After a thrilling opening salvo in the UEFA Champions League group stage, City have turned their attention back to the Premier League. This week the Blues play host to Southampton. The Saints come to the Etihad on Saturday having gutted their way to 3 points in the first 4 games.
In the build up, I had the opportunity to ask a few questions of Jake Hughes over at our sister-site, Saint Mary’s Musings. Jake was gracious enough to share his thoughts with me.
BnB: The Saints have opened the Premier League season with draws against United, Newcastle, and West Ham after an opening defeat to Everton. It’s been a run of quality clubs, and on Saturday they head to the Etihad to face the Champions. How are you feeling about Southampton thus far?
SMM: To be completely honest, it’s hard to gauge where Southampton are at. In typical Saints style, each of those four games have typified both Ralph Hasenhuttl’s side at their best and at their worst.
Saints outplayed Everton in the first half, only to totally capitulate in the second half and lose. Against Manchester United, Southampton started each half with a shaky defensive display, but finished strongly and arguably had the better chances to win the game.
The Newcastle game saw Saints dominate for around 75 minutes in total but concede twice directly against the run of play. Like the United game, Saints probably had the better chances to win against West Ham but that just didn’t happen for us.
Given the opposition, I’m happy to see Saints get draws against some good sides in United and West Ham with solid performances underpinning those results. Those are teams that have rolled us over in the past. However, the lack of wins is still some cause for concern.
BnB; With only four Premier League goals to start the year, how can the Saints hope to stay in the match against a City side who outscored their opponents by 10?
SMM: Those four goals scored is a painful reminder that we are missing Danny Ings. That stings (mind the rhyme!).
Simply put, Saints need to somehow keep it tight at the back and take full advantage of any chances that come our way.
Defending isn’t Southampton’s strong suit - neither is scoring according to that stat - so there will have to be a degree of luck required to get any kind of positive result against City.
Hasenhuttl tried out a different, more defensive, formation in the second half against United to defend our one goal lead a couple of weeks ago. It’s unlike our manager to opt for a plan B, but it worked pretty well. I’m interested to see if Hasenhuttl opts for five at the back again on Saturday.
BnB: Southampton currently sit 14th in the table. What do you think would be a good finish for the club in 2021/22?
SMM: Without wanting to sound a bore or a cynic, I’d love a 14th-place finish at the end of the season!
Losing Ings raised some major question marks about how capable Saints will be at avoiding relegation as we had previously been so reliant on his goals.
Southampton mustered a 15th-placed finish in the Premier League last season, so 14th would be an improvement and would suggest that Saints aren’t dragged into a relegation scrap. I’ll take it.
BnB: And finally, what are your predictions for the match on Saturday?
SMM: It’s undoubtedly going to be a tough game. A club like Southampton sees Manchester City as a bit of a free hit - no expectations of gaining a point let alone a win. If we can get anything from the game, then it will send Saints fans home happy from Manchester.
With that in mind, I’m going to say Saints will battle to an unlikely 1-1 draw at the Etihad.
Thanks to Jake for taking the time to speak with me. Look for a companion piece where I answer questions over at stmarysmusings.sbnation.com. And of course you can follow them on twitter at @stmarysmusings.