Skip to content

Death rattle of Manchester City’s title defense goes quiet at Southampton

Feb 9, 2013, 4:40 PM EDT

Manchester City's Toure and Dzeko react after being defeated by Southampton after their English Premier League soccer match at St Mary's Stadium in Southampton

Given the miraculous way Manchester City won last year’s title, we’ve been cautious about calling the English Premier League race, but at some point we have to stop living in the past. Last year’s Manchester City team was capable of tracking down Manchester United and finding a stoppage time title winner on the season’s last day, but this team bares little resemblance to them. Most of the names are the same, and the general (squint your eyes) style of play is identical, but as full-time blew on Southampton’s 3-1 win over the visiting Citizens, the defending champions looked incapable of defending their title.

Now the math’s become daunting. The Citizens came into the day nine points back of league-leading United, who host Everton tomorrow. It’s the same lead Barcelona holds over second place Atletico Madrid in Spain, a race few consider viable. If the Red Devils get a result tomorrow, only Bayern Munich will have a larger lead among Europe’s top five leagues. The Premier League race may not be truly mathematically over, but in the parlance of the sport, it is done and dusted. If City makes this a race, they’ll be rising from the dead.

(MORE: Bale double downs Newcastle.)

The holders were second best from the opening kickoff, with Saints taking advantage of an early Gareth Barry giveaway and some slack defending to go up in the seventh minute. James Puncheon punched Southampton in front. Steven Davis doubled Saints’ lead in the 22nd before Edin Dzeko gave City momentary life, scoring in the 39th.

Then Barry, capping an uncharacteristically poor performance, provided a perfect finish to Ricky Lambert’s 48th minute cross, beating Joe Hart to put Southampton up 3-1 and deal his team a demoralizing blow.

Southamption is a better team than their 15th-place record suggests, and with a progressive style of play that challenges teams expecting reverence from their opponents, you can see why they gave City trouble. Still, a more ready reason for City’s failures rests with the men from Manchester. They are just nowhere near as good as they were last year. The strength and constant imposition that defined last year’s squad as been replaced with a dependence on resilience and ingenuity, a dependance that’s failed to carry then through the season. They’re a different team, a worse team, and a squad that’s not going to replicate last year’s miracles.

(MORE: Chelsea back into the win column | Arsenal hold on at Sunderland.)

Out of Europe, too far behind Manchester United, and in no danger of falling out of the top four, all that’s left is for City to reclaim the FA Cup. They travel to Elland Road to face Leeds United next weekend. After that, they enter the ennui-laden state of a disappointing squad forced to cast their eyes to next year four months too soon.

Latest Posts
  1. Danny Welbeck gets off the mark for Arsenal, links up with Ozil superbly

    Sep 20, 2014, 1:50 PM EDT

    Britain Soccer Premier League

    Can Welbeck and Ozil click and become Arsenal’s main offensive weapons?

  2. At the half: West Ham builds 2-0 lead, Liverpool pulls one back

    Sep 20, 2014, 1:21 PM EDT

    West Ham United v Liverpool - Premier League Getty Images

    Raheem Stirling has narrowed Liverpool’s deficit to 2-1 at halftime in a Saturday afternoon thriller on NBC.

  3. Cisse salutes cancer-battling Jonas, Pardew defends job as Newcastle drew Hull

    Sep 20, 2014, 1:14 PM EDT

    Britain Soccer Premier League AP

    “It’s not lost on me that I get accused of being arrogant but I’m also a proud man to be manager of this football club and I’m going to fight to keep it,” Pardew said.

  4. VIDEO: Real Madrid smash eight past Deportivo; Cristiano Ronaldo bags hat trick

    Sep 20, 2014, 12:25 PM EDT

    RC Deportivo La Coruna v Real Madrid CF - La Liga Getty Images

    Watch Real’s masterclass, as the Spanish giants batter Deportivo in La Liga.

  5. Burnley 0-0 Sunderland: Third-straight scoreless draw for Clarets

    Sep 20, 2014, 12:05 PM EDT

    Burnley v Sunderland - Premier League Getty Images

    Clarets and Black Cats still searching for first win of the season after stalemate.

