Manchester City prepared for their midweek Champions League exploits with a convincing win over Mark Hughes’ Southampton, in a seven-goal thriller at the Etihad. Goals from Aguero, Sivla, Sterling (2), Sane and a Wesley Hoedt own goal made sure of the three points yet Guardiola will undeniably be frustrated at the absence of a clean sheet, with Danny Ings’ penalty being the only consolation goal for the Saints.
Pep Guardiola’s relentless tactics
Guardiola is renowned for his beautiful attacking style of football and against a struggling Southampton side, today was the day to put it on show. With this seasons league being extremely closely contended at the top, Manchester City have to take their opportunities when they arise to remain at the pace alongside Chelsea and Liverpool. The Citizens already have a goal difference 10 greater than Chelsea and 13 greater than the Reds which reflects the standard at which Guardiola is insisting from his players. It could be that a superior goal difference is required to win this years title which gives today’s victory a little more significance.
With City 4-1 up at half time it would have been easy to take the three points and play defensively to see the game through. Having said this, you can almost guarantee the half time talk was to put Southampton to the sword; and put Southampton to the sword they did, looking like serious title contenders in the process.
Is the absence of Kevin De Bruyne hurting City?
Kevin De Bruyne was pivotal in Manchester City’s mind-blowing season last year, playing 37 games, scoring 8 and assisting 16. However, the Belgian has been riddled with injuries in the beginning of the 2018-19 season. After returning from a previous injury during the week against Fulham, the midfielder picked up a knock that will see him out for at least another four weeks.
There were questions as to whether City would miss his footballing brilliance in the middle and the simple answer to that question is no, they haven’t. With David Silva and Bernardo pulling the strings and Fernandinho sitting behind, creativity is far from lacking. David Silva proving this with his brilliantly taken finish and absolute masterclass in midfield today. Once KDB returns, there is no doubt he will be welcomed back in to the first team squad with open arms and will provide Manchester City with an even more intimidating midfield. However, for the time being it does not look like the Citizens are struggling, or will struggle without him. With players like Riyhad Mahrez and Gabriel Jesus also on the bench, City’s squad simply looks terrifying to any opposition.
Saints desperate for goals
Danny Ings managed to end the Saints goal drought of five games this afternoon, but unfortunately to no avail as six goals were shipped at the other end of the field. Southampton are in a very worrying position as goals from open play are almost non-existent. While still retaining the third highest shots taken in the league, they have only managed to hit the net seven times in 11 games. Attacking play is not the issue as even against the league leaders today, they managed 6 shots, five of which were on target. This is clearly an issue that will need to be resolved on the training field, and resolved quickly.
Are the Saints lacking confidence?
Forgetting about the first 18 minutes of the match, the Saints did not necessarily play badly. As stated in the previous point, five attempts on target against an established Manchester City defence, who have only conceded 5 goals this season, is a respectable achievement. At periods during the match, Southampton looked like a side who could really trouble any defence in the league, with sharp, fast paced and free flowing football. This will be one of the few positives that Mark Hughes can take away from todays game.
Capitalisation of these spells of dominance are what Southampton need to get their season started. Football is a game that relies heavily on confidence; whether it be a striker in form or a defender on top of their game, confidence is key. The Saints next two fixtures are Watford and Fulham, two perfect opportunities to thrust confidence in to the team by getting a win under the belt.
End of the production line
A player who made an appearance today for the Saints who I believe should be getting a lot more game time is James Ward-Prowse. A player with an instinct for the game and a wand of a right foot should definitely be getting an opportunity as evidently Mark Hughes’ current plan is not working. Coming from the academy, Ward-Prowse has worked his way up to the first team and stayed loyal so far. However, the renowned youth academy and scouting system for the Saints has seemingly come to a halt.
They got away with selling their best players and replacing them with almost like-for-like players for a few seasons, and now it seems their luck has run out. With £72m sitting on the bench in this afternoons game, it seems that the new signings haven’t quite lived up to previous. Years of buying and selling has maybe come to a close. Finishing 17th last season and sitting 16th this season, 2 points above the relegation zone, maybe it’s time for the board to concentrate on long term success rather than short term profit.