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Southampton V West Ham United The Verdict
Monday, 13th Sep 2021 09:47

This was on paper so far Saints toughest game of the season so far, it was never going to be easy, but the team came through it and were unlucky not to take all three points late in the game with the Hammers needing a goal line clearance to save a point.

West Ham arrived at St Mary's in the top three having had a barnstorming start to the season and they would have been fairly confident that they would claim all three points.

It is fair to say that there was probably not a Saints supporter in the ground who would have picked the team that Ralph Hasenhuttl chose, a sort of 4-1-4-1 formation with Romeu sitting between the defence and midfield and Stuart Adams as the lone striker.

But if the fans didn't agree with the starting line up, a look at the bench revealed that the manager had a lot of talent on the bench, even without injured Theo Walcott & Stuart Armstrong he could call on the likes of Jan Bednarek & Kyle Walker Peters.

Indeed those on the bench had only cost Saints a fraction less in transfer fees than those in the starting line up.

The hammers certainly had the lions share of possession during the game and Saints had to work hard to make sure that they didn't create anything of note. West Ham had plenty of possession, but the home side ensured that they had little of note in front of goal and in the main we held firm giving them few chances and those they had were mainly high and wide. Tino Livramento was again showing what a good signing he has been as the defence held strong.

The second half saw the game open out a little more, just after the break Ralph made his first change, bringing off Oriol Romeu and bringing on Ibrahima Diallo but Saints still held firm and as the game progressed got stronger, with James Ward Prowse leading by example.

In the 74th minute on came Armando Broja for Armstrong and a fresh pair of legs up front started to give Saints fresh impetus.

Firstly a great run and well placed low shot saw Broja beat the keeper only to see his shot come back off the post and then in injury time the Chelsea loanee saw his header from a corner hacked off the line to save a point.

The game ended in controversy, there is no doubt that former Saints loanee Antonio should have been given the second yellow, but the referee blew his whistle too soon, had he waited a second longer he would have seen the ball had fallen kindly for Saints and we were man for man on West Ham's defence, but the whistle was blown, West Ham can thank themselves lucky for that, Antonio certainly took one for the team as they say.

Altogether a good day at the office for Saints, it was always going to be a difficult game and we had to make sure that the visitors didn't use the pace of Antonio to rip us apart and we seemed to manage that, not pretty to watch as we had to chase the ball most of the game, but the first League clean sheet of the season was the first plus point.

The second plus point is that we took on and held a top third of the table side with a team missing some good players, some on the bench and some injured, showing the squad has got depth now.

Last season was one of two halves, the first with a full squad where we looked like we could achieve a top 10 finish and the second where with the squad stripped of 6-7 players through injury etc we struggled to put out 11 players with experience and the bench had an average age of about 18.

Hopefully this season will be different, it was always going to be a tough start, in the corresponding fixtures last season, the first 8 games saw us take only 2 points, so far we have already got 3 points and we have another 4 games left of this opening run to play.

Now we have to get a win on the board, sadly with the next game being up at Manchester City it doesn't look like being this coming Saturday, but after that we have a chance against both Wolves and Leeds United at home, with only Chelsea being tough.

When we have completed the opening 8 games we start the real work of the season, we play the teams who are going to be around us and if we win a few games then we will soon move up the table.

In the main this season will not be defined with our opening 8 fixtures but will be about the next 12 games that will take us up to the end of the year.

But in the meantime we have made a solid start to the season with three draws in the first 4 games, it could have been and should have been better, but given that the opening four saw only 1 point from these games last term, the fact that we have 3 shows we are making progress.

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slimcarto added 10:12 - Sep 13
No mention of McCarthy’s and Stephens performance?

