Saints At Crystal Palace The Verdict Sunday, 2nd Sep 2018 09:50
The win at Selhurst Park was very satisfying but it was a strange feeling and something we haven't experienced much of late.
It has been almost a year since we won 1-0 up at Crystal Palace last season, in the 50 weeks since that win we have strangely only won three times on a Saturday in the Premier League, twice against West Brom and at the end of the season against Bournemouth at St Mary's.
So walking out of a football ground on a Saturday with a smile on Saints fans faces was something I haven't experienced very much in that time.
But the strangest thing about this win was how one team could be so dominant for 65 minutes and then for the final 25 minutes be so much on the back foot and hanging on.
Mark Hughes picked a team very similar to the one I predicted in the preview although I was surprised to see both Shane Long and Danny Ings in the starting line up.
The first half was dominated by Saints there was only one team in it and we really should have gone into the dressing room at half time at least a goal up.
Many Saints fans though had not got back to their seats when Saints did take the lead straight after the break, the ball was crossed towards Shane Long who, knowing Ings was coming in behind him, appeared to let the ball go over his head aided by a nudge in his back by a defender, this wrong footed the keeper and there was Ings to slot the ball home and give Saints a deserved lead.
Now Saints were in the ascendancy and it looked like a second was imminent and shortly after the hour mark that seemed to be about to be the case when Saints were awarded a penalty, but Charlie Austin hit his shot tamely and little did the Saints fans know but the pattern of the game was about to change.
In fairness to Austin it wasn't so much the penalty miss that changed the game, but the fact that Shane Long had had to go off minutes before to be replaced by Austin, Long had worked his socks off, not only in penning the Palace defence from playing the ball out, but by holding the ball up himself, movement is not Austin's forte and Palace suddenly could build momentum from the back.
We suddenly looked a different side, we lacked a leader on the pitch to keep the team motivated and focused, individually players suddenly seemed to be able to do the basics, we didn't seem to know when to play the ball and when to put our foots through it an clear.
Palace suddenly had energy and enthusiasm, luckily they didn't have enough quality, but we just kept helping them by failing to clear our lines when we needed to.
Alex McCarthy who up to the hour point had not been having a great game, missing a few crosses he really should of got, suddenly became a contender for man of the match as his goal was bombarded, the pick of his contribution being a point blank save in the final minutes.
Why we suddenly became a different team is baffling, yes the departure of Long left us a little unbalanced and with Hughes needing to take off a striker and change formation he could hardly take off Austin after only 10 minutes on the pitch, so had no choice but to bring off Ings, when really he needed to keep him on the pitch.
But the worrying thing is we really need a leader to calm things down and keep control on the pitch when things get tight in the closing stages as the players themselves can't seem to keep their cool under pressure.
Yes as Roy Hodgson was honest enough to admit after the game, we fully deserved the win, but we tried to help them salvage a point, luckily enough they spurned the gift.
But we won the game and for the first time this season perhaps got a slice of luck and took the three points, this will do wonders for the confidence of the side and now gives us something to build on, suddenly the table looks good to read and although it's early days, this is now a solid start rather than a poor one.
So plenty of plus points from this game, a clean sheet showing that we are starting to get our defensive issues of last season in hand, Danny Ings showing that perhaps now we have the striker we need, Nathan Redmond starting to gain in confidence and perhaps becoming the player he should become, a team that is playing attacking and entertaining football and overall a squad that has both quantity and quality.
When you look at squad members who didn't get on the pitch yesterday, Yoshida, Davis Gunn and Ward Prowse all spending their afternoon on the bench whilst the likes of Gabbiadini, Armstrong, Bednarek, Stephens and Forster not involved at all for various reasons.
Perhaps we can put the last two seasons behind us now and start to realise that we can now move forward and the only thing stopping us is ourselves, the players have what it takes they now just need the confidence.
Can't agree with you LordDZLucan Stephens was awful against Brighton and Cedric looked far better yesterday than he has in previous games, before yesterday would have had Yoshida in middle of defence but thought Hoedt was fine yesterday
I agree we got lucky but then I felt against Burnley and Leicester we were a bit unlucky. One thing we can't deny is that we are playing better football than last season and hopefully will get better as the season progresses.
