Hughes makes case for the defence before Saints march into City test
Southampton have not conceded a goal in their past two Premier League games, but have also not scored either.
Southampton boss Mark Hughes accepts his side’s new-found defensive resilience will face an acid test when they head to Manchester City on Sunday.
The Saints may be without a Premier League win since September 1, but have at least stemmed the flow of goals conceded by recording successive goalless draws.
While finding the net at the other end remains a work in progress, Hughes feels the players have at least given themselves something on which to build as he heads back to City, one of his former clubs, who continue to set the standard at the top end of the table.
“That was the basis of our work in the last few weeks. It has allowed us to have a platform and has added to the confidence in the group,” said Hughes.
“We have given up few clear-cut chances to the two teams we have played, which is clearly good for us.
“We are playing City at the weekend and need to be at our best with our defensive work.
“But the fact we have been working on other things defensively in the past few weeks, that has helped us and given us a platform to be more creative at the top end of the field, which will allow us the confidence to commit more players forwards
“We have created enough chances, but there is a little bit of anxiety, sometimes passing when we should shoot and shooting when we should pass.
“It is just that little bit of guile you need at the top end of the pitch that will turn half-chances into clear-cut ones.”
Hughes had a spell in charge at City during 2008-09, with the club being taken over by the Abu Dhabi United Group shortly after his appointment – and a then British transfer record of £32.5million was soon spent to sign Brazilian forward Robinho from Real Madrid.
City have continued to invest heavily in the playing squad, which now sees Pep Guardiola’s champions placed on a pedestal as the team to beat.
Hughes is all too aware of the challenge lying ahead for his Southampton side.
“Sometimes you can do everything correctly in terms of a good defensive performance, but clearly Manchester City have talents which can win games on their own. It is always a difficult ask,” Hughes said on Southampton’s website.
“They also don’t give up too many clear-cut chances, and are very adept at stopping opposition attacks, either by fair means or foul – they will knock you over, stop things very quickly and it is very difficult to get a foothold and some momentum.
“We just have to find a way to ask questions of them, be defensively sound, and see where that takes us.”