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West Ham United 3 v 1 Southampton
Barclays Premier League
Saturday, 29th February 2020 Kick-off 15:00
Saints At West Ham United The Preview
Friday, 28th Feb 2020 09:09

Saints travel to West Ham United on a weekend when if the results all go the right way then we could find ourselves on the cusp of safety and able to look forwards with confidence.

It has been a strange old season, one that has seen perhaps the lowest moment in Southampton FC's history, but in contrast has seen us battle adversity and rise from the ashes to be well within a top 10 finish.

A word of caution though, we are far from the finished article, we have one of the worst defences in the Premier League and that is not by accident, we will still give away points we really should have got and I think that come judgement day in May we will be looking at our performances and those last minute goals conceded, those lapses in concentration and those poor pieces of defending and thinking of just what might have been.

But we can only take every game at a time and hope that this is one of the games when we get away with the above.

There are a couple of decisions to be made for Ralph ahead of this trip, perhaps the most important is who plays at right back, it would be easy to just keep James Ward Prowse there, but that defeats the object of trying to play your best team, yes JWP did a magnificent job there last week, but the reality is that is not his position and we need him in his best spot and that is the centre of the park.

We brought in Kyle Walker-Peters for a good reason, to take a look at him to see if he is the answer for next season, we will only find that out by playing him in games like this.

So for my money that would mean playing him in this game and restoring JWP to the midfield, although Ralph could alternatively play Yan Valery, although his failure to do so last week perhaps suggests that there is more than just fitness involved in that decision.

Another doubt is Moussa Djenepo, his Mother has died this week, but there is no news of where and how she died other than a tweet from the player himself announcing it, what this means to Saints is unclear, so until the team is announced we will perhaps not know whether he has been given compassionate leave or he intends to play.

If he doesn't play then Ralph has a headache, he could opt for Sofiane Boufal, but the Moroccan is perhaps not best suited to either playing in a game like this and especially starting it, his best contributions have been off the bench and his form has been patchy.

That might lead Ralph to think a little out of the box, he could play Che Adams or even Michael Obafemi in a wide right role, he could also incorporate a five man midfield with just Danny Ings up front to take some of the pressure off of whoever does play in this position.

One player I think might just start is Che Adams, he seems to have the faith of his manager and although he didn't play very long against Aston Villa he had a big impact.

Hasenhuttl has played things well with Adams, he has taken him out of the limelight when he was struggling to get a goal earlier in the season, but now he looks set to play him and give him that chance, if he started the game it would be harsh on Shane Long but we need to keep bring in Adams on in his development, when he gets that goal he could well go on a scoring run.

The game itself is a very similar situation to the one two years ago, West Ham are in turmoil with big protests planned, back then they came out like a runaway train scoring in the 13th & 17th minutes to silence the crowd's protests and get them behind them, a third goal on the cusp of half time finished the game as a contest.

We need to avoid that this time, we need to play our normal game away from home, that means keeping it tight early on and making sure that we aren't caught on the break, the longer the game goes on without scoring the more their crowd will get on their back and as we have seen earlier in the season, that will not help their team.

WE have to stop them getting control of the game and when we have withstood what will undoubtedly be an early bluster by them, we can impose ourselves and hopefully win the game ourselves as we have done on several occasions this season away from home.

The way we have set up in last few months will hopefully suit this game, we want them to attack and then we can go on the break, what doesn't suit us is when we spend most of the game in their final third because that gives them the opportunity to go on the break and as has been shown on many occasions this season, we are not great in defending those situations.

David Moyes will know this, but he is caught in a dilemma here, if his team attacks it will please the crowd, but if they don't score and we start to catch them on the break then they it will start the grumbling.

On the other hand if he instructs his side to sit and wait for us that will not please the crowd either and it could create a toxic atmosphere as West Ham supporters will not see the tactical reason for this, they will just see their team being pushed back.

The Hammers are in the middle of a horrible run, they have lost 5 of their last 7 Premier League games and drawn two, but it stretches back much further, their last win was New Years Day, and aside from beating us mid December before that 30th November and then you have to go back to September.

Ironically they won 3 of their opening 6 League games and lost only once, but since then they have won only 4, they have a decent side on paper, but it is not firing on all cylinders and is now on a downward spiral, the self gratifying ego driven posturing remarks David Moyes made when he returned to the club seems not to have ingratiated him to his squad and although they have an easier run in than most and should stay up, it will not be easy.

Much has been made of their result in Liverpool labelling it a glorious defeat but it could easily have been a rout, Liverpool had 70 % possession and 17 shots on goal, the Hammers scored with their only two on target, a similar story at Manchester City where the home side had 77% possession.

So this is not a side in a false position through a few strokes of bad luck or VAR going against them, they have been dropping like a stone since September and without that early burst would be dead and buried.

Our job is to go there and make sure the game goes to form, exploit their weaknesses and put the game to bed and not be open to the kind of mistakes that come the end of the season might have already have cost us dearly in terms of a top 10 spot.

Photo: Action Images

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davidargyll added 09:23 - Feb 28
"We have one of the worst defences in the Premier League..."
Well maybe if you take the season as a whole but suggest you look at the "Last 10 games table", where we are lying...3RD!!!!
And we are 9th equal in terms of goals conceeded.