IanRC added 10:12 - Sep 13
Good performance and I think we were unlucky not to win. Think we missed Adams or a second striker (his hold up play is always good) but the decision to play the four behind certainly helped defensively. That said I thought Salisu was man of the match with a superb display. Will be interesting to see how we line up against City and whether Broja gets more game time, such a shame we don’t have a buy option

JoeEgg added 10:33 - Sep 13
Incredible! We have three points from four matches compared to just one point from the same number of matches last season ! That apparently for Saints equals progress!!!!
There were several oustanding performers on Saturday especially the much maligned Stephens and McCarthy. Salisu was a revelation - still puzzles me why we didn't see him earlier last year. Broja looks an exciting prospect and we have two excellent right full backs!
Armstrong, however, was starved of support and needs either Adams or Broja from the start. The weird 4-1-4-1 formation is presumably a gift from Ralph! You make up your own mind.
So for me - remember its Man City next - three points from our first four games is not something to be celebrating. We have some excellent players (mainly on the bench it has to be admitted!) and at least on paper look a comfortable top ten side. It is my belief that both Ings and Vestergard got tired of Ralph's shenanigans and thought themselves better off elsewhere. Perhaps Ralph deserves credit for selecting Salisu and Stephens together - at last - why did it take so long? How many more permutations are we going to see before we get a settled defence? And finally - yes the defence has been a serious concern - but I dont think Ralph's tactics give our forwards the support that they need. I hope Armstrong, Adams and now Broja will get better support from their manager than Ings did. There were some seriously clever moves in the transfer market this summer but I'm still not sure that Ralph is the man to get the best out of them.

halftimeorange added 10:36 - Sep 13
Am I the only one left wondering why Broja wasn't given some game time with Armstrong, given that WHU weren't that threatening? Redmond was having one of his lazy days and, although Armstrong had run himself into the ground, surely the A & B partnership was worth a shot for a few minutes at least. Armstrong had little service due to the ineffectiveness of the midfield during the first half. Another thought, why not play KWP in front of Livramento. Although Djenepo remains a mystery, more might be gained from two attacking wing backs, than hoping Moussa will baffle the opposition rather than his teammates. I don't know what the gate was but, there were many empty seats opposite my seat in the Kingsland. Is that a reflection on a few seasons of watching a poor side? The defence had its best game collectively for some time and it will need to maintain that standard with Wolves coming up, never mind Man City.

teamster1 added 10:55 - Sep 13
Sorry but you May as well play with nine men if you play Djnepo and Redmond they offer nothing

Block8 added 11:03 - Sep 13
Excellent defensive performance but maybe not so good on the transition, Would be a brief summary. The defensive work of Redmond & Djnepo is lost in the criticism of their attacking attributes and is, in Ralph's tactical plans, why they are selected. A new system for us, which may well be the one to use against city? We will certainly have to improve the transition from defence to attack and move the ball more quickly, we do after all have pace in spades throughout this team. Unfortunately Salisu's distribution doesn't match the rest of his game and Armstrong is probably a bit lightweight for a lone striker role.
On another note, it would have been nice, for all the criticism he has had, to have highlighted Jack's performance alongside Salisu?

felly1 added 12:21 - Sep 13
Had to laugh at Moussa's attempts to cross the ball with his left foot, if he doesn't cut back inside on his right foot, you might as well forget about a cross coming in.
Like his attitude and workrate though.
The change in tactics to a counter attacking game clearly showed our defence is not so weak and with bodies behind the ball it allowed time for Stephens and Salisu to get into position and deal with Antonio.

claus5 added 12:22 - Sep 13
I admit i have been Jack Stephans biggest critic, but fair play to him for an excellent game. Mousa,Nathan and Moi offerered very little, don't think we ca play all 3 together. Hopefully Stuart will be back soon.

onetowatch added 12:30 - Sep 13
Not an unfair summary Nick, though, as has been eluded to already, for the criticism Stephens attracts on here - not only from you - he did deserve a mention for probably the best performance I've seen him have in a Saints shirt. No, he's not the long term answer, but credit where it's due. Salisu was immense.
I do find it strange on here though the complete loading of criticism. For weeks now JWP has not been performing. The ease with which opposing players go past him, and his unforgiving lack of pace at this level was never better demonstrated than in his performance on Saturday. Yet, he seems to have a protective shield around him. Of course we all recognise his commitment and loyalty, but there were reasons he saw a lot of the bench under Poch and Koeman. Redmond contributed more than JWP on Saturday, but reading the comments above makes me wonder what game was being watched....

