Five Things We Learned: Southampton 1-0 Man City (Premier League)
Following a sobering defeat on against Southampton on Sunday evening, Manchester City must reflect after a turbulent string of results. The result encapsulated a lot of talking points from this season. Even with Pep Guardiola, it appears the old 'Typical City' is alive and well.
Here are the five things we learned from the narrow defeat on the south coast...
Not Clinical Enough
Now it may seem reactionary to say this, but Manchester City simply have not scored enough goals this season. Even while being the highest scorers in the division and putting four past Liverpool last week, City create so many chances that go begging.
UnderStat have our xG (expected goals) at 85 - we currently have 81 - and our xPoints (expected points) at 74 - we are currently on 66.
We can question the validity of these metrics but it does cast a particular light on a bizarre situation at Manchester City. Even with the wealth of attacking options and the defensive issues in the squad, the side should be scoring at a much higher rate. Sunday illustrated this perfectly.
The ball may not have bounced for the Blues as it did against Liverpool, but echoing the thoughts of Pep Guardiola after the defeat, the Southampton game was a ‘[recap] of the season.’ An abundance of clear-cut chances that are wasted, a defensive slip up, and an opposition goalkeeping masterclass - all ingredients to a typical Manchester City performance this season.
Upgrades on the left flank
Again, I might be a revisionist on this point but the game on Sunday perfectly summarised the lack of left footed quality on the left-hand side. Raheem Sterling and Benjamin Mendy are clearly the only elite players who can play in that area. While Riyad Mahrez, Bernardo Silva, and Oleksandr Zinchenko all have their qualities, the first two especially are more adept at playing on the right flank.
With the recent departure of Leroy Sane, we can see how, at times, when Sterling is on that left side, he has a tendency to hold up the play and curtail an attack. Similar to Sterling's first goal against Liverpool last Thursday, this moment arose so many times at St. Mary's. The Englishman would hold up the ball allowing the Saints defenders to re-organise.
Manchester City will always face aggressive sides who sit deep, and the need for pace to hit the by-line and cross early rather than cut inside into traffic was evident from the performance yesterday.
Garcia looks primed and ready
The main positive from the ninety minutes was the performance from the young Spanish centre half Eric Garcia. The nineteen-year-old already looks competent in a position that commands so much responsibility in Manchester City’s build up play.
He of course made a significant error in the second half, forcing Ederson to bail him out, but other than that, the youngster performed admirably and confidently throughout. It goes without saying he is the number two centre half for this side, and the hope is we see a lot more of him in the coming seasons.
Tale of Two Silva’s
There was a school of thought during last season where most fans were assured in the feeling Bernardo Silva would supplant David in central midfield. That feeling seems like a long way off now, especially given the dramatic rise of Phil Foden.
After a sumptuous season on the right-wing, Bernardo’s form this season has not continued in the same vein, leading to Riyad Mahrez claiming his spot in the starting eleven. Manchester City fans are all aware of his quality and his ability to drive the team forward with his energy off and on the ball. It just doesn’t appear to be happening for him this season.
Honestly, I feel he had an okay game on Sunday afternoon, once he was switched to the left side. He was unfortunate with a few efforts which were blocked by Southampton players throwing themselves at the ball. The Portuguese winger never shied from wanting the ball and still has a lot to offer out wide. But Bernardo featuring in the centre of the park feels like it’s dead in the water.
The return of the Silva Surfer
Another surprisingly good performance from a Spaniard was that of David Silva. After a wayward season where it looked like this year was a year too far for the Manchester City legend, it was wonderful to see him dictate that game and be at the centre of all the chances created.
This may of course be a diamond in a rough period, but who knows. Phil Foden and Kevin De Bruyne are clearly seen as the future of Manchester City’s midfield, but as Sam Lee eloquently put in his article in the Athletic, no one provides the same qualities that David Silva can - his ability to be calm in the chaos and play the right ball at the right time with the right weight. We can only hope that in the final weeks playing in City sky blue, the Spaniard can re-capture his dazzling form from seasons past.
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