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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.

At the Etihad this season we have to accept the reality of the situation and then look to see what we can get out of the game, if we keep it tight and keep concentration then firstly we can leave the field with our pride intact, secondly perhaps we might get a point and then you never know we might get our first victory there since 2003/04 season.
Back then we won in there first season at the Etihad, James Beattie opening the scoring and then Kevin Phillips with a brace giving us a 3-1 victory following of from the final game of the 2002/03 season when a Michael Svensson header gave us a 1-0 win in the final ever game at Maine Road to leapfrog us to a final position of 8th.

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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StEdmund added 10:59 - Sep 17
Cripes, we'll have played 3 of the top five teams plus WHU in 8th. Not quite the time to get downhearted! Onwards and upwards.....

highfield49 added 11:58 - Sep 17
I'm hoping that we can see Livramento and KWP operating together on the right and Broja getting more game time. Also an opportunity for Djenepo, and Redmond to make way for Tella and Diallo if the squad depth is supposed to benefit rotation. However, I think I'm being a bit optimistic and wouldn't be surprised, just disappointed, to see an unchanged team.

WestSussexSaint added 13:22 - Sep 17
I expect to see the 4-1-4-1 that worked well defensively against WHU. But to have any chance going forward we need to start with Adams or Broja. Adam Armstrong isn’t the type of player to hold the ball up and it is even less likely that Stuart Armstrong will play as a lone striker as Nick suggests ;)


underweststand added 14:13 - Sep 17
City's last two home Prem. games have yielded 5 goals each PLUS the 6-3 annihilation of Leipzig in the CL. ...and so statistically speaking... if we ONLY lose by a 3 goal margin we will have been the toughest opposition that City have played against this season, and Pep will give us much credit for a good fighting game.

It's these sort of matches that give Ralph a chance to test his theories on different formations, and maybe HIS Plan B , (or could it be Plan C? ) . On the face of it, Saints would be on good odds to get just one point .....I wonder what the odds are for a win ?.

The net result is that we need TWO good 45 minute halves, and some real luck with penalty shouts, deflected shots and the best performance that all individuals can produce. Should be an interesting game.


saintmark1976 added 19:35 - Sep 17
underweststand, Betfred are offering a Saints win at 20/1 and a draw at 8/1. I appreciate that our recent away form is absolute pants but even so those odds seem awfully generous to me.

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