Tactical Watch: Saints must be brave

By SFC Media time Fri 07 Oct Man City vs Saints

Sam Tighe previews Southampton’s Premier League trip to Manchester City, with the reigning champions in red-hot form. It's the latest edition of Tactical Watch, in association with Sportsbet.io.

What shape are Manchester City in ahead of this fixture?

City’s form heading into this fixture would concern any opponent in the world; they’ve won five in a row, scoring 20 goals in the process, with talk-of-the-nation Erling Haaland scoring the lion’s share of those.

They played midweek in the Champions League and made light work of FC Copenhagen even without Kevin De Bruyne, who got a full rest, while Haaland was substituted at half time to keep him fresh for the weekend.

They’re in unfamiliar territory in the Premier League table – second, rather than first – but the pace they (and Arsenal) are setting is strong and City are the only unbeaten side left in the division.

How do you stop Erling Haaland?

Haaland is on the cusp of the 20-goal mark (all competitions) for the season and we’ve just entered October. He’s scored in every club game he’s played so far for City bar one, against AFC Bournemouth, where he assisted in a 4-0 win.

He’s scored such a wide variety of goals – from racing through 1v1, to acrobatic flicks, to thumping headers, through to neat finishes – many are questioning how to stop him. Answers are scarce, as he combines speed, strength, timing and finesse to a rare degree of excellence.

Aston Villa did relatively well by pinning Tyrone Mings to him – although he did still score. That suggests the true key to stopping him is preventing as much service to him as possible, so it’s partially true to say: Stop De Bruyne, stop Haaland.

KDB’s crosses from that narrow right position are a nightmare for box defenders to deal with anyway, so disrupting his game is a great starting point regardless of its knock-on effect to Haaland.

What’s the key to beating them at the other end?

Games against Manchester City are especially tough because you truly do have to play perfectly for 90+ minutes; one lapse could derail everything. Those first 20 minutes feel all the more important, too: You have to start well and give yourself a platform to work off.

There’s also a certain amount of bravery you have to play with to beat City; those who do press and disrupt them in the build-up phase can unbalance them, steal the ball and create dangerous chances. The two teams City have failed to beat this term – Villa and Newcastle United – both did this very well and were rewarded with goals.

Southampton will need all the speed they can find, so when those transitional moments come, they can break loose and cause problems. From there, it’s about decision-making under pressure and, ultimately, execution in key moments.

Predicted XI (4-3-3): 
Ederson; Cancelo, Akanji, Dias, Gómez; Rodri, De Bruyne, Gündoğan; Foden, Haaland, Grealish.

Notes:
- City have injury problems at the back, so Cancelo and Gómez are almost certain to be the full-back combo, while it’s two of Akanji, Dias and Laporte in the middle.
- Rodri missed the Manchester derby but was in the Champions League squad on Wednesday; you’d expect the midfield to be him, De Bruyne plus one more.
- Grealish has found his groove and is playing well, but could still be rotated out. Guessing the two who flank Haaland is always tough.

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