WestSussexSaint added 12:39 - Sep 13
In the stadium there was a sense of frustration with what appeared to be negative tactics. Having asked Ralph to be more flexible with his tactics we have to accept that when he does so it may not always be in the way we like to see football played. I can see the same approach being used against Man City.

Defensively the plan worked and as others have said the back 5 (including McCarthy) deserve credit for execution of the plan. When the team did look to attack it wasn’t great. In that formation you need a centre forward who can hold up the ball and bully the centre backs. Adam Armstrong has lots of qualities but that is not one of them. Broja showed when he came on what a difference having that style of centre forward can make. I think Adams can also do that better than AA.

The other aspect was poor passing going forwards so when we did break the attack quickly broke down due to a misplaced pass. Redmond and Djenepo were the main offenders. Redmond did well against Newcastle so deserved to start this game but for the same reason doesn’t deserve to start the next one. Djenepo must be running out of chances as the potential is there but the execution rarely is. I would like to see Tella come in for some game time and hopefully Stuart Armstrong will be fit again soon, and if not, until he is push Livramento up into midfield ahead of KWP.

SaintPaulVW added 13:00 - Sep 13
Redmond - so frustrating. Earns a chance with a great display against Newcastle and then doesn't capitalise on it.

Romeu and JWP still don't seem to be firing on all cylinders.

The new formation is interesting. I would play Broja or Adams up front and have both Armstrongs in the middle. Stu to be direct as Stu is and Adam as almost a false 9 using his pace to press, run off Broha, and chase long balls.

Salisu is developing nicely. Give him his due Stephens played well. They both snuffed out Antonio, something other defences have failed art.

Ralph has options and again made changes at the right time to give us the best chance.

Solid start to the season, given the opposition we have faced. Hopefully we will get a few more points over the next few games.



ExiledSupporter added 13:21 - Sep 13
Key things to learn here I suggest:

* Broja and Armstrong up front is the best combination, the latter's speed on the turn and the former's directness, strength and opportunism bold well, if they are played together
* Elyanoussi looked far more effective when moved into the No10 roll in the second half and more predatory
* Romeu looks very off form and Diallo deserves more game time
* Tino was again outstanding and should be on the right hand side of midfield, with KWP restored to right back
* Perraud was impressive, especially the speed he possesses when we have given the ball away and he has to get back to defend which he did effectively
* credit to Stephens and McCarthy for good games, especially the latter who came off his line effectively and quite often (has somebody at last started to coach him in this previously neglected skill?
* Djenepo deserves great credit for his effort and playing a role really alien to his nature; okay his final pass leaves much to be desired but surely we can improve on this skill with focused training. I love his attitude and speed. Why don't we post him half way up the field when we are defending corners etc, clearing the ball up the field to him would likely give some opposition defenders a real fright with his breakaway speed
* why is Redmond so erratic in performance?
* Salisu has great potential but needs better distribution, why is Bednarek getting the cold shoulder? Could we play three at the back as a viable tactic...I'm undecided

Some mysteries here...what is going on in Ralph's mind?

saintmark1976 added 14:12 - Sep 13
I am still unable to decide if what I witnessed on Saturday was a point gained or two points lost. Yes, West Ham looked a half decent team even if their play was over elaborate with a desire to want to walk the ball into the net. However, our inability to take chances and score goals was very much in evidence once again.Playing Armstrong as a lone striker was bizarre in my opinion,he simply isn’t tall or strong enough to be a target man. As for Redmond, why is he anywhere near the first team? He has had chance after chance over many years and come up short time without number.

