Southampton At Manchester City The Verdict
Sunday, 19th Sep 2021 09:32
This was meant to be the hardest game of the season, the free hit, the one we always get torn apart in, but from the very start there was an air of confidence about Saints, a desire and a determination to get the job done.
If we take a look at the starting line up of Saints it had cost a combined transfer fee of around £85 million, some £15 million less than Manchester City had paid for Jack Grealish in the summer, real evidence as to how much the gap has widened between the likes of City and most of the Premier League.
Ralph Hasenhuttl once again made a few changes to the side that raised a few eyebrows, out went Salisu, Djenepo and Peraud and in came Jan Bednarek for his first Premier League start of the season, Kyle Walker Peters at right back and Che Adams in a two man attack.
In the first 25 minutes Saints looked determined, but they were still getting caught at the back and didn't look disciplined.
With Jack Stephens coming off injured on 37 and Mohammed Salisu coming on, they looked better organised and although they had plenty of possession City rarely looked like scoring again.
Why Bednarek & Salisu haven't been paired together before this season is a mystery, but it is the best central defensive duo we have at the club at the moment. I'm not saying this from any other standpoint than both Mohammed Salisu & Jan Bednarek are better players than Jack Stephens as I'm sure some will tell me that Jack was brilliant last week,
I am glad to hear that, competition for places is good, having good options is good, but the reality is that you have to play your best players.
Watching Match of the day their highlights seemed to show a different game from the full 99 minutes including injury time in both halves I watched, no one could argue with the amount of possession City had, 64% in total, but a resolute Saints side defended from the front and made sure that they actually had less shots on target than Saints, only 1 as opposed to our 2.
The fact that they had 16 attempts on goal shows how little we actually allowed them and aside from a few chances that went begging for them in the first half hour, they rarely got a decent sight of goal.
We broke quickly and had our moments as MOTD showed in their analysis when they highlighted several good attacks we had that had not even featured in the highlights, but our problem was that too often we failed in the end product, we didn't get a shot away or failed to play the right ball.
But the game hinged on two decisions, the first went against Saints, Nathan Redmond won the ball from Kyle Walker Peters and Adam Armstrong was put through, it was a clear penalty, the ball wasn't played by Kyle Walker and he not only bundled Armstrong over with his arm to the neck but went over him in a tackle.
It was surely as clear a penalty as I have seen, again MOTD agreed, but VAR felt otherwise, I cannot think why, Armstrong was bundled over without the ball being played, in any other part of the pitch it would be a foul, we had players booked for less by the ref.
But there would be more controversy, City looked to have scored in injury time, Allex McCarthy had made a wonder save to keep the initial header out, but he could do nothing with the loose ball and Raheem Sterling forced it home.
It took a good 2 1/2 minutes for VAR to make it's decision and from a technical point of view it was the right one, Sterling's boot was definitely offside, Saints were reprieved, but this was exactly the type of decision that makes VAR so controversial, why did they take so long to come to their verdict, it should have taken no more than 30 seconds to decide.
But come the final whistle the result was perhaps the right one, Saints certainly didn't deserve to lose and we were good value for the point, although we had to chase the ball for long periods, we were not swamped and we ran our socks off to make sure that City's possession rarely turned to actual pressure and chances on goal.
But we never parked the bus either, we had an attacking line up, we had our chances and went quickly at the break, Che Adams had very similar chance in the second half as Broja had against West Ham, a good run and a low shot that in this case went a foot wide of the post, City rarely had anything as close.
Saints have come through a tough opening 5 fixtures, four against teams that have started the season in the top 7, in the corresponding fixtures last season we only got 1 point, this season we have got 4.
Of course we have yet to win a game, but we have made a solid start against teams Newcastle aside who have made decent starts, we have a squad now that has depth, that Ralph Hasenhuttl can work with and pick teams to suit the opposition, unlike for large parts of last season where he had a job putting out XI experienced players let alone being able to make tactical changes.
But all of our hard work will go to waste if we don't get that win on the table and there is no better time to do that than against Wolves next weekend, if we beat them we move up the table and start to create a gap between ourselves and the bottom three, defeat will mean we will be looking over our shoulders.
But we can look forward with confidence now, we have a squad rather than a team, we have a manager who has taken us through a difficult couple of years where we have been hampered by having so much dead wood on the wage bill and having to run with a small squad on a shoestring.
We have showed at times we can challenge for the top 10, no more so than the first half of last season, now we have to prove that we can be more consistent.
At Manchester City not one single player had a bad game, some didn't have as good a game as they can do, but they made up for it with effort and workrate to get a point at the Etihad that few will get and it should be remembered that both Norwich and Arsenal both got beaten 5-0 in City's other 2 Premier League games this season and Red Bull Leipzig shipped 6 in midweek.
