At first glance, today’s clash should give us a chance to regain some of the momentum we had been riding after back-to-back 4-1 thrashings of Palace and Leeds. However, as we know all too well, we’ve followed those with back-to-back 2-2 draws. Even if we tell ourselves that we’re back home, where we boast an imperious if not perfect 12W 1D 1L record, and even if we see that Southampton are absolutely rock-bottom in the Prem, we should remind ourselves that they are still quite capable of impersonating a banana peel.
Yes, yes, I know that suggesting that a group of human beings imitating an inanimate object is not “impersonating”. It’s the other way ’round if anything. Just let me have this one. Nitpicking grammar police. Get a hobby, yeah?
Where was I? Ah, yes—it seems that form goes out the window whenever we face Southampton. Back in October—back when we were in our pomp—we went to St. Mary’s and dropped points for just the second time in eleven matches, struggling to finish chances and getting denied by (who else) VAR. The story back then may sound achingly familiar to recent weeks when we started brightly, Xhaka scoring in the 11th minute, only for us to fail to kill the match off or at least see it out. Southampton found their equaliser in the 69th minute, and that has to be seen, much like the draw with West Ham and (increasingly) the draw with Liverpool.
It would be tempting for us to look past this Saints side and to look ahead to Wednesday’s trip to the Etihad, given how much the stakes have risen after dropping those four points to allow Man City, who hold a game in hand, to close the gap to just six. They’ll be waylaid somewhat this weekend by their FA Cup tie with Sheffield United, and one has to rue that rule change that prevents suspensions from carrying over from one competition to the others. No sense, in other words, of hoping that Haaland or Rodri or De Bruyne get sent off there.
We’ll have to be merciless today. There can be no wobble. We can’t content ourselves with merely winning. Looking at the table and at goal differences, we really should do everything we can to put four or five or six (or more) goals past our visitors while keeping a clean sheet for the first time in five outings. This would give us a morale boost while also boosting our lead over City to seven, tamping down somewhat the potential fallout of failing to get a result on Wednesday.
But there I go looking past Southampton. One match at a time. Focus on the opponent in front of you. Don’t slip on banana peels.
100%. Too much coverage of how Wednesday’s clash matters to our campaign. If we drop points today, Wednesday wont matter and City will win the Prem again. I hope a return to the Emirates mean a return to winning ways. I can’t stand the thought of losing the title due to dropping points in a match like this one.
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