On a slightly different note but related. What was the official attendance? Looking around the ground there were massive areas of unattended seats everywhere excepting the Itchen South which according to the ticketing website pre match,was sold out. No surprise given that they are the supposed “ cheap seats”.Will the club now learn and take action and reduce the cost in other areas to increase revenue or will they simply do nothing once again, much like their inability to even answer the ticket office phone?

Saidou added 15:45 - Sep 13
We lack real quality. Can someone please drive N.Redmond out of this club? He does whatever he wants and is still arrogantly confident of keeping his place in the team.

Djenepo doesnt offer much either but he has a different attitude and fear of losing his place in the team. Ralph must hold serious talks with N.Redmond and stop him from sabotaging his work.

Peterx added 16:16 - Sep 13
Looking at this season so far there is an argument to say we could have snatched wins against Newcastle, MU and West Ham and were perhaps unlucky not to have converted one of these at least into a win.

Its a laugh how even Moyes is saying they were not at their best against us, which is the same thing Solsjkaer said. Basically what all the Managers in the first half of last season said when we did well against them.

I think part of the reason we have not converted these has been Romeu and JWP's pre-season being undercooked and they look off the pace compared to early last year.

Also Stewart Armstrong's running from midfield has been sorely missed.

Encouraging though that Ely, Broja, Livramento have been massive pluses and I also feel that Djemepo will payback patience with him eventually and AA's pressing has been good. Tella was the find of pre-season so strange we have not seen more, but positive that he is likely still to offer something with Small.

A couple of things that I would like RH to experiment with in the Carabao cup would be to try AA and Broja up front together with Che as a 10 (he has always had the ability to put someone away), also Livramento in defensive midfield as he looks like he can play anywhere.

I also think that Oriel needs to get up to speed soon, as much as I like him, otherwise I suspect that Stewart Armstrong may be used by RH in defensive midfield as per a few times last year or Livramento in defensive midfield if the experiment works in one of the cups.

I also would not mind seeing the hard work of Shane Long in the mix with Broja and see if there could be a partnership there.

Bottom line though is that it's looking promising with plenty more options.

One last comment is that if Dawson had not got his head to Djenepo's effort I don't think Fabianski was going to make the save and the story could have been very different.

Peterx added 16:22 - Sep 13
One other comment is that Diallo really impressed when he came on for a cameo and also brilliant to see Jack and Salisu's development.

Colburn added 16:33 - Sep 13
Can't comment much as I didn't see the game but bumped into some nice Hammers fans afterwards who said our CB's nullified Antonio well but that we were lacking up top. They were also impressed with Djenepo. So credit due to Stephens and Salisu for that. I don't think we have a striker called Stuart Adams, maybe you were thinking about the lead singer of Big Country, Stuart Adamson..? I do agree with you about our start to the season being an ok start, a bit of luck and Broja would have grabbed us the win but a draw isn't a bad result.

underweststand added 16:56 - Sep 13
WHam are " our toughest opponents" and so this must be regarded as a good point.
3 points from 4 games is better than I predicted, but the next 4 games will set the pattern for the rest of the season.
Neither side had any real chances that weren't well-gathered by the keepers, although Broja will count himself very unlucky to see his shot come back off the post.
Ralph's alternative formation DAJFU but it didn't make for exciting play and Adam Armstrong had a tough time as the lone striker.
Tino continues to impress, as does Perraud. Both KWP and Bednarek may have to wait a while longer to get back in the start side and Stephens and Salisu are beginning to look like a good CB pairing.
Wish I could find something positive to say about Redmond's performance but whatever his best position is..... he hasn't found it yet. Maybe Pep will have a few words of encouragement for him BEFORE the start of the next week's game. One can hope.


ItchenNorth added 18:20 - Sep 13
Bring KWP in at right back, push Livramento forward, drop Redmond. Play Broja with (take you pick from Che Adams or Adam Armstrong).

