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Saints V Manchester City The Verdict
Sunday, 20th Dec 2020 10:30

I left St Mary's with mixed emotions, on one hand we had only narrowly lost to Manchester City and had matched them, but on the other hand there was a gut feeling that we had not performed to our full abilities.

The scoreline was only a single goal, but to be brutally honest City looked dangerous with every attack, but for some poor finishing and also at times a tendency to over elaborate and almost walk the ball into the goal, this defeat could have been far heavier.

We rarely truly bothered Ederson in the City goal and once Danny Ings went off injured just before half time, we were finished as a potent force, we had some great build up play and Che Adams battled bravely, but in truth we were too disjointed.

It seemed that Ralph Hasenhuttl had decided when taking off Ings that he would protect the rest of his squad for the next two games which are more winnable, when Ings departed, there were some obvious options, Shane Long as a direct replacement or bring on either Nathan Redmond or Stuart Armstrong out wide and push Theo Walcott up front, but he brought on Nathan Tella.

Redmond did come on on the hour mark, but after a couple of mis controls you could sense the the sighs in some of the crowd, these two faux pas aside Redmond did little wrong and certainly offered more than Djenepo the man he replaced.

Strangest substitution though was on 82 minutes, off came Che Adams and on came Dan N'Lundulu, at this point we rarely threatened, N'Lundulu and Tella ran around a lot, but they didn't know how to make the runs, draw defenders out of position and create space and chances for others, perhaps both of them will come good in the future, but this was not an aid to their development and it seemed at that point we were content to hold it as it was, lick our wounds and regroup for the next two games where we can win them.

I was surprised that Ibrahima Diallo wasn't brought on for the final 15 minutes, he is the natural replacement for Romeu who will miss the next game due to hid booking triggering a one game suspension, surely it would have been sensible to give Diallo some game time.

City could have scored 3 in the final minutes of the game, but we dug in and made sure that when they either blasted over or over elaborated we didn't let them get an easy chance.

So this was a day where we achieved little of real worth aside from keeping the score down, we lost our top striker to injury, we lost Oriol Romeu for the trip to Fulham after a booking, we didn't even find out if two of our youngsters were up to the required standards.

We did keep our shape though and therefore our pride and we have moved forward over the last year, as I keep saying one defeat is not the end of the world, but suddenly we are looking over our shoulders a little, the last three games have only yielded 4 points, we have to now bounce back at Fulham.

This was not a game where we can take much out of, but we shouldn't get too downhearted either, such have our standards improved, since we returned to the Premier League in 2012 a 1-0 defeat to City would be a cause for celebration, now we see it as a disappointment.

I try to highlight the good and bad points in these match verdicts, I try to judge on the bigger picture rather than knee jerk reactions to a piece of poor play.

It is a squad game and the trick now will be to use the squad well, to keep getting results without Danny Ings and make sure that in the final third of the season we are still in position to be able to contest something, perhaps the FA CupFinal or a place in Europe.

Photo: Action Images

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ElijahK added 10:40 - Dec 20
Look we did play well yesterday and in the end the result we had was what we expected after Ings went off injured. But in the end other than him being injured (and those two shit VAR decisions, which would have always gone against us!) it was a decent game and we did play well. I mean other than Manchester City and Liverpool, the style of football we’re playing is that good that we can beat anyone this season (even those two) hence why we’re soo high in the table! All I hope is that Ings isn’t too badly injured and worst case scenario is on the bench for the Fulham game, and also that this game, along with the Arsenal one, isn’t where we start to loose form and fall down the table.

SaintNick added 10:59 - Dec 20
We played well, but I felt that City never got out of first gear, as well as we played they wasted a number of good chances and could have had four if they had finished properly

highfield49 added 11:00 - Dec 20
I've got no problems with the substitutions as they gave an opportunity to assess Tella's progress and protected players that we are going to need in the next few weeks from possible injuries. Yes, Diallo could have been brought on but if he's going to play at Fulham then why risk his fitness to replace Romeu? At a guess we'll play Che and Theo up front and have Long on the bench, Armstrong has had a much needed rest and will fit back into midfield. Slightly disappointed in that we didn't get a point against City but the fact is we played a lot better than our heroic efforts to beat them a few months back.

sandywelsh added 11:06 - Dec 20
Why did we start with Djenepo yesterday he was useless. When he first came to Saints he used to take defenders on and he looked good, but now he just runs around like a headless chicken. When he was replaced it was by Redmond who looked even worse. What has happened to Vestergaard he was brilliant again yesterday and my motm.