  6. Swansea City 0-1 Southampton: 10-man Swans can’t hold off sub Wanyama

    Sep 20, 2014, 11:57 AM EDT

    RC Celta de Vigo v Southampton - Pre Season Friendly Getty Images

    The loss drops Swansea to fifth place on nine points, while Saints jump into second place with 10 points.

  7. Newcastle United 2-2 Hull City: Cisse’s brace saves embattled Magpies

    Sep 20, 2014, 11:55 AM EDT

    Cisse AP

    Cisse revealed an undershirt message of “Always looking forward Jonas” for his teammate Gutierrez, who revealed cancer struggles earlier this week.

  8. Aston Villa 0-3 Arsenal: Red-hot Ozil, Welbeck fire Gunners to victory (video)

    Sep 20, 2014, 11:53 AM EDT

    Aston Villa v Arsenal - Premier League Getty Images

    Three goals in three first half minutes do the business for Arsene Wenger’s men.

  9. Watch live: West Ham United vs. Liverpool (Lineups)

    Sep 20, 2014, 11:50 AM EDT

    Liverpool v West Ham United - Premier League Getty Images

    Liverpool will start Fabio Borini and Mario Balotelli up top after their last-gasp Champions League win over Ludogorets midweek.

  10. VIDEO: Arsenal score three goals in three minutes, as Gunners explode

    Sep 20, 2014, 11:21 AM EDT

    Aston Villa v Arsenal - Premier League Getty Images

    Ozil and Welbeck rip Villa apart in stunning three-minute spell for the Gunners.

  11. Premier League half time update: Arsenal on fire, Swansea down to 10

    Sep 20, 2014, 11:02 AM EDT

    Swansea City v FC St Gallen - UEFA Europa League Getty Images

    Action at Villa Park, while a Swan sees red at the Liberty.

  12. Watch Live: Burnley vs. Sunderland (Lineups)

    Sep 20, 2014, 9:56 AM EDT

    sean_dyche Getty Images

    Both clubs go in search of their first win of the season. Watch live, right here.

  13. Watch Live: Aston Villa vs. Arsenal (Lineups)

    Sep 20, 2014, 9:48 AM EDT

    Can Arsenal kick on and cap a fine week with a win at Leicester? AP

    Can the Gunners grab their first win since the opening day of the season? Will Villa stay unbeaten? Watch live, right here.

  14. Watch live: Swansea City vs. Southampton (Lineups)

    Sep 20, 2014, 9:47 AM EDT

    FBL-ENG-PR-SOUTHAMPTON-SWANSEA Getty Images

    Bafetimbi Gomis has been relegated to the bench for the hosts, while Shane Long gets the start up-top with Graziano Pelle for the Saints.

  15. Queens Park Rangers 2-2 Stoke City: Kranjcar’s cracker saves QPR

    Sep 20, 2014, 9:39 AM EDT

    Queens Park Rangers v Stoke City - Premier League Getty Images

    Kranjcar’s curler saves the day for Rangers, as Stoke are thwarted.

  16. Watch Live: Newcastle United vs. Hull City (Lineups)

    Sep 20, 2014, 9:19 AM EDT

    Britain Soccer Premier League AP

    Tigers midfielder David Meyler, recipient of a Pardew head butt last season, will start on the bench.

  17. Jose Mourinho wants Manchester City’s title taken away, points deducted

    Sep 20, 2014, 9:04 AM EDT

    Britain Soccer Champions League AP

    Mourinho: “Are the fines fair? I don’t think so. What is fair is to remove points and titles.”

  18. Louis van Gaal: No player is a guaranteed starter at Manchester United

    Sep 20, 2014, 8:15 AM EDT

    VanGaal Getty Images

    LVG lays down the law ahead of United’s trip to Leicester on Sunday.

  19. Watch Live: Queens Park Rangers vs. Stoke City (Lineups)

    Sep 20, 2014, 7:27 AM EDT

    Queens Park Rangers v Stoke City - Premier League Getty Images

    Can QPR bounce back from last weeks drubbing and beat the Potters? Watch live, right here.

  20. WATCH: Premier League online via NBC Sports Live Extra – Week 5

    Sep 20, 2014, 7:00 AM EDT

    Live Extra

    How and where to watch every single PL game live online or via the app.

Featured video

Breaking down Man City vs. Chelsea