I thought Elyanuossi played well, but Dejenepo (probably my motm, although Stevens, Salisu and McCarthy were all excellent ), was very good. He was our only attacking threat in the first half and fought for the cause in the second when sometimes these types of players can go missing when you need everyone to dig in..

Lots of positives, but the big take away was Broja.

KilkennySaint added 20:02 - Sep 13
Good result but looking back we should have won it. Excellent defensive and goalkeeping performance, credit to them.
JWP hasn't had a great start to the season, even his set pieces haven't been up to the standard we have come to expect from him.
Redmond should be used as an impact player if we are chasing a game, he offers too little to last 90mins (yes he played well against Newcastle but his not a player who capitalizes on a good performance), Tella must be so frustrated seeing Redmond constantly been picked ahead of him.
Djenepo's unpredictability would be a good option against City, their defenders may find it hard to read him.
Bora Looked good when he came on, hope we see more of him.


ElijahK added 23:02 - Sep 13
Personally I would’ve taken a point before KO, as it only feels worse as we’ve not won a game yet and could’ve won this one, although I do think a draw was a fair result. But still hopefully we can get our first win against Wolves, (or maybe Man City, although I’ve gotta be realistic as well as optimistic, although it shouldn’t be like this in the first place!).

But I thought our defence (including Stephens and McCarthy) were great today and did show that they can defend as a PL team should. And with Ralph well I didn’t see anything he could’ve solved/was at fault for, other than playing Djenpo who was just rubbish! I mean why we didn’t play Tella over him, or swap Redmond and him round and start Roja or Adams, or even send Livermento up to midfield and play Walker-Peters instead of Djenpo. Still other than that, he did a pretty decent performance in my opinion

Saintaxidriver added 23:32 - Sep 13
I think peoples view of the whole game is being clouded by the last 15 mins when we looked on top and could have scored. For most of the game our passing was woefull and our ball control very poor. It's good to play a more defensive game against certain teams but Armstrong had no support and every time Redmond/Ellyonoussi/Dnepro got the ball they tried to take on too many people and lost the ball. I also though Livramento had his worse game for us and looked exhausted towards the end. Ralph is useless with his subs either leaving them too late or taking off/putting on the wrong players at the wrong time. I also would play KWP at right back and Livramento right midfield. Perraud did well and Salisu and Stephens had good games but I always feel there is a lapse of concentration in both of them. Armstrong did all that was asked so will probably be dropped for next game.. JWP has been poor on place kicking all season and looks out of sorts and Romeu was hampered by early booking.

KriSaint added 00:18 - Sep 14
I agree with most of the above mentioned. It was definitely a 4-1-4-1 formation with a back four, one 6 (Romeu) two 8's (JWP & Moi), two 10's (Djenepo & Redmond) - with defensive duties, which worked fine - and one no. 9 (A.A.). Ok performance, especially from our defense and Macca. Acceptable result. Nice with the clean sheet.

4-1-4-1 might be a fine formation against the top 8 teams, but the personel should be changed a little, I think. We need Stuey's creativity, a stronger lone striker, and I'd like to see KWP restored as our no. 1 RB. He's too good to be out of the team. If Ralph is in love with Tino, play him in front of KWP.

I hope and think JWP and Oriol will come good soon, and they have to play matches to get fitter and better. We don't have serious, better alternatives in their positions, so we need these two, and we need them to step up!

Broja looks like a hell of a striker, who is in great form. I'd start with Che vs City, though, because it's probably too big a task to ask young Broja to play from the start vs this ridiculously good team. I dream that we can - somehow - keep City from scoring and bring hot shot big man Broja on with 20 minutes left...
Alternatively, why not ask Broja to play from the start?, and let Che play in stead of Redmond. Two hit men on the pitch!, and there's a non-existing risk that Che will play worse than Redders as a no.10 in the system.

Plenty to consider for Ralphy :-D


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