Football

Southampton vs Man City result and five things we learned as Saints end Premier League leaders’ winning run



Manchester City’s 12-game Premier League winning run came to an end on the south coast as they were held to a 1-1 draw by Southampton.

The hosts took the early lead at St. Mary’s thanks to an exquisite outside-of-the-boot finish from right-back Kyle Walker-Peters, his first league goal for the club, and they went into half-time with the advantage against the champions.

The second half saw City dominate possession and they eventually found the equaliser when Aymeric Laporte guided a Kevin De Bruyne free-kick into the net, but Pep Guardiola’s men could not find a winner and saw efforts from the likes of De Bruyne and substitute Gabriel Jesus hit the post.

The result leaves City 12 points ahead of Liverpool, having played two games more, while Southampton move up to 12th.

Here are five things we learned from the match at St. Mary’s.

City are indeed human

Manchester City’s form over the festive period was relentless and saw them not just take the lead of the Premier League standings but put a significant gap between themselves and their rivals too.

Their 12-game winning run at one most of the crucial junctures of the season saw them rotate their squad and manage games expertly while others faltered, and will in an likelihood be the reason they lift the title again.

Alas, that run is now over, but there is no need for any level of concern in truth. No side wins every single week all season long, and Southampton defended well here.

De Bruyne wins battle of set-piece masters

James Ward-Prowse’s sublime swopping free-kick in the defeat at Molineux earlier this was the mark of a truly world-class set-piece taker, able to manipulate the ball as it moves through the air seemingly at will to bam

Tonight, though, he had few opportunities to demonstrate his craft and on the other occasions he attempted to do so, was not quite able to reach his highest standard.

Ward-Prowse and De Bruyne are two of the greatest set-piece takers on the planet but it was the Belgian who came out on top tonight, delivering a pinpoint free-kick to the back-post for Aymeric Laporte to dispatch with a simple nod into the corner.

The Belgian’s superb curling winner against Chelsea last weekend rightly earned him the glory but his ability to put goals on a plate for his team-mates is equally as excellent.

Salisu can be a star for Saints

Southampton have struggled to select a consistent centre-back pairing in the past few seasons owing to a combination of formation changes, losses of form and injury absences, but Mohamed Salisu is beginning to look like a defender destined for big things.

The Ghanaian has started all but two of Saints’ Premier League fixtures this evening and put in an excellent display tonight against an attack full of movement, quick feet, and sharp turns.

Salisu made five tackles, 12 clearances and a plethora of blocks as he led the resistance against City’s onslaught, and at 22-year-old has plenty of time to improve even further.

Grealish still not finding his role in City system

Jack Grealish started down the middle once again for Manchester City and spent plenty of a quiet game switching roles and dropping deep into midfield looking to pick the ball up and bring the wide forwards into play.

The 26-year-old’s technical ability on the ball is undoubted but he offers less ability to hold up the ball and less movement in the penalty area than alternatives in the position, including the likes of De Bruyne and Raheem Sterling.

The £100m man is an immensely talented player and an undoubtedly useful addition to Guardiola’s side, but he has yet to find a position in the City attack which suits him best, and perhaps playing a little deeper

Southampton’s shape could be a blueprint

Manchester City’s brilliance is such that some Premier League opponents who face them are beaten before a ball is kicked.

The ability to maintain concentration in the face of City’s front five, constantly switching positions with one another and playing tight five-yard triangles around the penalty area, is incredibly difficult and if focus falters early on then it can be impossible to regain.

Southampton have shown in their two draws with the champions, though, that a combination of high concentration levels and packing the middle of the park can be a successful blueprint.

Wide players Nathan Redmond and Stuart Armstrong tucked further inside they would typically in Hasenhuttl’s narrow shape, and City found it difficult to create the space along the side of the penalty area which is so often their chosen path to goal.

The 4-2-2-2 worked for Saints, and its fundamentals could be useful to other sides wanting to really compete with City between now and the end of the campaign.



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