A1079 added 09:46 - Feb 28
Alot of focus on our defensive failings, but as usual not alot on our strike rate failings.

Take last week for example - 28 shots on goal and only goal to show for it until virtually the final minute. If Villa had scored in that final corner they had before we went up the other end, it would have been another game with dropped points (in which we dominated) - could you have blamed the defence or the keeper for that happening or the failings up front for only converting one chance out of 28?

DorsetIan added 10:39 - Feb 28
Agree with comments about about the defence. Old news, and not reflective of most recent form - particularly, the games where Bednarek - Stephens have formed what looks to me like a good partnership (something we haven't had for a few years now). (Also, pretty rich coming from the person who rejects any suggestion that Gao hasn't spent enough.)

Personally, I would stick with Smallbone. He played really well against Villa and should be rewarded with another start. Mixing it with Noble and others in midfield will be another step up for him.

Therefore keep JWP at right (who also played well on Saturday) and bring in Boufal, who is at least as good as Djenepo.

Stick with Long and Ings up front.

That looks like a pretty good team to me. One with some winning form and no reasons why we couldn't win with it.

Block8 added 10:43 - Feb 28
A1079 yes it would be the defence to blame as it fits Nick's agenda and he doesn't seem to understand the pressure our style of play puts on our defence.
However on to the weekend, this is a very difficult game to call as it all depends on how West Ham set up. If they play as they did at our place we will struggle, as we consistently do against teams that sit deep. It showed in the Burnley game that our pace down the wings is ineffective if there is no space behind to move into & Boufal looked out best chance, before injury took him out of the match.
So I would start him & if Djnepo is available have him on the bench also maybe Adam's with Ings and bully their defence a bit? They had nothing to lose against Liverpool and played that way, they have a lot to lose Saturday and will play much tighter!

highfield49 added 11:22 - Feb 28
I suppose tomorrow will be the day that Fabianski saves every effort on goal rather than fumble it into the net, but hopefully he'll have another mare. As much as I like the idea of keeping JWP at full back it makes more sense to play KWP or Valery, otherwise what is the point of having them in the squad. Unfortunately that would probably mean Smallbone being left on the bench but he's shown himself to be more than capable if, for example, one of the mid fielders picks up a knock or an early yellow. Long and Ings seem to work well together but equally Adams merits more game time in the coming weeks. Boufal is the likely replacement if Djenepo is unable to play and I guess he is due for one of his spectacular finishes, particularly if Fabianski happens to be having a good day between the posts. For me the key to winning is stopping Noble from having any influence on the game and if he can be tempted into picking up a card early on so much the better. Always happy to get points off this mouthy bunch of poseurs.

Peterx added 12:53 - Feb 28
Stick with the winning formula as much as possible which would be Smallbone in defensive midfield, JWP to right back. We have done better with consistent selections. Then it's Djenepo in the Left side 10 position depending on availability with Boufal if Djenepo not available. I would not mind seeing Che coming in at that position for some minutes towards the end, also given he has two assists from that area of the pitch.

Saintaxidriver added 13:25 - Feb 28
Why change a winning team. It was ridiculous positional choices and constant changes that got us in trouble earlier in the season. If Dnepro doesn't play replace him with Boufal.

SaintNick added 13:45 - Feb 28
I appreciate all your opinions and the reasons why you feel that our central defensive partnership is good enough, I don't agree as Im sure you would have guessed and i thin come the end of the season we will be a little frustrated about all those goals conceded where a man wasn't marked etc costing us perhaps a place in the Europa League if City are kicked out of Europe

I agree Bednarek and Stephens have formed a partnership, it is not as solid as most but it is the best we have at present and I will be supporting them to do well again tomorrow..

In terms of goals conceded in the last 6 games we have conceded 10 in the League, is that really good enough, 14 teams have conceded less, Brighton and Norwich the same and only Bournemouth, Villa and West Ham more.


redwight added 20:33 - Feb 28
The most important point, which nobody has picked up on, is that we need to find out if KW-P is good enough for his move to be made permanent. That means playing him at RB at every possible opportunity. There is a maximum of 11 games, subject to injury or suspension. He therefore has to play - it is a no brainer.

A1079 added 21:51 - Feb 28
Nick, I do not disagree at all with the points that you make about the defence and the errors that have cost us, but I don't think they are the sole reason in some games for losing points. Most of us recognised in the summer that the failure to strengthen our defence in the transfer window would mean we would have to score more goals, so the problem has for the most part been at both ends of the pitch.

That said, I think Bednarek and Stephens have worked well together and whilst not a mortgage guarantee to success they have worked hard and formed quite a reasonable partnership. Also, in the case of Stephens he actually offers us something going forward, so I would keep them both. But, if we do not strengthen this summer at the back,, then it will be criminal and we can never move forward and progress. Personally, if it was at all feasible I would invest in someone like Vertonghen who is available this summer. Experienced and solid. I doubt if his wages are cheap, but his contract is coming to an end and he is starting to enter the later stages of his playing career, so he may not be an impossible target.

Anyway, like you, whatever the make up of the team tomorrow, I hope we give West Ham a bl**dy nose as they have become a bit of a bogey team for us and our performances there have not been great the last few seasons.

saintmark1976 added 07:51 - Feb 29
K W P up against Antonio. Now there's an interesting thought.

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