It was one of City’s stronger away performances of the campaign and defensively they looked far more resolute. With an FA Cup semi–final to come next weekend, that may prove important.
Here are the five things we learned from Guardiola’s side’s victory at St Mary’s.
Pep may have found the right formula
Guardiola has spent the entire campaign chopping and changing his side – City are the only team in the Premier League not to have named the same starting XI in consecutive games.
That is perhaps a contributing factor as to why they are so inconsistent within games.
When everything clicks, their football is sumptuous and opposition sides are carved open. But there can be long spells in matches where Guardiola’s side keep possession but do little with it.
In the opening 45 minutes, City had 66 per cent of the ball. Yet they didn’t muster a single shot on target. Given the quality in their attack, that shouldn’t happen.
0 – Southampton v Manchester City is the sixth Premier League game this season to see no shots on target in the first half. Snooze.
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) April 15, 2017
It came together in the second period but Guardiola will know the first half wasn’t good enough.
He has admitted City are a work in progress and it’s unlikely we’ll see the fluid attacking side the Catalan truly wants until next season.
Kompany vital to top four hopes
It’s an astonishing stat but Vincent Kompany, Manchester City’s long–serving skipper, has started just 20 of the last 101 matches.
His injury problems have been well documented and he has been sorely missed. With the powerful Belgian in the centre of defence, City are a different animal.
He completed every clearance, made one defensive interception, one block and also brought the best out of centre-back partner Nicolas Otamendi against the Saints.
Yet it was the other end of the pitch that Kompany made the biggest impact. He headed home City’s opener and it was a goal scored through sheer determination. He bullied his marker Maya Yoshida and headed past Fraser Forster.
Kompany is a winner and he led by example. Something that can’t be measured by facts and figures. Quite simply, Man City are by far a better side when he is fit.
Jury still out on Bravo after latest audition
Guardiola has said he will rotate his goalkeepers from now until the end of the campaign and that will give Claudio Bravo an opportunity to save his Man City career.
However, Bravo has been unconvincing at the Etihad. He made a number of high profile errors earlier in the campaign and was dropped at the start of the year as Guardiola turned to Willy Caballero.
The 34-year-old is being given a second chance and while he didn’t make any noticeable mistakes against Southampton, there is still an air of uncertainty when he’s on the pitch.
He did, however, keep a rare clean sheet at St Mary’s and also ended a run of conceding seven goals from the last seven shots on target he’d faced.
Boufal continues to underwhelm
Southampton worked hard last summer to complete the club–record signing of Sofiane Boufal – Premier League rivals Watford thought they had a deal wrapped up until the Moroccan decided to head to St Mary’s – but the 23-year-old hasn’t justified his fee.
Boufal has been in and out of the Saints side this season, partly due to injury and partly down to a lack of form, and he began the game against City on the bench.
He was introduced in place of Manolo Gabbiadini with 30 minutes of the contest remaining but was largely ineffectual. He made just 13 passes, 7 of which were in the attacking third. He also completed only two of his five take ons.
Boufal was presented with a good opportunity following a mistake from Bravo but attempted a a flick instead of playing a smart pass. The chance, as a result, was lost. It was a moment that encapsulated his season.
Stephens the latest Southampton jewell
The list of players who have honed their skills in Southampton’s academy is impressive. From Gareth Bale and Theo Walcott to Adam Lallana and Luke Shaw.
Developing young players and selling them on for big fees is part of the Saints business model and in Jack Stephens, they have another rough diamond who is improving with every passing week.
— Ben Stanfield (@BenStanners) April 15, 2017
Since coming into the side for the injured Virgil van Dijk, not an easy man to replace, the 23-year-old has performed well.
He was up against one of, if not the, Premier League’s best strikers in Aguero and, although the Argentine grabbed a late goal, Stephens will be pleased with his display.
He won 100 per cent of his tackles and aerial duels, made three blocks, one interception and completed both clearances attempted.
He also made four successful take ons, more than attacking players Nathan Redmond and Juventus transfer target Dušan Tadić.