City 0 Southampton 0
Report by Eddie Blount
City last won a home game on Jan 20th in spite of a run of fixtures against teams in the lower half of the Premiership who should all have been swept aside by a side with Europa league pretensions. Instead we have seen the same game played over and over again. We do the vast majority of the attacking against a team with a minimum of ten men behind the ball, decent defensive organisation and commendable team spirit.
In spite of much huffing and puffing we rarely threaten the opposition’s goal particularly from corners when it is a major surprise if we win a header let alone get one on target. Sooner or later we generously commit a defensive howler from which very limited opponents sometimes prosper when it is usually their only shot on target in the whole game.
At least last night, a balmy evening light years away from the arctic temperatures of the previous home game, we did not have to suffer the indignity of losing to a team so limited in attacking ambition that they deserve to be relegated. Manager Mark Hughes is a small step away from managing two premiership sides to be relegated in the same season given that Stoke are in an even worse position than his current employers.
There was an ominous outbreak of booing at the end of this eminently forgettable match. At a lower decibel level this has happened several times recently though previously quickly drowned out by the cheers of other fans, but on this occasion there were no counter-cheers. Enough is close to being enough you feel.
Partly of course the booing is for the opposition who have made little or no attempt to make a game of it but there is a growing feeling that the frustration of the fans is reaching boiling point. This is pretty understandable given that this match had 0-0 written all over it from a long way out!
Neither keeper looked like conceding and in fact both had really only one save to make worthy of the name, both in the second half. Hamer, deputising for the injured Schmeichel, looked perfectly competent doing virtually nothing and brought off a good block-save from Long in what was the only semblance of a chance the Saints had.
Looking at the table Saints desperately needed to win this game but opted instead to go for a point which is of little use to them at this stage. City for their part had far more attacks but creating chances was no easier for Puel’s men than for Southampton. Iheanacho might have given City the lead in the first half, his first attempt from within the box was blocked and his second put just wide. Vardy inevitably did require their keeper to make a save when he helped on a ball over the top but put it too close to the keeper who tipped the effort nonchalantly over the bar.
So why are we finding it so difficult to score at home? As you would expect there are several reasons. First we have no real aerial power. It was surely a mistake to send both Slimani and Ulloa out on loan at the same time. We now have no plan B yet there comes a time in most games when Plan A (a possession/passing game) has to be varied. We have to persevere with a failed plan and simply look to have run out of ideas long before the end.
Corners are greeted with great acclaim though the opposition are far more likely to score from a City corner than we are! Second we lack physical power in too many parts of the pitch. Burnley don’t! No one can take on two big physical defenders and keep possession in the central part of the final third. Equally importantly we are exposed as lightweight when it comes to fighting for 50-50 balls. Third we are weak at shooting from outside the area so we rarely profit from deflections, a prolific source of assists for some teams. Finally we lack central players who can go past people with the ball and/or play a telling through ball; in particular we lack a suitable partner for Vardy.
In a game almost devoid of incident and excitement no one laid claim to be City’s Man of the Match. There were a number of solid performers as usual but the overall dross-rating of this fixture got to them all in the end. Special mention however for Dragovic (in for Morgan) and Maguire who gave City a generally solid spine and for Ndidi who performed limited defensive duties well and is by far our best tackler
This is a young city team with potential but none of the promising youngsters is yet the finished product as was evident last night in relation to Chilwell (not yet in the same class as Fuchs), Gray (nowhere near a replacement for Mahrez), Iheanacho (more a substitute for Vardy than a partner) and Ndidi (sideways passing improving but needs to get forward with the ball at pace). The one consolation with boring games is the opportunity it gives for reflection!
City: Hamer. Albrighton, Dragovic, Maguire, Chilwell, Mahrez, Ndidi, Silva (Barnes 90), Gray (Choudhury 90), Iheanacho (Diabate 76), Vardy
Southampton: McCarthy, Bednarek, Yoshida, Hoedt, Soares, Romeu, Hojbjerg (Redmond 88), Bertrand, Ward-Prowse (Davis 57), Tadic, Long (Austin 73)
The views expressed in this report are the opinions of the Trust member nominated to file the report only and do not represent the views of the Foxes Trust organisation