SOUTHAMPTON — Manchester City went to Southampton on Sunday and won 3-0 to close the gap on Premier League leaders Chelsea to six points.
With the victory City leapfrogged Saints into second place and handed the hosts a reality check, as the Citizens exploded into life with three goals in the second half.
Here’s three things we learned from St Mary’s.
SAINTS NOT QUITE TOP FOUR CONTENDERS
Saints have had a sensational start to the season, but in three games against teams from last seasons top seven (Liverpool, Tottenham and now Man City) they’ve lost all three. Their hammering to City was a much-needed reality check. For the opening 60 minutes Southampton held their own and looked as if they could push City all the way to either nick a win or at least settle for a point. They were outclassed in the first 15 minutes, but then Saints finally got hold of the ball and conjured the games first real chance. Morgan Schneiderlin whipped in a great ball to the back post and Dusan Tadic saw his effort blocked by Vincent Kompany. That was to be as good as it got for Saints because when City pressed high, they capitalized and easily picked off Saints in the second half.
Southampton are a solid defensive team, as conceding just six goals all season before this match proves. Offensive output is going to define their progress. Numerous moans and groans emanated from the home fans on Sunday, as Tadic, Sadio Mane and Pelle all had off days. When you look to their bench, only Shane Long provides real depth in attacking areas and Jay Rodriguez can’t return to full fitness quick enough. City’s defenders, shielded by Fernandinho and Yaya Toure, won the battle and if Saints are to keep up their early season form their attackers must improve. Next up for the Saints, Arsenal away and Manchester United at home. This is a pivotal stretch for the Saints.
SCHNIEDERLIN MISSED, AGUERO SHINES
He didn’t score but Aguero was everywhere. The Premier League’s top scorer was a constant thorn in Saints’ side. From the penalty incident we mentioned, to setting up goals from Toure and Gael Clichy, Aguero was buzzing around the box and Southampton’s defenders were terrified of him. Aguero slotted over at the back post 25 minutes from the end, and then had a powerful effort blocked by Yoshida but it was his constant running and ability to find pockets of space in front of Saints’ defense which was the biggest issue.
One of the main reasons for Aguero’s growing influence in the game was the absence of Schneiderlin in Saints’ midfield. The French international midfielder came off injured at half time and Toby Alderweireld was moved into central midfield and he just couldn’t lock Aguero down. The tiny Argentine was a menace, and the only thing which blotted his copybook was going clean through on goal but failing to beat Forster as he rounded him. We learned that after all, Aguero is human.
MIKE JONES HAS A ‘MARE
In the ninth minute Saints got a huge break as Sergio Aguero jinxed into the box and was felled by Jose Fonte. It was a clear penalty but referee Mike Jones inexplicably booked Aguero for diving instead of pointing to the spot. Jones had a nightmare afternoon and both sets of fans let him know that. That incident in the first half encapsulated his performance, and the referee from Chester should be given the weekend off next week to take stock. That said, he wasn’t on his own. His linesman in the first half somehow flagged for offside on Pelle despite City having the advantage and Mangala steaming forward down the right. Jones bought the play back which incensed Manuel Pellegrini. With 15 minutes to go Jones made a good decision to send off Eliquaim Mangala after he brought down Shane Long for a second yellow. But overall, some serious questions have to be asked about the refereeing.