Slowly but surely we are now moving forward and this season perhaps won't bring trophies, but it will see us compete, we are not there yet, but we are a lot closer than we were a year ago.
Photo: Action Images
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|Number_58 added 10:00 - Sep 19|
Hilarious. Even when the poor bloke pulls up lame you still manage to have a pop at him.
|underweststand added 10:05 - Sep 19|
I'm sure we would all have settled for one point at 2.59, but as the clocked ticked on we looked more secure and even shaded the first half. Whatever Ralph's planning was - it worked and we changed formation several times and Romeu looked even better when he dropped into the back line. The closest we've ever come to giving everyone - a 10.
I cannot add more anger to everyone else's response to referee Moss' decision-making and he showed once again that in the referees eyes all England players are " fault-free" on every occasion.
|SaintNick added 10:13 - Sep 19|
Number 58, Where did I have a pop at Jack Stephens, all I did was state that I think Jan Bednarek & Mohammed Salisu are better players, did you watch the full 90 minutes , if you did you will see that City created around 4 good chances in the first half where they had men unmarked, in the second half that never happened, we were a lot better defensively with Salisu & Bednarek together.
I like Kyle Walker Peters as a quality right back, but I think Livramento is better, that is not slagging off KWP, its merely stating my opinion.
I always try to back it up with what I see as the key points, not slagging off players but pointing out why I think they are not better than the man who would replace them.
Jack Stephens is a great club servant, he has a role to play in this squad, he is just not in my opinion a 38 game a season consistent player
|felly1 added 10:22 - Sep 19|
Why are so obsessed with Jack Stephens?
|A1079 added 10:22 - Sep 19|
Yesterday was both a brilliant result and a good performance when most, if not virtually everyone would have expected a different outcome. The penalty decision was an appalling one and had it been at the other end it would have stuck. The amount of time it took to rule out the off side goal suggests to me that they will take as much time as it needs to try and find a reason to favour the bigger clubs.
The defence has played really well recently including Jack Stephens who was completely on his game against West Ham and barely got a mention in any assessments. It's a long season and we need all of them to be able to work together as injuries and suspensions are going to impact.
What does concern me and has for a long time and does not appear to get the same attention as our defence or goalkeeping is our lack of punch up front. It has cost us points this year just as much as bad defending cost us points last season. Some of our draws in the last few matches would have been wins had they taken some of the chances offered to them or shown more fortitude and power in their strikes. Most teams that end up in the bottom 3 tend to be ones that cannot score goals. We have shown thus far this season that we can perform and compete but that will be to no avail if we cannot convert more chances to goals.
|SaintNick added 10:30 - Sep 19|
Felly I'm not obsessed with Jack Stephens I am obsessed with having a good central defence, since the departure of Van Dijk and Fonte we have not had a central defensive partnership that has been good enough, last season we were the worst defence in the Premier League, if we keep doing the same things then we will get the same results.
We have to continually try and search for better players to improve the side.
One of my criteria is this, would an individual player get in another premier league side starting line up ?
Look at that question truthfully and it will tell you a few things about any player in our side,
Jan Bednarek has been our most consistent central defender is a regular for Poland and would get in other sides, Salisu has been good this season and at the end of last and is already being linked with other clubs.
That tells me a lot of things.
I like Jack I just see his limitations and when I give an opinion I always give a reason, I see people on here slag off other players without reason yet seem to be more obsessed than me lol
|Consigliere added 10:49 - Sep 19|
As I often do after controversial decisions, I had a look at what the other side’s fans are saying. Most of the comments in the Manchester Evening News are that it was indeed a penalty and that Saints put up an unexpectedly tough fight that City deserved to lose. I think that says it all!
|felly1 added 10:56 - Sep 19|
Nick, I agree Jack has his limitations as a CB, it's pretty evident from the last 9 months that we have a list of players who fall into that category.
Particularly our forwards and yet you never single out any individuals for the faint praise followed by the digs that you heap apun Stephens. Leave the guy alone!!
|Billeewithers added 10:58 - Sep 19|
Stephens has stepped up in quality especially with being more assertive. The game ending pair certainly look better within the team framework. Stephens has earned his chance and his place in the squad.
Re the penalty. Walker clearly came from behind and through the back of Armstrong.
What really mystifies me though is two clear Man City dives with no contact. Yet not even spoken to?
Dives in the penalty area should be a sending off offence in my opinion.
|JoeEgg added 11:00 - Sep 19|
Well done Saints! It was certainly an excellent performance; We now have some top class defenders, some still awaiting their turn with Thierry Henry exciting me as much as anyone and still to come! Livramento, Walker-Peters, Peroud, Salisu joining the likes of Bednarek and Stephens to give Ralph some real options that would even make a manager of a top six side jealous!
