|Manchester City 0 v 0 Southampton|
Barclays Premier League
Saturday, 18th September 2021 Kick-off 15:00
Southampton At Manchester City The Preview
Friday, 17th Sep 2021 10:02
No one goes to Manchester City these days with the expectation of picking up a win or for that matter even a point, but stranger things have happened at sea, we just have to hope we are not all at sea for 90's minutes.
Having typed in the opening lines that few get even a point at the Etihad these days, a look at last seasons table revealed that of the 19 games they played in the Premier League there last season they lost 4 and drew 2, so they failed to win almost a third of the games they played there.
But that was last season and this is this and we have to look to tomorrow as both a different season and indeed a different Saints squad.
The first and perhaps only good news is that unlike last term Ralph Hasenhuttl now has options, both in terms of numbers and in terms of the different formations he could opt for.
So far in the 4 League games played he has during these games opted for three distinctive formations, the usual 4-4-2 against Everton, the switch to a central back 3 at half time against Manchester United and the 4-1-4-1 formation used against West Ham that meant that we kept our first clean sheet in the Premier League since 4th January when we defeated Liverpool 1-0 at St Mary's.
That is a milestone worth if not exactly celebrating, but acknowledging as progress.
So we can travel up to the North West in a positive frame of mind knowing that unlike 6 months ago we can go there looking to get something out of the game.
That does not necessarily mean points, but in putting in a performance against arguably the best team in England that we can take positives from.
Too many times up there we have given away soft goals and undermined what have been otherwise ok performances, too often we have stuck ruggedly to our task only to give away silly goals due to lapses in concentration.
Last season saw us hit the 40th minute mark on equal terms after a James Ward Prowse equaliser, yet by half time we were 3-1 down and by the 55th minute it was 4-1.
That shows a lack of game management, an inability to shut up shop in the final minutes of each half and do the basics when other teams put on the burners for a surge at vital moments.
A look at literally every season we play there shows a pattern and that is that we lose concentration in the opening minutes of each half and the minutes before half time and also full time.
Aside from last year in 2019/20 we looked like getting a well earned point until the 86th minute, in 18/19 blitzed in the first 18 minutes and a goal conceded in the final minute of each half.
17/18 saw a goal in the 47th minute and a 90th minute winner to give City a 2-1 win.
That is just the last 4 visits we have made the pattern goes back longer than that.
So like most games we have to accept that it is going to be very hard out there, that we have to battle for every ball and we have to keep on level terms for little segments of the game.
We have to watch out for their little surges where they look to blow you away and we have to especially keep concentration in those key moments at the beginning and end of each half, that is where they look to catch teams out and we usually don't disappoint them.
This is not defeatist or a lack of ambition it is reality, Ralph Hasenhuttl will know that and he will pick a team to firstly win little battles and then hopefully win enough of them to get something out of the game.
What formation he plays to do that is open to debate, I suspect it will either be the back 3 with wing backs he employed in the second half against United or the 4-1-4-1 used against West Ham.
I also suspect that we will go with a lone striker in Stuart Armstrong and then look to bring on Broja or Adams on the break in the closing stages to either add fresh legs or even try to score and get something out of the game.
But Ralph hinted as much in his press conference and we know he likes to keep the opposition guessing.
But the reality is that we aren't expected to get anything, so it is a free hit, the early season objective is to get through the first 8 games and then we can start to play teams that we can take points off.
Not winning in the first 4 games is disappointing, but the plus side is we have only lost once so we have foundations to build on.
Photo: Action Images
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When Saturday Comes #11 by wessex_exile
This blog is a little earlier than usual, to give me and Alfie time to load up the car and sally forth for our first awayday of the season together, on the road to Vale Park – “He who would valiant be, 'gainst all disaster, let him in constancy follow the Master”. Not quite sure who the master is in that analogy, but let’s hope it’s Hayden Mullins on Saturday. All being well, I’m looking forward to catching up with fellow U’sual boarders (Noah, Durham maybe?, anyone else) when I get there. I won’t be meeting up with Clampin (Covid) or Judge (calf injury) who will miss out on making the trip, nor of course Tchamadeu (see below).
When Saturday Comes #10 by wessex_exile
So here we are again, still looking for that elusive first home league win of the season, only this time against high-flying (and recently non-league) Harrogate Town. That isn’t meant to be in any way disrespectful for Harrogate Town, they should be applauded for what they have achieved so far, but it is nevertheless a measure of how far our stock has fallen in recent years that we find ourselves in this situation. I have no doubt that today will be a difficult game, but it’ll be even more so if Hayden Mullins doesn’t take anything from recent performances and realise that what he’s trying just doesn’t seem to be working – he simply has to change things around. Whether he will or not remains to be seen – maybe he will, maybe won’t and the old guard will finally come good? I guess we’ll know one way or another by 5pm.
When Saturday Comes #9 by wessex_exile
After the complete horror-show that was U’s v Salford last Saturday, we find ourselves desperately clinging on to our away form like a drowning man to a lifebuoy…and I have no doubt Tranmere will be seriously stamping on our fingers in that regard. As a Friday night kick-off, I can look forward to the live match stream, which I was fortunately spared for the Salford game (it sounded bad enough). Swings and roundabouts though, if this hadn’t been rearranged to a Friday night, I may well have joined my Tranmere mate Chris and his family for the weekend – Prenton Park is always a good visit for an awayday, so safe travelling and good luck to Durham and the rest of the U’s faithful who make the trip.
When Saturday Comes #8 by wessex_exile
I’ve gone back through my archive, and the last football match I attended before last Saturday at the County Ground was U’s at Cheltenham on 29th February 2020 (and covered in LfW11) – In other words a 574 day wait. Others have mentioned about finding other things to do, losing their love for live football, things like that, and certainly my bank balance has appreciated the break from costly awaydays for the best (worst) part of 18 months. If I’m honest, I was slightly worried that I would go the same way, that the attraction would fade after so long, but I needn’t have been. As a result, it’ll be a slightly different format to this When Saturday Comes blog.
When Saturday Comes #7 by wessex_exile
Well that didn’t go as planned at all – after a stirring battling performance full of grit, character and togetherness with the small band of travelling supporters at Barrow, the U’s then finally returned back to the JobServe and completely failed to turn up against bogey side Crawley. They weren’t the only ones either, Hayden Mullins was absent as well, and we have since learned he has Covid-19 and will also miss tomorrow’s game at Swindon too – I know we all wish Hayden a speedy recovery. Fortunately, I won’t be missing the match, with tickets arriving last weekend – first live game for best part of 18 months, and I can’t bloody wait!
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