SaintPaulVW added 11:44 - Dec 20
I enjoyed watching this game. We played better than against Arsenal. City weren't 100% in attack but provided a very rapid clinical threat when we lost possession.

Hairs are still standing up on the back of my neck about those JV crossfield passes. KWP and TW were just immense.

As someone has already mentioned our left side looked our weakness yesterday. That is where the goal came from and the teamwork between RB and MD seemed adrift. RB looks tired so may need a rest. MD looks brilliant and unpredictable in attack but at times was caught out of position leading to a few hairy moments.

Tella did a good job when he came on but as Nick says when Nlundulu came on on our threat evaporated.

Redmond seemed to let a few errors in his first few touches put him off. He never seemed to get over that and looked to play fairly conservatively after that.

Overall it's great that we are where we are. The tricky bit now is going to be to rotate players and keep the system intact. I prefer this problem to ones faced in recent seasons!

Next up Fulham and Reid and Lemina looking to get one over on us.


abingdonsaint added 11:57 - Dec 20
‘Achieved little of real worth’ Really? I thought that we showed we are capable of going toe to toe with a top side and were never outplayed. It was a far better performance than when we beat them in July. Ralph has moved us to a different level in such a short time it’s unbelievable. Man City were not in a lower gear. They knew they were in a tough game so simply played with appropriate caution.

As regards the substitutions, one of the aims of the club is to bring young players through, so given our situation in the league I thought that was fair enough.

Bizarre comment about Redmond by the way. I do like him, but he had a nightmare I’m afraid!

Onwards and upwards....

SanMarco added 12:17 - Dec 20
I think the report is slightly unfair. We played a good, proper game of football against a very good team. They altered their tactics to allow for us and the game was pretty tight and well-contested. If you compare it to the 1-0 of a few months ago the difference is clear. One was men against boys with the boys getting a magnificent cup-like shock result. This was two good teams with the slightly better team narrowly winning.

The point about City could have had 4 is unfair because in any game like that where the better team is leading there will be chances for 0-2. Yes, they could have easily scored a second near the end and we would have lost 0-2. I thought De Breuner going to the corner flag in injury time showed us how well we did. It was a narrow victory for one of the best teams in Europe.

Yes, there were some weaknesses in the performance but we were disrupted by Ings going off and I think the sub choices were odd as we have a full week before Fulham so 'rests' not really a factor. Also of course we had a penalty in the first half. Klatenburg on the tele actually said that anywhere else on the field it would have been a free kick but because, even though he was clearly distracted by the foot heading for his head, Ings managed to head the ball it was NOT a penalty. Total nonsense. High boot, yellow or even red card, penalty, full stop...

Whatsforpud added 12:28 - Dec 20
For all our good play, Man City seemed to get into the danger area with swifter incisive passing than us. Sometimes we were over-elaborate, then found the way to goal was blocked off. Full Marks to McCarthy for his top corner save - not easy to move across goal and still reach for the corner. Djenepo should be used as an impact sub. Our left side is best when Bertrand and Redmond overlap to good effect.

davidargyll added 12:33 - Dec 20
Goodness Nick, I almost agree with what you said! But for some unbelievably bad finishing - and a lot of slipping up on what was clearly a very sodden pitch - City would taken us for maybe three more goals. And yes our efforts maybe deserved more but, on balance, much as we beat them last year by the one goal and we got lucky then, so this year it went the other way.
But I’m not complaining. We will do well this season because we whack the lesser teams, not the top 6, which if we get anything out of, will be a bonus. In other words if we can get an average of around 5 points H and A out of the other 13 teams - currently it’s running at just under 5.5 - that should be enough to get us in to the European slots.
One small point about Danny. Yes he’s terrific but I think coming back from injury is always going to take a few games to get into the swing of things. So am I alone in getting just a hint of him operating at say 95% rather than 100% since his return? This isn’t a criticism because he is most likely to be just a shade cautious in the tackle so as not to aggravate his knee. So le’s hope him going off early isn’t for too long and/or his hammy doesn’t incapacitate him for more than a few weeks at most.
Also a word about KWP. To me in a few months he has gone from being an also-ran to a really great player. And if he - and Che and of course Theo too for that matter - is an example of what RH can coach into bought-in players I want more! (I do hope he can do the same with Moussa who has silky feet but seems to fall over himself too often at the moment, though I sense he is going in the right direction).
Which is the other side of the coin from our recently exposed, so-called home-grown talent, eg Tella and N’Lundulu. I wouldn’t criticise their commitment for one moment but on recent evidence they are still some way short of what is required for the first team. But they have to start somewhere and it looks as if RH has faith in them so fingers crossed they start to get it together before too long.
Fulham I think will prove a bit trickier than their position might suggest. They are playing some nice football at the moment so three points off them will be perhaps a bit more of a test than some of the optimists are expecting.


