December 4, 2014

The Saints came back to earth

by Dan Bilicki In: Soccer

There’s something really Tottenham-y about Southampton and it’s not a good thing.

You see, the Saints may have lost just four games this season, but those four games have come against the league’s best sides.

After dropping two games in less than a week to Manchester City at home and then a heartbreaker to Arsenal at the Emirates – added to losses against Liverpool and Spurs – the Saints have lost to every team that it has faced that finished in the top six last year.

It reminds us of how Spurs would always loss – usually big – when facing a side near the top of the table.

It could get worse for Ronald Koeman’s crew too, with Manchester United next on the fixture list. Even worse: Jack Cork, Dusan Tadic and Toby Alderweireld all went off injured in the loss at Arsenal.

Alderweireld’s injury was particularly damaging, as Southampton had already used all of its subs and was forced to play out the final 10 minutes down a man. Without the big Belgian, the Gunners came strong and eventually saw Alexis Sanchez put home the winner.

It’s the kind of result that shows you which teams are built for the top of the table and which ones are punching above their weight.

While Southampton has garnered a lot of new fans and some respect around the footballing community, I’m not so sure this story has the happiest of endings, with Europa League looking more likely than Champions League after this week of play.

CITY FINDS IT’S RACING SHOES

Since a 2-2 draw against lowly QPR less than a month ago, Manchester City has started firing on all cylinders. Wins against Swansea, Bayern Munich in Champions League play, Southampton and Sunderland have the defending champs six points back of Chelsea.

It’s still early, but it’s results like this weekend’s – Chelsea as held to a 0-0 draw by Sunderland and City beat upstarts Southampton – which breathe life into title races.

With 24 games to play, six points can easily be made up in as little as a week like this one.

It’s even easier when you have Sergio Aguero playing like he has.

The Argentine attacker can now easily be called the third best player in the world behind Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi – with no offence to Ballon d’Or nominee Manuel Neuer. And, really, the gap between the top two and Aguero at No. 3 hasn’t been closer in a long time.

City’s dynamo seems to get off amazing shots in the tightest areas and can make stellar passes to set up goals, like Stevan Jovetic’s strike against Sunderland.

As long as Kun stays healthy, City will always have a shot at whichever game their playing and at the EPL title.

QUICK KICKS

What awful defending on Maraoune Fellaini’s goal by Stoke. That defender watched the ball fly over his head to the big Belgian and didn’t even try to get head it … Diego Costa should’ve gotten a bigger suspension than his one game for yellow card accumulation. If the ref had seen him kick out at the Sunderland player, he would’ve been red carded and Chelsea would be without their top player for three games … How real are West Ham’s chances at Europe? After beating Newcastle and West Brom – two sides that are capable of their moments – Big Sam’s boys are in fifth. And they’re getting back striking duo Diafra Sakho and Enner Valencia soon too … Has Brendan Rodgers turned it around just in time? With two wins this week, you have to think that Liverpool’s prospects are looking up. The Reds need a good run of form heading into back-to-back dates with Manchester United and Arsenal coming up shortly … Everton has somehow allowed 22 goals this season, tied for fifth-worst in the league with Burnley. Maybe it’s time that the Toffees kept the chains on gallivanting wing backs Leighton Baines and Seamus Coleman and try to secure the back line a bit better … There’s nothing like having midweek fixtures to shake up the table. With so many teams packed so close together, seeing two game worth of movement in a matter of days was a delight – and there’s more to come this weekend!

THE LAST WORD

Manchester United should be thanking its lucky stars it has David De Gea between the sticks.

If not for the Spanish goalkeeper, this season could be going a lot worse for the Red Devils.

After another stellar reflex save to earn his team three points against Stoke on Wednesday, it has become fairly certain that De Gea is United’s player of the season so far.

He has had to deal with leaky back lines and what seems like a thousand different combinations of a back four. He has had to deal with the players up front failing to connect with each other and falling short on the scoresheet against some weaker opponents.

While many focus on how Louis van Gaal is running this team, or how the injuries are piling up or how much better the offence should be or who the team should sign in January, maybe we should all take a good look at why Manchester United are sitting in fourth right now: David De Gea.

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