Saints V Manchester City The Preview
Friday, 18th Dec 2020 11:46
It was a great win over Manchester City back in the summer, but back then they had little to play for with Liverpool having already secured the title, this time they still have much to play for.
There has been a tendency to glorify the victory over Manchester City last season, but the reality it was a victory earned with our backs to the wall and with more than a sprinkling of luck.
If we compare the stats between that game perhaps our best victory at home in terms of who the opposition where and that game that shall not be mentioned by name unless you are a football commentator, the stats were not far different, both had around 73% possession and City had 15 attempts on goal to the other lots 20.
The difference was that our fight and spirit against City was 110% against virtually zero in the other game, we threw ourselves in the way of shots and made sure that we didn't allow attempts on goal that happened in that earlier game.
So if we are to get anything out of Saturday's fixture against Pep Guardiolas team we cannot afford to be under that proverbial 110% benchmark, we have to get behind the ball, chase harass and get in their faces in a game where we will chase shadows for most of it.
In some respects this will suit us in that we are quick to go on the break ourselves, our strength is where we can control our own final third and then move the ball quickly.
So it will be interesting to see if Ralph Hasenhuttl makes any changes for this game, he has a side that must be starting to tire having been virtually the same starting line up for a couple of months now and one that has only seen late changes from the bench.
Will Ralph look to rest a player or two in this game and save them for Fulham and West Ham over Xmas in games where we are far more likely to get the 3 points or will he take every game as it comes !
One change he might be considering is bringing in Ibrahima Diallo in the centre and he may do this for two reasons.
Firstly he may consider a straight swap for Oriol Romeu, the Spaniard has been outstanding, but is one game off a booking that will see him suspended for a match, will Ralph consider he is needed more for the trip to Fulham and the potentially the home game against West Ham, than he would be for this game.
But we could see a change of formation from Ralph, he could bring in Diallo and have him the holding player in a central trio behind Romeu & JWP, if he does this he may have to sacrifice Che Adams and play a 4-5-1, but it would give us extra men in the middle of the park and out wide to counter City's fast attacking play on the break.
We could still get our widemen forward quickly and it would give us both attacking and defensive options.
Make no bones about it, by their own standards City are doing badly, but they are still only just behind us in the table, the points they have dropped this season have been to the teams that have defended in depth and then gone on the break, West Brom had 22% possession, Spurs only 33% in a 2-0 home win, West Ham 30% in a home draw.
You don't get points against City by pressing high and thus leaving yourself exposed at the back to a counter attack, you do it by hard graft and making sure they don't see the whites of your goalkeepers eyes.
City are a team that don't like to shoot unless it is stacked in their favour, they pass and pass and pass until they can get a clear site of the goal, if they don't then they don't make the attempt, they pass the ball.
In many respects we are trying to replicate their way of playing, but they do it with a squad worth over £1 billion pounds whilst ours is worth barely a quarter of that.
This is what we are up against, a club who can buy who they want when they want, their bench will be worth more than our entire 18 players on duty, probably twice as much.
But we can compete, we just have to be patient, gutsy, battling and carrying their lucky rabbit's foot, perhaps not something that would please Ralph whose surname translates to rabbit's hutch.
But as I keep saying, one game doesn't mean disaster nor does it mean glory, it is merely one step in 38 games, by the end of the weekend we could be as high as 2nd, we could be as low as 8th, but lets be blunt at the start of the season we would have welcomed 8th after 14 games.
That doesn't mean we should be happy if we are, we dust ourselves down and go again, the bigger picture is that after the West Ham game we need to be able to look back at the last three fixtures and have at least 4 or 5 points on the board and be holding our own in the top 8.
So am I confident that we can get something from this game, if i am honest no, but I think we can compete and that is the first step.
Football is not always about reaching for the sky and getting the stars, it is about getting through the clouds first and making everything you aim for achievable and realistic.
So one step at a time and each time make that step bigger.
Photo: Action Images
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