We all make bad decisions, like gas station sushi, and today RM made a bad decision with the starting lineup. Surprisingly, James Milner was left out of the starting XI, after playing an important role in the Liverpool game. His work rate, strength and stamina would have come in handy, especially early on. It was really hard to find any positives out of the game today, but I’d say the last twenty minutes was probably the only plus.
From the beginning, Southampton took the game to us and showed that they really wanted the win. City had another lackadaisical performance, and in the midst of a title race, they picked the wrong stretch to have three-in-a-row. The Saint’s pressured City’s players when in possession, especially our back four. If you are wondering why this looked so similar, it’s because that’s exactly how we USE to play, before our strikers decided to take the rest of the season off. Also, Dortmound and Liverpool employed the same game plan against us. Just as in those games, City were completely overwhelmed by this pressure and succumbed to it over, and over again.
Our backline and defensive midfield looked extremely over matched by this style of play, and it was summed up by Barry’s misplay of the ball that led to the first goal for Southampton. The Saint’s continued to apply the pressure, and took advantage of another lapse from our flustered defense. The Saint’s score their second goal after Lambert sent a shot towards Hart, and England’s #1 misplayed the shot and Steven Davis slotted the rebound home to make it 2-0.
The lone bright spots for City during the first half were the opportunities that came from attacks down the right side. Zaba and, surprisingly, Nasri worked well together to put crosses into the box for the forwards. With about 8 minutes left in the half, City charged on a counter attack, started and finished by Dzeko to make it 2-1 heading into the half.
If you were hoping the goal before the half would give us the motivation to get three points out of the game, you weren’t alone! Sadly, the second half produced a similar performance from both sides, maybe even slightly worse from City. An unlikely individual scored the third goal, as Gareth Barry continued his poor match performance as he passed the ball to an unexpected Joe Hart for an own goal, 3-1 Southampton.
Similar to the match against Liverpool, the introduction of Kolarov and Maicon to the starting lineup led to a change of tactics. From the 70th minute on City played in the 3-5-2, and this produced the most opportunities for us. Chalk it up to Southampton playing with a lead, or City having to score twice to tie. Either way, the 3-5-2 was extremely positive again for City, and I hope to see more of it in the near future from RM.
In the end, when City had the opportunity to take three points from Southampton (before the game started), we couldn’t. We lacked a sense of urgency that you’d expect from a team who needed to win out to have a shot at the title. Mancini’s frustration with his side was very evident, as his gestures became increasing demonstrative in the final 10 minutes. It is sad to say that our backs have had a greater effect on our attack than any of our forwards. Maybe we’ll flip the position assignments around, and that’ll get the boys going (Obviously, I am totally kidding, but that’d be funny).
To make an analogy of this game, City played like the weather at St. Mary’s today.
On the bright side, we are still in second place (for now), which makes it funny how upset our play made me today, when we still have the FA Cup and fighting for a spot in the Champions League next season. It could be worse.
Tweet of the day (keeping with the positive!) comes from City_Watch, who retweeted this from SaintsRumours: Massive Respect to the Man City fans, the best away fans we've had for a while #saintsfc #MCFC
It was pretty tough to give grades today, that being said: Here ya go!
Dzeko (4) – Other than his goal, he looked extremely average today, especially when he had space to operate. I hope he worked on his dribbling skills, but his height might be his disadvantage in that regard.
Aguero (4) – Struggled today, but it wasn’t for the lack of trying! He tried whenever he could to get City going by making runs, playing teammates in, but nothing seemed to be working for him.
Silva (5) – With not a lot of time on ball, Silva was semi ineffective, but when the play opened up at the end he started to get his chances to create. He kept the ball alive for Dzeko to start the counter attack that led to City’s goal. Sadly, he was substituted, but after seeing what he can do in a 3-5-2 I hope RM tries to start a match with it.
Nasri (3) – if you ever need someone to ride in your car with you, so you can use the carpool lane, Nasri is a great candidate! He was seemingly invisible again, other than being forced to do something when Zaba was pushing down the right side.
Yaya (2) – Coming back from the ACON, and he looked like me when I came back from New Zealand, completely jet lagged. It may have been his rust with the City players, or being paired up with a struggling Barry that led to his poor play. With that aside, he was ineffective.
Barry (1) – I won’t beat a dead horse on this one, but he was probably the best player for Southampton today.
Zaba (6) – Boy, does he ever try, huh? If it wasn’t for his pressure and pace down the right I believe the scored line could’ve had a 0 in the City column. Man of the match for sure, if City deserved one.
Lescott (4) – Good defensive game, but when the pressure was applied to him, he looked like a deer in headlights! He needs to get better with his ball handling skills, yeah I used a basketball term!
Garcia (4) – Not his best effort today, but he is still new to playing in the defensive back line. His naiviity at the position showed today when he was consistently out of position. But to his credit, he kept working to stop the Saint’s attack.
Clichy (3) – He was over matched a lot today, when forced in a one-on-one situation. This was very surprising to me because I have found him excellent in those positions in the past.
Hart (2) – Not much good to say about Joe today, best thing I could come up with was he tried to push City’s tempo in the first half.
Milner (5) – Came on and tried to affect the game with his pace and strength. With only a few opportunities to do so he couln’t up his rating in my eye’s ;)
Kolarov (5) – Came in and played very similar to Milner on the opposite side of the pitch. He may get a chance to start next match, if RM decides to use the 3-5-2.