I don't think we can get too excited over beating Palace who, as has been pointed out, were without their talisman, Zaha and, in consequence, are one of the weakest sides in the EPL. That said, a win was essential and look at the boost its given to the pundits on this website, never mind the players themselves. A balanced view surely would be that several players upped their game but we still have obvious weaknesses which MH needs to address. The lack of on-pitch leadership is alarming and the way we fade in the last third is worrying. Charlie doesn't look the man to rely on and, if we are not going to play Gallagher for his height then Gabbi would be more likely with his speed to feed off scraps than Charlie. I also noticed in both this and the Leicester game that Elyounoussi makes similar darting runs to those of Gabbi and, just like Gabbi, nobody feeds him. Work in progress.
Good performances by Taggart, Redmond, and Hoijberg to note. True that palace look awful without Zaha but you still have to beat what is in front of you so well done Saints. I think this season many teams will beat many others and it could be a total mixed bag - just look at west ham after all the money they spent
Great result! Just hoping this will act as a catalyst to build up confidence. Our players needed that and I think it will go a long way towards closing the curtains on our relegation fight hangover.
What I've learned from this game is the following:
1. We need better strikers.
Shane Long's work rate is actually world class but his finishing is at best championship level. Unfortunately the latter is more important than the former e.g. Berbatov, Le Tissier, Kanu and others. The aforementioned players didn't have much work rate but their talent to score or create goals out of nothing was their biggest asset and what ultimately got them into starting eleven of their respective teams.
Danny Ing is good enough but I don't think it's fair to put the onus on him to score the majority of goals--especially as he's on loan and needs time to adjust to the team. Also think we should ship out Charlie Austin. He simply isn't good enough at the moment. We should also consider the same for Gabbi if he can't get the nod ahead of Austin. How bad must he be in training if Austin and Long are ahead of him?
2. If Vestergaard is injured our defence is simply screwed.
Hoedt redeemed himself from his previous performances but I still feel it's too little too late. Yoshi or Bednarek should come in for him. Cedric was very good imo but still needs competition to keep him on his toes.
3. We are seriously lacking in leadership.
This is alarming and very worrying for the rest of the season. Someone has to take responsibility and remain solid mentally when things aren't going well. Bertrand and Davis simply aren't doing that for me. I remember Fonte looking incredibly disappointed in an interview when we lost in the EFL Cup Quarter final a few of years ago. For me you could tell he had contol of the dressing room just from the manner of the interview. He was so authoritative and you knew there were minimum expectations he expected from his team mates. We need that. Players like Hoedt, Hojbjerg and Redmond would be so petulant on pitch when things aren't going well because they'd have a captain to keep them in check.
Perhap Vestergaard can assume the mantle or possibly Hojbjerg as he matures. Yoshi should do it in the short-term.
4. We're still lacking directness and pace in our attack.
Redmond has started the season better than last year but I still have question marks over his ability to unlock defences. We need to add more dimensions to how we attack. People with pace will give us the option to counter-attack our opposition and make their attack more cautious when applying pressure to our defence.
5. Our midfield should be be Lemina and Hojbjerg. Both look comfortable on the ball and solid enough defensively and offensively. Romeu should play with them against higher tier opposition to add more protection to our back four.
All the above points aside we're tenth in the table and have 4-points out of 4 against mid-table opposition. Given our circumstances and my low expectations I'll take that :)
Good result giving me post match feelings I last enjoyed under Keoman. Back to back wins and clean sheets. Lots of positives , so it seems churlish to mention Longs failings as a striker. He isn’t physically strong enough as we saw in the first half when pushed off the ball when well placed and his second half header is typical of many headers he’s missed for us. He doesn’t get high enough even when unchallenged five yards out. Can’t think of another premier froward who would miss that except Beneteke ( thank goodness). Is it too much to expect a saints forward to be able to run their socks off AND take chances?