All we need now - ALL WE NEED! - is to develop the habit of winning matches! We need to get more shots on goal and on target. We need to find some real goalscorers and possibly Tella and Broja will bo better in the long run than Adams and Armstrong - who knows? Both Walcott and Redmond can be brilliant at times but they will clearly never be goalscorers at this level. Adams runs his heart out and I am sure his team mates are delighted to see his name on the team sheet. Armstrong has to find the back of the net - and clearly still has the time to do that. But to win matches we now need to threaten our opponents more and get those shots on target.
Sadly it seems that our Academy teams are also having the same problem - even after a relegation last season they still fail to win their matches. I just get the feeling, barring a string of unwanted injuries, that we just need one or two resounding victories with a handful of VAR friendly goals and we will be up and away. I dont know who was responsible for recruiting the latest batch of players - but whoever it was should be named, acclaimed and have a medal pinned to their chest! We now have an exciting looking squad that just need to kick start their season and we shall be beating the likes of Spurs and Arsenal, and looking ever upwards instead of looking at what lies beneath!
|JoeEgg added 11:01 - Sep 19|
With apologies to Thierry Small !!! Joe Egg!
|Block8 added 11:13 - Sep 19|
Just an alternative view of our central defence, Stephens has had a very good start to the season and justified his inclusion in all games he has played. However Salisu is the only CB we have comfortable on the left of the two. Hence the balance improved on his introduction! But that balance was no better than previous games.
Romeu was superb and nearly back to his best. Redmond defended extremely well but indecision offensively let him down. KWP was LB to counter Sterling cutting in and it worked.
We do look shy of goals and Broja isn't quite up to Saints pace of style just yet, we'll need Armstrong to step up his finishing or give Tella a run of games.
Good result superb defensive performance, all game, but lacking a bit up front!
|LordDZLucan added 12:24 - Sep 19|
The ideal central defence pairing is one stopper and one reader of the game. Great if you can find 2 players that have both qualities but those players go to the top clubs. I would say that Bednarek and Salisu are 2 stoppers; Stephens is a reader of the game. That's why Ralph likes to play Stephens with one of the other two. Also, Stephens distribution from the back is far superior to the other two. Salisu, in particular, has a lot of improvement to do on that front.
|highfield49 added 12:39 - Sep 19|
Just when we thought we'd got over VAR interference and procrastination up step the village idiot referee and VAR coordinator. These two officials aren't fit for purpose and do nothing for the sport whilst leaving doubts about their honesty and integrity. But, there's nothing worthwhile to be gained by dwelling on these individuals so, instead, massive congratulations to the team, manager and coaching staff for coming so close to a win in Manchester. Early days, but what I'm hoping we've witnessed is the start of an era when we can go into matches with confidence of a result and banish the recent heavy defeats deep into the history books. The way forward is of course to retain the likes of Livramento and Salisu but if the clubs with limitless funding put the usual pressures on it's good to know that we have at least two other defenders on the books who haven't, as yet, played a senior match. The future is looking so much brighter and, as has been said, full credit to the recruitment team.
|SaintPaulVW added 13:03 - Sep 19|
I'm glad you mentioned match of the day. The highlights were completely one sided. It made it look as if City were on top but couldn't finish and our only chance was the red card incident.
It was even more ridiculous when the pundits then started praising Saints and talked through completely different clips showing Southampton attacks on goal.
As you say we were on top and attacking city for large parts of the game. How they didn't feature more of Livra completely on top on the right hand side escapes me. There is a story right there.
Shame about Stephens. He has been great this season.
I thought Romeu was back to his best yesterday. Skillfully breaking up attacks and clean passes. Big improvement over the last few games.
How again the media is banging on about 2 'controversial' VAR incidents in the match. One was a judgement call which was incorrectly reinterpreted, the other was a flagged offside which was shown to be correct.
Still 4 points after playing 3 of the top 5 teams plus West Ham. Solid start, we now need to build on it.
|Monksway added 13:33 - Sep 19|
Ralph likes to have one ball playing centre half and with Vesta gone that role has been passed to Jack Stephens who is considered better with the ball than either Jan Bednarek or Salisu.
|Billeewithers added 13:41 - Sep 19|
Redmond is the most insecure personality ..... fails so often to shoot, falls over and looks around for reassurance.
Just effing shoot man.
The more times I watch the pen it becomes increasingly like a take down from behind ..... not a technical “ walker got his leg across”. Took him coming from behind at a rate of knots to make up for a mistake.
|Saidou added 14:24 - Sep 19|
No mention of how poor Redmond was going forward.
|KilkennySaint added 14:35 - Sep 19|
Great result and performance. Everyone played, special mention to Romeu who was immense, Pep even praised him in his interview.
