him for an eventual massacre)... as for the rest..I think Ralph will put all the names in a hat before the game and get the travelling mascot (poor lad) to draw out the remaining names, other than that - we pray for a miracle result.

allsaint54 added 14:26 - Nov 2
Just seen the starting lineup. Couldn't play any more defensive players if he tried, pity they can't defend. Same ponderous negative midfield. Still JWP plays, what the hell. Looks like I'll be 6 feet under before he gets dropped. Worth a punt for another 9-0 drubbing at 150-1. Hope I'm wrong but picking a side for damage limitation is just not good enough. Play any of the youngsters who haven't started this year, they can't be any worse.

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