Premier League 2018/19: Manchester City vs Southampton
This match analysis first featured on our dedicated Manchester City site, manchestercityanalysis.com.
Manchester City blew past yet another Premier League opponent this past weekend. The Blues ran out 6-1 winners against a hapless Southampton side to go two points clear at the top of the Premier League table. In my tactical analysis today, I will analyse Manchester City’s six goals and look at how City managed to return to the top of the table outright.
Throughout the first half, Manchester City were able to isolate Southampton’s full-backs by overloading the wings. In the image above from the build-up to the first goal, Bernardo and Sterling are overloading the left while Sané and David Silva have overloaded the left. This allows Bernardo time in the half-space where he can turn and drive towards the goal.
Although the play is developing on the far side, Raheem Sterling knew he had a responsibility to attack the centre of the box. In the classic Manchester City manner, David Silva plays in Sané who drives the ball across the box looking for his opposite winger. Sterling doesn’t apply the finishing touch on this occasion as Wesley Hoedt turns the ball in. However, without Sterling breaking his neck to attack the box Hoedt wouldn’t have had to force the ball into his own goal.
Above, we can again see that City have isolated Southampton’s full-backs. This time Sterling is in the half-space where he can be so dangerous. He picks up the ball and drives towards the byline.
We can see the hunger and desire of both David Silva and Agüero to get into advantageous positions for an easy tap-in. Both players make similar runs and force the Southampton defenders on top of their goalkeeper giving Sterling an easy target to find on the edge of the six-yard box.
As with the previous goal, Bernardo and Sterling have exchanged positions. Sterling again finds himself in the right half-space between two Southampton defenders. He decides to dart in-behind and the weight of the pass from Bernardo is perfect. On the far side, we can also see that Sané and the goalscorer David Silva have switched positions whilst also isolating Cedric, the Southampton right-back.
The importance of the Sané and Silva switch becomes clear once Raheem Sterling dinks the ball in. The Southampton defenders follow the run of Sané as he darts towards the centre of the box. The height of Sané poses a problem for the centre back of Southampton who is forced to challenge Sané in the air. Silva has wisely held his position and now finds himself in acres of space at the far side of the box, giving him time to compose himself once the ball reaches him and drive the volley home.
In my analysis of Manchester City’s win over Tottenham in their previous Premier League fixture, I noted the incredible work rate from Raheem Sterling when City have the ball. Here we can see that the play is developing on the far side of the pitch and Sterling, the eventual goalscorer is somewhat far away from the action. However, Sterling is a player who knows when he has to run and where he must run to in order to have an effect on the ball.
In a few short seconds of Agüero dispossessing Cedric, Sterling has made his way into a dangerous position in the box. However, his space is created not by himself but by the small but clever run of Bernardo Silva. He takes a few steps away from the goal and towards the edge of the box which brings the nearest Southampton defender with him. This gives Agüero a perfect channel into which he can feed the ball and find Sterling in space.
The fifth goal of the game was my favourite and another example of City’s hard work on the training ground. As Aymeric Laporte has possession of the ball Raheem Sterling has drifted in from his right-wing position and has positioned himself in between the lines of the Southampton defence. A clever dummy by Bernardo Silva completely takes out the two central midfielders of Southampton forcing Wesley Hoedt to engage Sterling. As this is developing Sergio Agüero quickly makes his way into the space vacated by the Dutch centre back.
Sterling popped the ball off the Fernandinho who in-turn quickly found Agüero. Due to Hoedt pushing up out of the line Ryan Bertrand feels he must tuck in to stop the run of Agüero, unfortunately for the England full-back, this only creates bigger problems. Hoedt doesn’t have the pace or agility to stay with Sterling who spins and continues his run down the outside of Bertrand.
With Bertrand tucking in Agüero has plenty of space to lay the ball into Sterling’s path and the in-form forward finishes with aplomb.
The sixth goal is the archetypal example of a team near the bottom of the table at 5-1 down in the 90th minute against a team who are top of the table 5-1 up in the 90th minute. Manchester City have turned the ball over following a corner for Southampton and are on the counter. Phil Foden chooses the right option in giving the ball to Sterling early and allowing the wide-man time to dribble and commit the Southampton defenders. Both Agüero and Sané are making runs in different lanes which will give each other space should Sterling look for them.
Sterling has found Sané with the ball and Sané does the rest. He uses a small body feint to tie the three Southampton defenders up, whilst also preventing McCarthy from seeing the ball. With the shift of weight McCarthy is left stranded and in a poor position and Sané is able to easily find the bottom corner.
The win over Southampton became almost an opportunity for Manchester City to show off their playbook of tricks and flicks which led to some very impressive goals. Results like this are the kind that last season, lead to teams arriving at the Etihad feeling as if they’d already played and lost – an ominous sign for the rest of the Premier League.