|Manchester City 2 v 1 Southampton|
Barclays Premier League
Saturday, 2nd November 2019 Kick-off 15:00
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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