|Southampton 2 v 0 Aston Villa|
Barclays Premier League
Saturday, 22nd February 2020 Kick-off 15:00
Saints V Aston Villa The Preview
Friday, 21st Feb 2020 09:34
Last week was a wake up call for Saints, can we respond this week and beat Aston Villa and in doing so take the pressure off, but then again perhaps pressure is what we need.
Sadly I have been very accurate about our results this season, there has been barely a game this season where we have not made a defensive mistake and almost without noticing we have gone from a team that had lost only once in 7 League games to one that has had three straight defeats, two in the Premier League.
All of these games wins, draws or losses have all had one thing in common, each of them has had at least one massive error or lapse in concentration in some more than once.
In some games we have got away with it in others like last Saturday against Burnley we haven't and it is likely that the game against Villa will follow the same pattern.
We lose games at home because we can't defend on the break, I have never seen a Saints team so poor at doing this, we have no positional play, organisation or reading of the game in the centre of defence in any of the players who play there and so for the rest of this season at least it will be a lottery.
So predicting a result against Aston Villa will also be something dependent more on luck than judgement, I expect us to have a lot of the ball, but if Villa are savvy they will let us have that, hold their own 18 yard line and then go at us on the break.
It worked for Burnley and it worked for Wolves and just about every other side who has visited St Mary's, so will this be a game we get lucky or again have yet another piece of poor defending that costs us points.
The good news though is that going forward we are a top 10 side and with Villa having the only worse defence than us in the League we could outscore them.
The bad news is that we have players out injured and amongst them is Nathan Redmond who to be blunt is the one player that can run at them and create chances or more to the point put in balls that get end results.
So with him out along with Sofiane Boufal and Kyle Walker-Peters we have some selection problems.
So what will Ralph's thinking for this game, first question will be whether there will be a change of keeper, I will nip this in the bud, I think that McCarthy will keep his place although his performances haven't been great of late.
At right back we are down to two choices for this game, the return of Yan Valery or James Ward Prowse, personally I think we need JWP where he is best in the centre, so I would go with Valery.
In the centre I would be very surprised if Jan Bednarek didn't return, I don't think Vestergaard's performance was as bad as some would have you believe against Burnley, but some never miss a chance to try and have a quick jab at certain players without actually giving any reasons why.
Jack Stephens will be a certain starter, against Burnley he was exposed at the back for their winner and although Vestergaard should bear more of the blame seemingly unaware of where his man was, that highlighted the lack of taking and organisation at the back between our central defenders, that goal really should have been defended.
Ryan Bertrand will start at right back and in the centre of midfield assuming that Ralph does go with Ward Prowse, then it is the midfield of initials with JWP partnering PEH.
But then it gets tricky, Stuart Armstrong will start on the right, but who will play on the left, Moussa Djenepo did not impress against Aston Villa, he seemed unable to know where to make the right runs to create space not only for himself but others, too often when Ryan Bertrand go the ball Djenepo dropped deep to get it instead of pushing forward and making their defenders go with him thus creating space for Bertrand to bring the ball forward into the space created, if he can be coached in that then he is the best option.
Up front Ralph has options, Danny Ings is bolted on, but he could play anyone of three in Long, Obafemi and Adams, I don't know why I just have a feeling that he might just start Che Adams.
Shane Long creates chances, but we are short on those who can finish, Adams is a strong player with pace who just needs a goal, he will have the motivation for this one, so I think Ralph might just think outside of the box.
On the bench we will not be short of attacking options if Ralph does go with my prediction, we will have both Long & Obafemi, to cover the midfield Oriol Romeu and defensively Vestergaard and Danso, then it is a wildcard sixth outfield player as we are running out of options with so many injured, Will Smallbone could well feature if only because we have no one else.
So this is a game we need to get something out of, even a draw will not be a disaster in that it will still keep us six points ahead of Villa, but really for more reasons that just three points that will see us with the safety line in sight we need to win.
For their part Villa come here knowing that this is perhaps their most winnable game left in the season, so the question will they come at us hell for leather or will they have one eye on next week's cup final at Wembley ?
In the old days the likes of Jimmy Case would be reminding of them of that on the pitch, putting doubt and fear of injury in their minds, we need to be getting inside their heads and doing just that, win the game against them mentally as well as physically.
The real twelfth man though will be the supporters, there has been much said about Saints fans this week by Charlie Austin and to a lesser extend and more subtly Ralph Hasenhuttl, we need our fans with us and not on the backs of certain players during games.
Personally I want us to win and win well, I will be behind all of them, no one is saying everyone has to be singing and dancing in the stands, but everyone should encourage rather than go to have a pop, lets create an atmosphere that the players can play in, football even at the highest level is still about adrenalin and confidence, players are not robots they are human just like the rest of us.
So lets back them and start to get the atmosphere at St Mary's positive not negative, then perhaps having done our job the players truly have no excuse.
Win this game and everything is moving in the right direction, it won't be easy but sometimes in adversity it pulls everyone together.
Photo: Action Images
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