Salisu and Bednerak would be my first choice CB pairing but Stephens is in the best form in a saints shirt and was making that CB position his own, he was unlucky to get injured. The defence has been pretty solid this season, utd, city & west ham have scored 32 goals so far but all only managed one goal against us which is a credit to how well we have defended as a team, it’s our attacking play and goal scoring which needs to improve and start putting the ball in the net more often.
A fit Ings was probably a 20 goals a season striker, this is an area that saints will have to spend £40m+ to get a striker on this stature, I think lack of goals will be our Achilles heel this season, based on the games so far it won’t be the defence.
|TeamCortese added 16:18 - Sep 19|
I concur with the majority of the comments. These past 4-5 games have finally illustrated to me what Ralph has been trying to build for the past 3 years.
The squad as a whole finally looks like Ralph-type players. Everyone seems to know their job along with a good attitude and I believe now that we have greater squad depth we'll be more consistent.
As most people have alluded to, I have major concerns about our strike force. Adam Armstrong has a great attitude but so does Shane Long. Now I'm not saying he's the same level as Shane Long but what I'm alluding to is his lack of end product recently is concerning.
Looking at his stats in the Championship he really did the business (46 goals in 91 apps) but the step up from the Championship to the EPL is a whole different proposition. I get that it's his first season but he'll need to adapt soon as it looks like he's come in to replace Danny Ings or at the very least ease the goal burden off Che Adams.
If he and Che aren't able to get the goals then we'll definitely need to consider a more proven striker in Jan otherwise we're definitely in a relegation battle.
I always knew it would be difficult to replace Danny Ings. Personally I think we should have gone in for Odsonne Edouard--given our successful track record with Celtic players--but it wasn't meant to be.
Hopefully, I'll be proven wrong!
|Mattsgrandad added 16:34 - Sep 19|
Great performance by the whole team, only Che looked a little jaded and Redmond's choices are wrong at times.
It irks me the press always say the top teams have an off day when they were outplayed in several departments.
Would love to see Livo playing in front of both KWP or Peroud. An outstanding purchase Ralph.
|ExiledSupporter added 18:19 - Sep 19|
I feel a good deal better about AA than many of the other correspondents on this site.
He turns very rapidly, like Ings, and works as hard as Che and I think he looks sharper. Penalties against him both at Newcastle and probably at Man City would have contributed a total of 4pts, but for VAR...indeed he might have scored both of them had he not been dragged down.
His problem, just like Ings, when he also had to be the single striker who pressed from the front , is the chronic lack of support. The best solution seems to me to start him with Broja and then I think, after gainingsome familiarity with each other, we would likely see them both amongst the goals. Of course we would have to forfeit one midfielder...
|davidargyll added 19:39 - Sep 19|
Last season, guess who scored the most goals at home (43) and conceded the least (17)? Yes you guessed it Manchester City.
Should we have won it yesterday? ,
Maybe if luck (with the penalty that wasn’t) had been with us but then the offside was marginal to put it mildly.
But to take a point off the champions I reckon is fantastic; but moreover the enthusiasm and never say die attitude of the Saints was a joy to behold.
I hope Jack Stephens is not our for long because he’s been playing really well but there is no doubt that RH’s policy of having at least two players for every position is starting to show us in a totally different light to last season.
God this is worrying, I’m starting to get really rather optimistic…!!!
|LoisDeem added 20:07 - Sep 19|
This still makes Ralph’s selection of one striker at home to WHU doubly baffling.
I have long believed -accrued over fifty years -that many managers best team selections are picked for them through injuries etc. I won’t wish further ills on Jack though, with Nicks voodoo doll apparently working it’s dark magic, and I wish him a quick return as deputy to Bednarek and Salish.
Suffice to say that Nathan’s goals and assists skills should have been honed better by now, but with the strikers available to us, expect a shooting competition soon.
Will that referee be relegated from the Prem soon -disgusting, impotent and fawning performance?
|SanMarco added 22:24 - Sep 19|
Encouraging performance. Clean sheets vs Wet Spam and Man C is great but we do have to start scoring a few soon.
As for Mr Moss he is the original 'clear and obvious error' - why in the hell is he still reffing? Once he had given that there was no way he could ungive it - if he understands all the words 'clear', 'obvious' and 'error' that is. Perhaps he doesn't.
I suppose it does have to be said that if we had scored the pen we would have sat deep and even with 10 City might have beaten us 2-1.
I don't get all these squabbles over Jack. Salisu and Bednarek should play because they are better than him.
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