|Southampton 1 v 2 Cardiff City|
Barclays Premier League
Saturday, 9th February 2019 Kick-off 15:00
Saints V Cardiff City The Preview
Friday, 8th Feb 2019 11:45
A tough game and one we need to win, but it is a tough one for Ralph Hasenhuttl in that he has a few selection problems to address.
In the last couple of games the team has pretty much picked itself, but for this game although Ralph has a stronger squad overall to pick from with the return of Ryan Bertrand and Pierre Emile Hojbjerg from injury and Yoshida from International duty he is missing Danny Ings who despite missing games through injury is still our most potent scorer.
The first selection poser that the manager has to deal with though is in goal, he dropped Alex McCarthy for the trip to Chelsea 5 league games ago and saw Angus Gunn put in a solid display which he followed up with a couple of good FA Cup appearances.
Gunn did nothing wrong but was surprisingly dropped and McCarthy reinstated, McCarthy has in the main been OK since his return, but he has looked far short of the keeper he was in the final games of last season, against Palace at home he looked hesitant and let in a goal at his near post that he perhaps should have stopped.
At Burnley he looked far short of confidence and seemed to have lost his timing with his decision making compounding the matter, he is coming for crosses and flapping, you can see him being unsure and stopping and then going and that split second hesitancy can cost us dear.
This being the case I would not be surprised to see Gunn back in the team, I think Hasenhuttl played a bit of psychology with McCarthy, but it hasn't worked, some keepers thrive on competition and being pushed for their place, others thrive on the confidence from knowing they are undisputed number 1, I think McCarthy is the former, he is not a bad keeper, but mentally he has to be in a certain place, last season and before he never pushed Forster until there was no choice to drop him, with no real challenge to his place in the team McCarthy excelled, that isn't the case this season.
Next up is the defence, it is still conceding too many soft goals and is our one real issue, most would expect Yoshida to slot in ahead of Jack Stephens, that is certainly the obvious choice, even without the handball issue, Stephens was not great at Turf Moor, looking at the highlights Burnley's chances usually involved Stephens so I would expect Yoshida in to replace him.
But the word is expect and that is not something that Hasenhuttl does the expected, so as much as Yoshida could come in, Stephens could be given another chance, Ryan Bertrand could come into a central back three to add pace or we could even revert to a back four.
It will be interesting to see what the manager decides.
In the midfield though the manager has a plethora of choices and he will need to look at what he does, Hojbjerg returning is a must he is our best central midfielder, I would expect him to come in for Callum Slattery, but we know what "expect" can mean.
I would also thing that Ralph would be keen to attack Cardiff after all only Fulham have conceded more that the Bluebirds, that being the case he might want to get Ward Prowse into a central position to utilise his passing ability.
Whichever way Ralph has plenty of options in the centre of the park.
Up front is a key issue, without Danny Ings and Michael Obafemi who I would not be surprised to see on the bench, there is a dillema, Long or Austin ?
I would think that the manager has worked out by now that Charlie Austin has not got the legs as a starter, however he has a big role to play this season and that is coming off the bench, he is fit enough for 20 minutes running at tiring legs and whatever you think of his fitness he does have an eye for goal as he showed in the win over Arsenal in December.
So I would think Shane Long will get the nod, his work rate will be useful and his job is not to score goals, but as it has always been, to harass and keep the ball in the final third so that it can fall to others to score or create chances, that is his job and again like Austin its a specialist role not needed in every game, but as was shown at Leicester vital in others, those who judge a striker purely on goals scored are a little short sighted.
Apart from these two options the only others would be to play Nathan Redmond as a striker, but I don't think that is his forte, he is better getting the ball and running at players than either running on to through balls or playing with his back to goal, or another option could be to play Stuart Armstrong up front, a bit out of left field but a possibility.
So tomorrow we are going to be short in some areas, but Ralph Hasenhuttl will be focusing on the positives and not the negatives, he will not be bemoaning who he hasn't got, but trying to get the best out of who we have, Danny Ings cannot score a goal tomorrow, nor can a number of transfer targets whom we did not sign during the January window, however Shane Long could and so could Charlie Austin and Hasenhuttl will be focused on getting the best out of them.
That is a lesson for the supporters as well, it is about encouraging those on the field to do better, we cannot change a poor game or missed chance last week, last month or last season, but we can inspire players to do something out of the ordinary against Cardiff.
Winning football games is all about team work whether on the pitch, on the bench or in the stands having abuse screamed at you or ironic cheers does not inspire you, encouragement does and might just change games.
Watching football should be about fun, enjoy going,enjoy supporting your team, work yourself up into a frenzy and that is fun for no one.
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