At the end of a week containing two disappointing defeats and rampant speculation regarding Manuel Pellegrini’s future, City were in desperate need of a result against Southampton. Thankfully, for everyone’s sake, they were able to pick up their first Premier League win since the end of October and get themselves back to the top of the table.
The Blues began the match in an urgent mood and pressed their opponents high up the pitch, forcing several mistakes. One such error lead to Kevin De Bruyne’s opening goal, and after 20 minutes City were 2-0 up and cruising thanks to a deflected strike from Fabian Delph on his first start for the club.
Things were rather different after the break, in large part due to Southampton’s introduction of the dangerous Dušan Tadić, and it didn’t take long for the visitors to halve the deficit through a Shane Long header. The Saints enjoyed a spell of dominance in the aftermath of that goal, but City fans were able to breath a sigh of relief when Aleksandar Kolarov expertly tucked a third goal away in the 69th minute and allayed fears of a capitulation.
Here’s how I rated the boys in blue on the day.
13 Willy Caballero – 7/10
I’m sure I wasn’t the only one who was a little bit worried about Caballero’s participation in this game after the way he performed on his last league start (the 4-1 defeat at Tottenham in September). The Argentine was much, much better on this occasion, however, making a decent save in the first half and an even better one in the second to deny Tadić with the score at 2-1. His propensity to punch or flap at crosses won’t win him many friends, but we can feel much more relaxed about Joe Hart’s absence from the team after this display.
3 Bacary Sagna – 7/10
Back to his best following a couple of below par performances. The Frenchman ran a tight ship down the right hand side, offered a good level of attacking support to Kevin De Bruyne and didn’t even let a nasty whack on the head faze him too much.
26 Martín Demichelis – 5/10
Saturday provided yet more evidence that Demichelis sadly no longer appears to have what it takes to compete at this level. He was frequently outpaced, landing himself in the referee’s notebook with a clumsy late challenge in the first half, beaten a little too easily in the air for Southampton’s goal and the way he allowed Tadić to stroll past him into the penalty area in the second half was unacceptable. Vincent Kompany’s return from injury can’t come soon enough. In the meantime, it’s a good job we’ve got…
30 Nicolás Otamendi – 9/10
I personally thought Otamendi was superb against Southampton. He didn’t put a foot wrong defensively, read the game extremely well and was always on hand to mop things up for his partner. In addition to that, he played some nice passes out from the back and even won his side a dangerous free kick after making an opposition defender look silly with a drop of the shoulder in the first half. How different things could have been if he hadn’t been watching last week’s game from the substitutes bench.
11 Aleksandar Kolarov – 7/10
I’ve been saying for a while that Kolarov has played too much football this season and was in need of a rest. He got that rest in midweek and it would appear to have had the desired effect if his performance in this match is anything to go by. The Serbian could possibly have done more to stop the cross coming in from which Southampton got their goal, but he made amends with a wonderfully clinical finish after Kevin De Bruyne had picked him out at the back post at the other end. I can’t speak highly enough of that strike. There was probably only one spot in the whole of the goal that wasn’t covered by either the goalkeeper or the defender on the line and Aleks made finding it look easy.
25 Fernandinho – 6/10
Played in the anchor role of a three-man midfield and seemed to struggle somewhat, particularly after half-time. He was guilty of allowing Tadić to get away from him too easily on more than one occasion and didn’t protect the back four adequately enough all afternoon. He’s allowed an off day once in a while though, and to be fair he looked much more comfortable when Fernando came on and he was able to move into a slighly less defensive position.
18 Fabian Delph – 8/10
Marked his first start for City with a goal (albeit with the aid of a slight deflection) and a very good all-round performance. Delph brings energy, determination and enthusiasm to his team’s midfield and his speed and dribbling ability make him better suited to a team with City’s counter-attacking style than some of his colleagues. Many were slightly baffled by the decision to sign him in the summer and wondered what sort of role he’d play at the club. If he carries on playing like he has been, his manager will have to keep picking him and the £8 million spent on him will seem like a very astute piece of business indeed.
42 Yaya Touré – 6/10
Not bad, not brilliant – words which don’t just sum up Yaya’s game against Southampton, but probably his season as a whole. He was constantly involved in the match from start to finish to the point that, at one stage, he even made a block in his own penalty area! The Ivorian clearly isn’t the physical phenomenon he once was but he still has enough strength, ability and intelligence to be an imposing force in midfield and he seemed to benefit from having Fabian Delph doing lots of running alongside him in this match. That said, though his performances are rarely as detrimental to his team as some would have you believe, his days as a guaranteed starter in this team could and should be numbered.
7 Raheem Sterling – 6/10
Did well to create City’s first goal after he picked Maya Yoshida’s pocket and set-up De Bruyne, but this was otherwise a day on which Sterling’s mere presence on the pitch was more beneficial to his team than most of the things he did with the ball at his feet. It seems illogical to me that a player who habitually tries to cut in onto his right foot plays on the left all the time. Wouldn’t he be more effective if he played on the right as a genuine winger? Perhaps we’ll never find out.
17 Kevin De Bruyne – 7/10
Opened the scoring with his 7th goal of the season and notched up his 7th and 8th assist while he was at it. His vision to pick out Kolarov for City’s third goal was very good, as was the pass which found Wilfried Bony in an offside position, but otherwise the Belgian had a quiet and pretty mediocre afternoon, all told. His recent form isn’t too great of a cause for concern, especially when he’s scoring and creating goals, but wouldn’t it be just wonderful if David Silva’s full return from injury coincided with De Bruyne having one of the stormers we know he’s capable of?
10 Sergio Agüero – 6/10
This was a classic example of one of those games Kun often has when he’s being played back into full fitness after an injury. His involvement in the game was minimal, he never came close to scoring and looked a little off the pace. The good news is, providing the ankle injury he sustained just before he was substituted isn’t too serious, we’re now another game closer to him being 100% fit and firing on all cylinders.
14 Wilfried Bony – Came on too late to mark
Had some nice touches and linked up well with the players around him when he came on, but his finish after he’d been passed to in an offside position by De Bruyne was laughably poor. Bony still looks like he’s lacking confidence in front of goal and misses like that one aren’t going to do him any favours, especially now he’s back to playing second fiddle to Sergio Agüero again.
6 Fernando – Came on too late to mark
Came off the bench just after City had gone 3-1 up with a specific job to do and did it well. Fernando is perfect for these kind of moments, but not so perfect for others.
21 David Silva – Came on too late to mark
Looked understandably rusty after a long spell on the sidelines but it was fantastic to see him back in business nontheless. I don’t think I realised quite how much I enjoy watching David Silva until I wasn’t able to do so for an extended period of time.
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Written by Dan Burke