felly1 added 13:11 - Dec 20
We were up against a team with 1 billions worth of talent as you pointed out in your preview so it's not surprising we were contained comfortably by City.
Yes they have had an indifferent start to the season but that's clearly not going to last.
Players like Djenpo, Armstrong and Redmond will be frustrating at times because they are in the team to make something happen and create chances. This is clearly one of the toughest things to achieve in a football match, if they went past the defender nearly every time, played a killer pass most of the time or scored a sackful of goals, do you honestly believe they'd be playing for Saints?
It's important we back these kind of players and encourage them to be brave.
It's down to Ralph to decide when to rest/rotate them..simples.
Would love to see Nick praise Vestergaard for his performances.. 3 MOTMs on the trot for me and clearly our most improved player this season. Unfortunately he rarely has been mentioned in these match reports but I guess its because it contradicts Nicks view that he's part of a Championship quality defence.
We are a top 10 side this season and I for one will be pleased if we end up anywhere from midtable upwards.
It pays to remember how bloody awful we were for 2 or 3 years and how much we have improved under Ralph. It still doesn't mean we are world beaters either.

A1079 added 13:30 - Dec 20
I have to agree with you Nick. Though we played well, I felt that we rarely threatened or troubled them where it would hurt. I thought Bertrand had an indifferent game and Djenepo and Redmond were disappointing. Neither seem capable of making their final ball or pass count.

More disappointing (looking back) is the Arsenal game. They really are poor at the moment and we missed an opportunity for 3 points there.

It is water under the bridge and we move on. Some of our football is quite sublime and beautiful to watch but we are showing signs of lacking a cutting edge where it matters most and that can (and will) have an impact no matter where you are in the table.

underweststand added 13:41 - Dec 20
I have even more to take to task with some of our fans above than I do with the referee.
Sharp criticism of two youngsters who had game time against some of the best players
in Europe . .and didn't get M.o.M awards ..REALLY ? . For goodness sake give them a chance. They'll perform better against other teams when they've played a bit more.

Why were WE lucky that City didn't get more goals...? Look at your stats. when WE beat THEM 1-0 last season, they had 26 shots (against our 8) - and they still didn't score.

THE REFEREE . Referee Dean has never given us the time of day. He's like a B-picture actor trying to impress the Hollywood bosses (read F.A.) Never book an English international - no matter if they handball, or put a boot in someone's face. It's No foul.
Klattenburg was one of the most controversial refs. in recent times - I don't buy anything he says. Obviously Sterling's arm is NOT his arm, and Stones' boot is normally 6 feet up in the air for no good reason ..accidental, intentional or whatever...but on another day there would have been a good penalty shout on both occasions.

MY VERDICT: I go along with ..highfield 49 ..above. We held possession well and had more than 60% on several occasions. Clearly Ings isn't 100% fit yet, and not Redmond either, he's not a shadow of his former self. Even Pep was honest enough to admit we were a good team (and he'll be glad he doesn't have to come back until next winter).
A good performance but a disappointing result - we'll learn for next time.

saintmark1976 added 13:45 - Dec 20
Another match where totally bizarre substitutions cost us points. Ralph is obviously a decent manager except for his use of and timing of replacement players.

When Ings came off he should have been replaced by Long who despite his ability to miss chances is a seasoned pro. It was Manchester City we were playing not Sheffied United. Instead he brought on Tella who gave every indication of being totally out of his depth.

