Venue: Etihad Stadium
Date: 23 October 2016
Referee: Mark Clattenburg
Kick off: 13:30
Well, well, well… The winless run continues. Following a somewhat complex 4-0 loss in Barcelona, City find themselves without a win since the trip to Swansea.
The visit of Southampton on Sunday presents City with an excellent opportunity to stop the rot. The Saints are by no means cannon fodder for Pep’s City though. So, what is there to think about in the build-up to what seems like a massive game in the context of the current predicament.
This Run Isn’t Reflective of Our Play
In honesty, it’d be easy to panic about this current run of games. Four games without a win looks like an absolute disaster. The reality is that it is far from disastrous. The draw away at Celtic Park wasn’t the best performance, but City showed a resilience that we aren’t always accustomed to seeing. Granted, we can write off the Tottenham game as being a poor performance and a poor result. By the time City were ready to line up against Everton, people were asking questions of Guardiola. City responded with a strong exhibition of control. Were City quite unlucky? Yes. You’re not likely to see us missing two penalties very often and if either had been scored we’d have probably seen a very different game. Still, it was three without victory. On Wednesday, we lost 4-0 to Barcelona despite remaining entirely on the Catalans’ level in the first half. An unfortunate slip from Fernandinho was all that separated the sides at half-time. City were creating chances too, good chances. Unfortunately, an appalling error from Claudio Bravo all but ended proceedings and City were 0/4. Still, the record doesn’t reflect entirely awful play. City have had their fair share of bad luck along the way and I fully expect the winless streak to end very soon.
Sergio Aguero Must Start on Sunday
Before anyone thinks that I was mortified to see Aguero miss out on Wednesday, let me just clarify that I thought it was a good decision. It’s clear to anyone that Pep is challenging Aguero to take his game to entirely the next level. Of course, our talisman is a different level in the box to anything else we possess and perhaps anyone possesses in the country. So, what’s the problem? Similar to Joe Hart, being an asset in your primary role isn’t always good enough for Pep. You must adapt or die. If Sergio Aguero is to truly move himself on, I feel that he needs to severely up his work-rate when City have surrendered possession. Pep has eluded to it all season long, and the game in Barcelona felt like the first real warning shot that Sergio is by no means guaranteed to start games. However, at a time when we are failing to convert chances, Sergio Aguero is exactly what City need. I fully expect him to take Pep’s criticism on board. Sunday presents Pep with the perfect opportunity to start Sergio Aguero and see if he’s been listening. It also gives City a much needed goal threat at a time when we’ve only scored one in three games. He must start on Sunday.
Still, City Are Poor Defensively
It seems odd that in a ten game winning streak, the defending could be questionable. In honesty, City were so good going forward in those first ten games that some of the cracks were well and truly papered over. We have just the one clean sheet in Premier League football, and considering the way in which we have dominated a lot of games, that is surprising. Now that the team isn’t scoring as freely, defensive errors are becoming more and more highlighted. The early form of Aleksander Kolarov seems to be evaporating too. Pablo Zabaleta seems criminally off the pace. Nicolas Otamendi is very, very stick or twist. These points are becoming much more noticeable as City’s mistakes are now actually costing them games. On Wednesday, there were 4/5 very high profile errors that either led to goals, penalties or red cards. We need to go back to basics. Cut out the fatal errors, keeping the ball, and above all else – concentrating for 90 minutes. Southampton are a very capable side. If we don’t start defending more like a side that is top of the league and less like a pub team, it will be 0/5 come Sunday afternoon.
Who Can Hurt Us?
Charlie Austin is in a very rich bit of goalscoring form of late. I don’t think that Austin is the most technically astute player we’re ever likely to see in the Premier League, but one thing he does possess is a knack for goalscoring. City need to be far better down the flanks on Sunday to stop Austin’s supply.
I’m feeling good. I honestly feel that City’s form has been unfortunate in the last couple of games. If we turn up to the game on Sunday with half as much attacking intent as we did against Everton, I think we’ll get the job done. I’m expecting a strong performance, but again – no clean sheet. 3-1 City.
Predict the score:
[statsfc-score-predictor key=”D8SJIk7F6vySBuDaFQRSHy11xfbyCt18uXRinj2b” team=”Man City” date=”2016-10-23″ default_css=”true”]