|Southampton 1 v 0 West Bromwich Albion|
Barclays Premier League
Saturday, 21st October 2017 Kick-off 17:30
Saints V West Bromwich Albion The Preview
Friday, 20th Oct 2017 11:51
This is an important game for Saints, not just in terms of needing the points but in putting the faith back into the supporters after an unspectacular start to the season.
The truth is that Saints start to the season has not been as bad as some supporters would have you believe, indeed if Saints had beaten Newcastle they would have only been two points off fifth place and if that late goal had not been conceded at Stoke that gap would be a single point and we would be looking up the table instead of over our shoulders.
But that is all ifs and buts and like the whole of last season we are watching a decent squad underperfoming and failing to take the bull by the horns and put together a decent run of games that are not only unbeaten but have a streak of wins included.
This being the case the jury is still out on Mauricio Pellegrino and whilst most Saints fans would agree that he has something about him and an aura that Claude Puel never seemed to have, the fact is that he has to deliver the goods in terms of performances and points on the board.
The game against West Brom starts a run of three fixtures that are all winnable and we need to do so because after that it gets a lot tougher.
The fact that we are still mid table after such an uninspiring start tells us that we should not be getting involved in a relegation battle as some have suggested on social media, but it is all about producing the goods and that has to start against the Baggies.
A win although not pushing us that far up the table in terms of placing, will do wonders in that it will take us clear of the bottom third and instill the confidence that we need to get the season kick started.
The main issue is scoring goals, but that is not about not having the strikers to hand, Gabbiadini, Long and Austin are all players with a goals to game ratio that proves they can all hit double figures this season, but we are just not getting any of them in goal scoring positions.
We are not seeing games where the opposition goalkeeper is making save after save, nor are we watching too many easy chances squandered, the fact is that we just don't get our forwards into goal scoring positions and that has to change.
Mauricio Pellegrino needs to look at the build up play, the fans will lay the blame squarely at the feet of Redmond and Tadic, but is it their fault, their strength is getting down the wing and crossing, but that sort of build up does not suit either Manolo Gabbiadini or Shane Long neither of whom are centre forwards, two seasons ago this way of playing suited Pelle, but unless we play Charlie Austin it is not going to work, at least not enough times in a match.
So whilst neither Tadic or Redmond have prospered this season, you also have to look at the reasons why not, you culd have the best crosser in the World in the team, he could put every ball right across goal, but you have to have the right man on the end of crosses.
That means that we have to look at playing to Long or Gabbiadini's strengths, the Italian likes to be able to run at defenders with the ball, but how many times in a game does he actually get the chance to do that ?
The answer is rarely as our central midfielders are not passers of the ball, Romeu and Leina are ball winners and can run with it and lay it short, but they can't thread a pass and that is the problem.
So Pellegrino has to find a solution to the problem, if he wants to persist with Tadic and Redmond then he needs to give them a big target to aim at and that means Austin.
I would like to see the manager show some adventure against West Brom, perhaps go three at the back and that would allow some room for flare going forward, this being tha case I would be pleased to see a line up like this.
Yoshida, Hoedt, Van Dijk
This would give us a strong spine with Soares and Bertrand patrolling the flanks and would give JWP room to get time on the ball and look for the passes.
Talking of James Ward Prowse he is our best passer of the ball, but he has been now for four years, yet although he has shown in bursts he has what it takes, he has never truly taken a game by the scruff of the neck and run it, certainly not for more than the odd game here and there.
He now has to show that he can kick on from being a Matt Oakley type of player to being more Steve Williams, perhaps the formation above would allow him to do so, he needs to find the swagger that Williams had and the confidence.
If we can get the ball on the floor and get Gabbiadini running at defenders more then the goal problem will be solved.
Certainly as I like to say, if we do the same things we will get the same results and that will be a solid performance but with few clear cut chances and few goals, the manager now has to show he can lead from the front and make decisions, if he does so then the supporters will get behind him and the team, if he doesn't and puts out the same line up, then there could be unrest come 7.15pm on Saturday evening.
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