As for Djenepo I felt sorry for him in that he didn’t appear to have been told what position to play. Was it as a winger or a defensive midfielder? He tried both but unsurprisingly succeeded at neither.

In respect of the game,it was evident that Man City were playing within themselves. Had we scored which frankly looked unlikely from the moment Ings went off then I always felt that they would have regained the lead.

On a different note, I was lucky in the ballot and saw the game at the stadium and thought that the organisation and stewardship was excellent given the very difficult circumstances we are currently faced with.

schatfield added 14:37 - Dec 20
Same old depressing match review that prefers to look at the negatives rather than give praise. I thought we played very well against a City side that have some excellent players.

halftimeorange added 15:01 - Dec 20
I thought this was a really entertaining game, down to two teams going hammer and tongs for ninety minutes. We made it hard for City and if we can compete like that against lesser teams we'll get many good results, Ings or not. It is true that Djenepo had another poor game and, as for Redmond well, he was even weaker however, nobody else was that bad and some, already mentioned by others, had stand-out games. Fair enough, N'Lundulu didn't get much of a chance to show what he's got but, when he'd settled down, Teller put in a couple of crosses which caused the City defence considerable concern and he probably deserves a start ahead of Djenepo and Redmond in my opinion. As has been noted by Underweststand, Mike Dean gives more dubious and inconsistent decisions than any other EPL referee and has probably affected more results in his career than adverse weather conditions. These are positive times for the Saints.

IanRC added 15:10 - Dec 20
Think we did well, Vestergaard's distribution in particular was superb, Adams worked his rocks off and on another day would have headed us level. Bertrand was at fault for the goal not covering the overlap when the man inside was already covered but again shame that Bednarak's clearance header didnt go the other way. Che must have been exhausted with all his work and I agree we need to give the youngsters some time. Next two games are definitely winable so lets get back on track and look forward to the next big test against Liverpool.

MOTM coverage was awful as usual no discussion on Sterling penalty not given but discussion of almost exactly the same position in Newcastle game. Instead focus on one Stone's long pass that didnt find its man whilst igmoring several of Vestergaard's that did. Really time for the overpaid Lineaker to be dispensesd with.

Scrappy2020 added 15:37 - Dec 20
I thought we deserved a draw,it was a top class game to watch,to have 48% possession against man city for the whole game is something not many teams can match,Walcott was running around like a teenager after 90 minutes,his best game so far,get of Moussa's back,he gives 100% and is much better than some critics suggest,far better than a headless chicken,that doesn't help!! JV motm,The whole team so much more competitive than when we beat them,Ralph was proud,so was I.

stmichael added 17:22 - Dec 20
I thought it was probably our best performance of the season.
Take into account the quality of the opposition.
If you get it wrong tactically you can get murdered.
They were taking the ball into the corner flags with 10 mins left.
Outstanding performance especially without the ball.
Pep thought so too...

theralpholution added 18:33 - Dec 20
Good performance which shows the development of the team to compete with the very best. I disagree with assessment of Redmond has doing 'little wrong' however. He came on, missed two clear shooting opportunities (in addition to the missed chance at Arsenal in midweek), missed a ball which went out for a throw and on another occasion gave City the ball launching one of their attacks. Aside from these key moments he contributed little. This is not denigrating his contribution or attitude over the years but we just need better. His diminished role in the side is part of the progress of the team and It's time to give up hoping he will ever make the grade. There is a reason, you can 'sense the sighs,' it's because we've seen it all before and if we are to improve we have to move him on.

TimSaint added 01:08 - Dec 21
Is Lemina even eligible to play against us, as we are his parent club and have only loaned him to Fulham ?
I would very much doubt it - but it is Saints, so anything is possible !! :-)

SaintPaulVW added 10:23 - Dec 21
Timsaint. Yes you are right!. My mistake, thank you for pointing it out. Just Reid then.

Scrappy2020 added 13:35 - Dec 21
Thought I would read a report of the match in the daily fail,neither Ralph or one Saints player mentioned,why am I not surprised??

Peterx added 18:30 - Dec 22
Surprised limited discussion on the tackle on Ings in the box, looked like a pen to me. Very even game. Proud of the team and RH but highly frustrated we did not get a point. The subs to me where a bit bizarre, i.e. not bringing on Armstrong for 15 mins when we were in a position to get something from the game.

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