Manchester City vs. Southampton: 6 Things We Learned

Mark Jones@@Mark_Jones86Featured ColumnistApril 5, 2014

Manchester City vs. Southampton: 6 Things We Learned

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    They rode their luck at times, but Manchester City eventually saw off Southampton 4-1 at the Etihad Stadium to move to within a point of table-toppers Liverpool.

    City went ahead in the early stages when Yaya Toure converted a penalty following a foul from Jose Fonte on Edin Dzeko, only for Southampton to equalise when a foul from Pablo Zabaleta on Jack Cork allowed Rickie Lambert to score from the spot.

    Southampton lost Jay Rodriguez to a serious-looking injury in between those goals and after they'd impressed they ended up 3-1 down at half-time following two goals in first half stoppage time.

    The first of those was hugely controversial, as David Silva looked to be in a clear offside position before setting up Samir Nasri, before Edin Dzeko headed in a third.

    Substitute Stevan Jovetic tapped in a fourth goal in a more subdued second half.

    Here are six lessons learned from Saturday afternoon:

You Need Luck on Your Side in a Title Race

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    We'll never know now but just what would have happened had Southampton managed to take City into half-time level at 1-1?

    The Etihad Stadium was growing nervous following the visitors' almost total domination following Rickie Lambert's penalty equaliser and with the visitors enjoying the vast majority of the possession there was almost an argument that Manuel Pellegrini would have wanted half-time to come earlier.

    But then came his team's best move of the half as some intricate passing ended with Dzeko, Silva and Nasri combining for the latter to tap home, only for the replays to show that Silva was clearly offside when he received the ball.

    The flag never came though and so a crucial goal in City's title challenge was awarded.

    Dzeko's instant third goal only compounded the error even further, but there is little point trying to pretend that City didn't benefit from a huge slice of luck here.

    It is how you use good fortune that matters of course, and City had enough about them to go on and comfortably win the match, not that their title rivals will be focusing on that.  

Football Can Be an Incredibly Cruel Game

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    Amongst Englishmen, only Daniel Sturridge has scored more goals in this season's Premier League than Jay Rodriguez and so it wasn't exactly out of the question that the Southampton forward had already done enough to convince Roy Hodgson to pick him in the squad for the summer's World Cup.

    At the time of writing the extent of Rodriguez's injury which forced him off in the first half isn't fully apparent, but it certainly doesn't look good for the former Burnley man and by extension for those of us who would love to see his efforts this season rewarded.

    As Rodriguez was stretchered off he was applauded by the home supporters as well as the travelling Saints fans, an example of just how highly regarded he has become following a season in which he has impressed plenty of onlookers.

    His battle now will simply be to recover and go again.

Sometimes There Is a Substitute for Experience

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    Jose Fonte and Pablo Zabaleta are two defenders who both Southampton and Manchester City fans have come to rely on following years of loyal service to their respective clubs.

    Yet in a first half when plenty of the young players on show in the match were impressing, the pair combined to produce almost identical errors which showcased that sometimes even the most experienced heads in your team can make mistakes.

    Fonte's bizarre decision to bring down Edin Dzeko in the opening moments of the game ensured that Southampton did exactly what Mauricio Pochettino would have warned them against and went behind early, before Zabaleta returned the favour with his foul on Jack Cork for Southampton's penalty.

    They were moments which proved that nerves aren't beyond even reliable performers, and the pressures that come with life at the top.

Rickie Lambert Could Now Be a Certainty for the World Cup

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    He won't have wanted it to happen this way, but Rickie Lambert could now be certain of his place in England's World Cup squad this summer.

    The injury to his club-mate Jay Rodriguez was a hammer blow to the player, his club and his country in the first half, but Lambert was able to put it behind him and score a remarkable 34th consecutive penalty for his team's equaliser.

    There will be plenty claiming that England should take him to Brazil for that quality alone, but he's also got other attributes which will be key in the tournament in the summer.

    With no Rodriguez in the picture, there now looks to be one less obstacle in the way of the forward completing his remarkable rise on the biggest stage.

Playing David Silva as a No. 10 Could Be the Title Key

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    No-one is suggesting that David Silva's performances were poor this season but with City often playing two out-and-out forwards the Spanish star could sometimes get lost in the space behind them.

    The injuries to Sergio Aguero and Stevan Jovetic and the poor form of Alvaro Negredo has seen Manuel Pellegrini's hand somewhat forced, of course, but the Chilean's decision to field Silva off a centre forward, namely Dzeko in the last few games, has suddenly seen the World Cup and European Championship winner burst into life.

    He's been excellent recently, none more so than here, and it would be a huge surprise if he wasn't to reprise the role in what has become one of the games of the season at Anfield next weekend.

    City's minds will turn to that clash with Liverpool now and just what Silva can do within it.

Sergio Aguero Shouldn't Be Rushed into Action at Anfield

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    It is because of that form currently being displayed by Silva and the admittedly hit-and-miss goalscoring displays from Dzeko that Manuel Pellegrini shouldn't rush Sergio Aguero back into action for that titanic game at Liverpool next Sunday.

    Surely the worst thing that could happen for the Argentinean would be that he could turn in the type of ineffective performance we saw from him at Barcelona in the Champions League last month and thereby trouble both his team and damage his long-term fitness ahead of the World Cup in the summer.

    Dzeko might miss chances but he is still scoring goals and although there was yet more evidence of Alvaro Negredo's struggles in front of goal here, at least there was the late bonus of a Stevan Jovetic strike.