The narrative is an easy one and one that will probably be seen across your social media pages in the next few days. On Saturday lunchtime, when Manchester City beat Southampton at the Etihad Stadium 4-1, the Blues were lucky. The penalty they scored was soft, the second goal was offside and Southampton were the better team for much of the first half.
- Report: Man City 4-1 Southampton
Throughout the season, City have been lucky. Think of that time Liverpool's Raheem Sterling was clean through on goal and clearly onside, but the linesman flagged. Think of that time Newcastle had a perfectly good goal disallowed because an offside player was deemed active when he shouldn't have been. Think of when Danny Rose was sent off for Tottenham, despite putting in a clean tackle on Edin Dzeko.
And then there was Saturday's win over Southampton.
The argument -- one which Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho put forward earlier in the season -- would hold water had the Blues had no slices of bad luck, too. They lost at Villa Park thanks to a dubiously offside goal and a very harshly awarded free kick. At Sunderland -- another defeat for Manuel Pellegrini -- City should have been playing ten men for most of the match, following Seb Larsson's awful challenge on Javi Garcia.
The rather long-winded point here is that all teams get both good and bad luck at various points throughout the season. In terms of how well a team does -- for City, Liverpool, or Chelsea -- it’s what they do outside of those moments where their luck is in or out that makes the difference.
For the visit of Southampton, Pellegrini stuck with his new(ish) set-up of playing one centre-forward and dropping three attacking midfielders behind. It's a system that has benefited one player in particular; and it's no surprise that David Silva once more won the man of the match award for another in a series of blinding displays he's put in when playing centrally. Despite this, the key to winning the game was a decision the manager made at halftime. We'll come to that shortly.
The Blues had a great start, gifted the chance to open the scoring inside the first few minutes when Dzeko went down under the challenge of Dejan Lovren. It's the type of penalty that has been creeping into the game for some time; the attacking player is touched and hits the deck, with the referee pointing to the spot. In all honesty, Dzeko could have kept his feet, but chose otherwise with a lack of support in the middle. Contact is not a foul and that's all there was between the two players, not that Yaya Toure complained as he sent the goalkeeper the wrong way.
An equaliser was just over half an hour away: Pablo Zabaleta stood on the foot of Jack Cork, as the Saints' man jinked past him in the area. Rickie Lambert doesn't miss penalties for Southampton -- the last time he failed from 12 yards out was for Bristol Rovers, at a time when Mark Hughes was in charge of Manchester City and the Blues were in ninth in the Premier League after 25 games.
With the second penalty netted on 37 minutes, quite how the home side went in at halftime with a 3-1 lead is something of a mystery. Saints were the better team for most of the first period and had deserved fully to be on terms, having pressurised City into conceding possession and not allowed the hosts to get out from their own half with much success.
On the stroke of the halftime whistle, though, the referee and linesman must have missed a flick by Dzeko in the build-up to the second. The official running the touchline can’t have thought Silva was level with the Southampton back four from the Bosnian’s touch, being a good two yards offside; instead, he must have thought there was no touch.
For a moment, Silva stopped, expecting the flag to go up. When it didn't, he found Samir Nasri, who put the Blues back in front -- proving the old adage of playing until the whistle to be true.
Given Saints' performance to that point, the City fans would probably have been nervous ahead of the second half had Dzeko not scored his fourth in four games. Aleksandar Kolarov got his sixth assist of the season -- the most by any defender in the Premier League to this point -- and the Bosnian did his best to miss, heading it onto the post and in. His heart must have been in his mouth, having put a free header from six yards onto the crossbar minutes earlier.
The second period showed how the Etihad seems to be built on a slope. With City struggling to get out of their half before the break, after the sides changed ends, the Blues looked like they couldn't stay out of their opponents' half. Control of the game was completely in the hosts' control, confirmed by a fourth strike from Stevan Jovetic -- with the frustrated Alvaro Negredo inches away from touching the ball towards goal.
The halftime introduction of Garcia was the difference. Fernandinho, who hadn't had a bad game per se, wasn't as effective as he had been in previous games. He was buzzing about and full of energy, but the ball was too quickly by-passing the pairing of himself and Toure. Instead, with Garcia in the middle -- a man who rarely goes wandering -- the Blues saw more possession. And that is where Silva was able to run riot.
City were lucky to be in front, but the key is what teams do when having had their slices of luck. On Saturday lunchtime, the Blues fully capitalised and put themselves into the best possible position ahead of their huge game at Anfield coming up next.