Manchester City's defenders took liberties with their passing in the box vs Southampton

Southampton FC v Manchester City - Premier League

Manchester City's mini-crisis is over thanks to a 3-1 away win at Southampton. 

The festive period has proved costly for Pep Guardiola, with defeats to Crystal Palace and Leicester leaving his side seven points adrift of Liverpool at the turn of the year. 

However, just as Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg threatened to inflict another upset on the champions, a James Ward-Prowse own goal and a further strike from Sergio Aguero ensured City left St Mary's with all three points.

The result will have particularly come as a relief to Oleksandr Zinchenko, whose mistake had led to the equaliser. 

The Ukrainian's manager was full of praise for him afterwards, nonetheless, telling Sky Sports: 

"With what happened with Zinchenko, how he reacted, that is the lesson we have to learn for the young player. 

"After what happened he didn't hide or say 'I didn't want the ball'. He was the best player on the pitch."

Aside from the Saints' goal, City's defence looked much more composed than in their two previous outings - safe in the knowledge they had the returning Fernandinho to protect them. 

A defence oozing confidence  

There were few signs that their confidence had been dented by their recent form and the stats were telling. 

City enjoyed 75% possession and over 90% passing accuracy. Even the back four were at it.

City ended the year on a high with a 3-1 victory

Playing out from the back four can go very, very wrong as we've seen so often this season across the Premier League - but when it's done properly, as it was here, it must have been infuriating for Southampton's attackers. 

Check out City's tight passing inside their own box below: 

It was a slightly unfamiliar-looking defence, with Kyle Walker taking his place on the bench, replaced by Danilo, who slotted in alongside Vincent Kompany, Aymeric Laporte, and Zinchenko. 

And now, onto the small matter of Thursday night, when Guardiola will welcome a certain Jurgen Klopp to the dugout. 

Had City not kept pace with Liverpool this weekend, there could have been a feeling of game, set, and match if they slipped up later in the week.

Instead, the Reds will no longer be looking forward to the occasion quite as much as they might have been a few days ago.  

Who are you backing for the title - City or Liverpool? Have your say in the comments. 

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