The Saints will play host to Manchester City this Saturday as one of seven games to be played that day. Southampton have enjoyed a fantastic start to the season by anyone’s standards, but given the expectations prior to this league campaign, how well they have done is nothing short of stunning. Now their quality will be tested once again, and against a team that has struggled to pick up results away from home.
Although Southampton have enjoyed a great start to the season, it has taken a slight downturn of late which has seen them drop from a Champions League position to eighth in the table, one place above Manchester United. They come into this game on the back of three back-to-back defeats, having only lost one game in eleven prior to that. To be fair to Southampton, two of those defeats came against Arsenal and Chelsea, 1st and 2nd in the league, but it is the defeat against Aston Villa in midweek that will concern them the most. Given that it was at home and that they did manage to provide a constant threat, they will be disappointed to have lost. Only some sloppy defending and – to be fair to Villa – some outstanding individual moments from the opposition meant that Southampton finished the game empty handed. They’ve already played 1st and 2nd in the league in past weeks, and now it’s time to host 3rd place Manchester City, who will once again provide a difficult challenge. Despite the quality of the opposition, Southampton will need to pick up a result to put an end to their run of losses and halt their Premier League slump.
The good news for Southampton is that Manchester City have struggled away from home for the vast majority of the season. They have only managed to climb to their current position in the league by virtue of their outstanding home form. However they enter this game on the back of an away win at West Brom, only their second of the season, and will hope that this sees a return to winning ways on the road. There was a rough month and a half gap between victory at West Ham (their only other away win) and the win at the weekend and Manchester City will want to avoid a similar gap, if they are to keep their title challenge going. A win for City and a slip-up from Chelsea could see them take second after this fixture, and they currently sit 6 points behind Arsenal at the top of the league, who have a tricky match against Everton, and so Manchester City should really perceive this as an opportunity to make up ground in the title race.
Adam Lallana has risen into the public eye this season following some fine performances for Southampton, and has won his first England caps as a reward. From a creative stand point he has been one of Southampton’s best players. He has produced 24 goal scoring opportunities, 17 from open play and 7 from set pieces. Moreover, he has attempted 46 dribbles, more than anyone else in the team, with an impressive success rate of 57%. As his reward he has 2 assists, and only Rickie Lambert (4) has more. It is arguably his dribbling which is his most dangerous weapon, as it not only puts him a position to lay a shot on for a team mate but to go for goal himself, and he certainly has been a direct goal threat this season. He has scored 3 goals this season from 17 unblocked shots with a shooting accuracy of 59%. As a player he always looks to move the ball forwards, and has the most accurate forward passes in the side. If he can help the Saints to take the game to Manchester City rather than be attacked themselves, then they will have an excellent chance of getting a result.
Aguero may be the first name that enters one’s mind where Manchester City are concerned, but the second is arguably Yaya Toure, and it is that man I want to focus on for this fixture. Despite Aguero’s goal return, it is still arguably Toure who is City’s most important player. He runs the midfield as both a technical and physical presence, and Manchester City’s wins are usually down to winning the midfield battle. He has played a team-high 1102 passes at a success rate of 92% and despite the high accuracy is often the catalyst for a new attack having entered the final third with his passing 140 times, again a team high. He has created 6 clear-cut goal scoring chances, more than any other player, and has 3 assists in total which is bettered only by Zabaleta and Aguero (both on 4). What is perhaps most impressive is that he has chipped in with 7 goals for the team, despite playing from a deep midfield position. Some of these have arisen from a succession of well-placed free kicks, and Southampton should be careful not to give away a foul near the edge of their area. Indeed, Yaya Toure’s performance for this match will be vital.
Southampton are currently second in Premier League injury table. Wanyama and Clyne both seem to have slight knocks and could return this weekend depending on their recovery times. Boruc is one of the biggest players missing with a broken hand, and won’t return until January. Schneiderlin is out without a return date with a pelvis injury, and Ramirez, Davis and Do Prado will all remain out for this one.
Jovetic and Silva are expected to return on the 10th December, while Nastasic should be out until late December.
Southampton will be highly motivated for this wanting to put an end to their run of defeats, and Manchester City seem to struggle away from home. That said, it is a truism that City have far more quality in their squad and have a lot for play for. Given that, I’m predicting a draw.
Draw: 2 – 2