On the south shore, it was always going to be a revealing night. This was the first time Enzo Maresca’s Leicester City met a team expected to challenge them for promotion, and it was also the first time they faced a team eager to fight toe-to-toe with them rather than sit deep.

It was discovered that if a team starts up shop, City will make them pay. It was the first time this season that City had less than 60% possession – in fact, they only had 45% – despite having more shots in the box than in any other game.

Southampton provided room, which City took advantage of. Even in the first half, when the Saints weren’t pushing as hard, City used quick passes, deft touches, and a clinical edge to score three goals and set up a few more.

After reviewing the first seven games, Maresca stated that his team’s decision-making and patience in the final third needed to be improved. This was not a game in which they needed dramatic increases in either to benefit. They didn’t have to wait long for the correct last pass to appear since Southampton’s openness and lack of organization made it plain where the ball needed to go.

Enzo Maresca: Pep Guardiola's assistant and Roberto De Zerbi's pal but  replicating Man City success takes time and support | Football News | Sky  Sports

However, there were advancements. Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall had two guys he could have passed to for the second goal, but he waited that additional split second for Kasey McAteer’s run, made a magnificent pass, and created a much bigger opportunity as a result.

After luring Southampton in by making it appear that they were content with a 2-1 lead at halftime, City then moved the ball forward with speed, Stephy Mavididi spun his man to create space, and then coolly picked out Wilfred Ndidi, who was superbly composed to jink inside and score, rather than hit a first-time shot. Maresca believes it is the best goal of the season.

But what this game really demonstrated was City’s ability to be merciless in creating opportunities when their opponents allow it. Teams will not often open up against City, but when they do, fans may now be enthused about what their team may provide in response.

Three encouraging indicators arise from the Southampton comparison.
This was a match between two clubs that have showed under new managers that they prefer to dominate the ball and play systematically up the pitch. According to this research, City is making more improvement than Southampton.

For starters, they didn’t make as many errors. In the first half-hour, both teams were guilty of erroneous passes in hazardous places, but the Saints were more culpable than City, who appeared less at ease playing out of an intense press.

City may have been caught less frequently, especially in the last hour, because they were willing to be more pragmatic. Southampton appeared to be chained to their style of play, even when it was unwise. If Mads Hermansen had to fire the ball to the halfway line rather than play a short pass that might endanger a teammate, he would.

Their defensive organization was also far superior. There were a few too many moments of miscommunication and confusion in the first half-hour, with Callum Doyle the most guilty of errors, but beyond that, they had the organization to shut down Southampton’s attacks and avert danger from inside their own box, with James Justin and Jannik Vestergaard particularly impressive in the second half.

Maresca’s Vardy choice pays off.
While City’s strikers had performed admirably in their first five Championship games prior to Friday night, fans were concerned about the lack of goals and danger from them. It was pleasing, then, that Jamie Vardy scored 20 seconds into their comeback.

Maresca’s move to bring Kelechi Iheanacho into the team paid off, though not because Vardy was a menace throughout. Following his score, he didn’t have many clear-cut chances. He does, though, look to run beyond the last man more frequently than Iheanacho, which stretched an already open Southampton defense.

What was also satisfying was that City had good midfield runners around him, most notably Dewsbury-Hall and Harry Winks, which meant that Vardy, when he did get involved in the build-up, could play the short first-time passes that kept City’s attacks moving faster.

Iheanacho can do that, but he also has a tendency to hold onto the ball for lengthier periods of time, sometimes to allow teammates to come in for support, but partly because he tries to do too much on his own.

This was Vardy’s greatest game of the season, and the race for the starting striker slot between him and Iheanacho looks more even than ever.

Justin demonstrates what Rodgers always stated.
Justin was also joining the team for the first time this season in the Championship. He’s a player Maresca admires, and with Wout Faes returning late from international service, the manager had an excuse to employ him.

While there were some shaky moments in the first half-hour, he played incredibly well defensively after that. The winger with quick feet and agility, Kamaldeen Sulemana, was inserted in the second half as Southampton’s saviour, but Justin shut him down.

Brendan Rodgers used to say that Justin was the best one-on-one defender at the club, and his performance in the second half here proved him right. When Liam Delap frequently got past Callum Doyle against Hull, it demonstrated the problems that can arise when an individual has the beating of his man, but there was no pleasure for the Saints when they did go down Justin’s side in the second half.

Brendan Rodgers' ARROGANCE has cost Leicester this season - but he's still  earned a shot at a big club | Goal.com

Where he may need to improve if he is to become a regular starter is in making himself available to receive the ball. Vestergaard was forced to go to Doyle every time in the first half because Justin was spread too wide in a classic full-back position and so wasn’t available to receive a ball. It didn’t matter because Southampton didn’t catch on, but other teams will.

If Mavididi is that dangerous, missed opportunities are acceptable.

Mavididi did well to score when he did. He should have learned his lesson after blowing one fantastic breakaway by being greedy and passed to Dewsbury-Hall when he was clean through for the second time. But the fact that he discovered the lowest corner meant he was allowed go.

Not only were some decisions questionable, but there were also several terrible finishes. Despite this, he was the best attacking player on the field. If he is a threat this frequently, having a few instances where he should do better is understandable.

He looked crisp from the start, assisting Vardy’s goal, and his inventiveness was crucial in opening Southampton for the third. He also got into good scoring positions on a regular basis, while also connecting nicely with Dewsbury-Hall.

There’s a lot of competition for positions at City right now, and it feels like Maresca may make changes every week. But it was the most dangerous performance from a City wideman this season, and Mavididi should be at the top of the pecking order for the time being.

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