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Fulham 0 v 0 Southampton
Barclays Premier League
Saturday, 26th December 2020 Kick-off 15:00
Saints At Fulham The Verdict
Sunday, 27th Dec 2020 09:50

Saints came away from Fulham with a point and were mainly comfortable, but there was a feeling that we were below par and not firing on all cylinders, we really should have won this game.

There were a few questions asked about the depth of Saints squad as they travelled to West London to take on relegation strugglers Fulham, could they fill the gaps of those out injured and suspended.

The answer was yes, but there was a feeling that we were not firing on all cylinders and this was a game that we really should have won.

Early on Saints struggled to get the ball, pass it and keep it, too often we gave it away and were second in every challenge as the home side started with a bluster and a conviction that this was a game that they could win.

Fulham could have taken the lead when they pulled the ball back only for a complete air shot by one of their players saw the chance wasted, having weathered the storm we started to get back into the game and Ibrahima Diallo looked comfortable in the midfield.

A great free kick from JWP almost gave us the lead, but a combination of the Keepers fingertips and the bar kept it out, Che Adams looked to have an easy tap in as the ball dropped, but there was a nasty spin on it that took it away from him.

We dominated the second half in terms of possession, but we still had some dodgy moments at the back , not least when we left Cavaleiro completely unmarked 8 yards out, luckily he put his header well wide when it was easier to score.

Going forward we created little though, Long and Adams battled gainfully but too often were isolated, Theo Walcott made some good surging runs, but he seemed to lose control at vital moments too often.

We looked to have scored twice, both initially given but ruled out for offside by Var, both decisions were correct, the first saw Shane Long clearly off, the second was marginal, but not so marginal you could argue with it.

A shame as both goals were great moves ending with clinical finishing, something that was otherwise missing from both sides in the rest of the game.

From a Saints point of view it was good to keep a clean sheet, but this was really a game that we should have won if we are to keep up our hopes of a finish in the higher echelons of the Premier League.

It showed us that we are still a work in progress, the clean sheet should not gloss over the fact that we missed Jannik Vestergaard at the back, not just for his defensive capabilities, but his build up play and presence at corners and set pieces going forward.

We missed a little bit of creativity going forward, Nathan Redmond might well have changed the game with his use of the ball, too often both Stuart Armstrong and Theo Walcott went into dead ends surging forward.

Up front we missed Danny Ings, one man doesn't make a team, we still looked comfortable without him, but we were just that, comfortable but without the spark that Ings brings to the side.

Perhaps this game showed us that our realistic target is going to be more about challenging for 7th, but even that will be a tall order, five of the Big Six are slowly but surely rising into the top positions and Leicester Aston Villa and Everton, have done what we have failed to have done of late and that is put to bed wins against the likes of Wolves, Arsenal and Fulham.

But we are still in the chase, still only 4 points behind Everton in 2nd and the season is wide open, but the truth is we need to start putting together a run of wins again and quickly.

I don't want to end on a sour note, after all this time last year, indeed the start of this season, we would have been delighted to have been in 9th place after the Xmas programme, but we need to beat West Ham now and create a gap between 9th and 10th, then we can start looking upwards again.

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davidargyll added 10:00 - Dec 27
Two reports in a row I agree with you Nick. I must go and lie down!
But once again I suspect the conditions and the pitch made all the difference to what frankly could have gone either way if VAR hadn’t gone against us, the obvious handball was given and both sides’ finishing was even approaching something like average.
As it was, the good things about our performance were:
A clean sheet.
Jack Stephens who showed a vast improvement on past performances and really slotted in well.
And Ibrahima Diallo. I counted no more than four touches in the first quarter of the game and I thought “he’s struggling”. But then he started to grow into his role. He’d obviously been told to track Loftus-Cheek like a hawk which he seemed to do reasonably well but RH was clearly right is his estimation of that boy’s ability because by the end he was showing some really sublime touches and passes. Sure he was rather too easily bundled off the ball on two or three occasions but that will surely only have shown him what playing in the PL is about, so I predict he is going to be something special for us over the next few months.
And a word about Theo. He does show some great moves and runs and my heart is always in my mouth when he gets the ball, and clearly he was well marked yesterday; but sometimes I do wish he’d try not to always go it alone on a mission impossible and try to squeeze between two or three or even four players when an easy pass is often the easier option. Draw the players, yes, but do lay offs too.
I thought Fulham were always going to be a tougher nut to crack than their position in the table suggested and so it proved. IMHO a good and/or newly-promoted manager will get a solid defence together before sorting out the forward line and that is exactly what Scott Parker has done, so I for one am happy to settle for a point; where I reckon we are more likely to pick up points going forward is in the mid table clashes against the likes of Palace and Leeds whose confidence I suggest may be on the wane and we should/must take advantage.

underweststand added 10:23 - Dec 27
between Nick and david argyll (above) most important points have been covered.
YES on another day - without VAR - we might well have come away with all 3 points, but a clean sheet is always a good sign. Ralph's start line-up might have worked better if he'd played Walcott up front with Ché, as for all his speed and guile Shane Long seldom gets goals. Theo's lone runs look exciting , but he has (100+ goals) for Arsenal but often had no obvious person to pass to - certainly no-one with better finishing skills than his.

Diallo took time to settle in, but looked class after the break and might have got MoM if he'd showed up more in the first 45. There was no Salisu debut, but Stephens DAJFU on the day, and always looks better when the game is fast flowing as his previous mistakes nearly always came from static situations when he was caught out flat-foooted.
If Vestergaard is out for 6 weeks, then we will have Jack for the duration, if Ralph is going to wait for Salisu's debut game. It was clear that with the post denying Prowsey, and the rebound bouncing away from Adams, followed by the "handball non penalty" incident -and two disallowed goals - it wasn't going to be our day.

WestSussexSaint added 10:37 - Dec 27
When you are missing 3 key players from the spine of the team it was always going to take a bit of time to get going. Ralph likes players to pair up making the two greater than the sum of their parts. When you break up Bednarek & Vestergaard; JWP & Romeu; Adam’s & Ings it is not going to be at the level with them all in.

I thought Stephens did okay but was not at JVs level especially in the creative sense with his passing. I would like to see Salisu given a run if JV is out for a while as is being reported.

I’m one of Shame Longs biggest supporters over the years but he looks like he is starting to show his age. He was regularly offside due to him trying to jump ahead of the defence which in my view shows he has lost a yard of pace. In Ings absence either put Theo up with Adam’s and put in Djenepo out wide or play one of the youngsters up top. I’m sure Long will still have some valuable contributions but his time as a starter are over.

Farlow added 10:46 - Dec 27
I totally agree with WestSussexSaint if we are to progress we need to give the youngsters a go when injuries call for a change of personnel.I dont believe the pressing game suits Shane Long,ive never seen him win the ball back.

Ron11 added 10:55 - Dec 27
I agree with WestSussexSaint, regarding Shane Long, exactly my comment yesterday during the game he was prone to the offside trying to jump the defence because he's a yard off his former pace now. Better as a late sub.

halftimeorange added 11:10 - Dec 27
I also was surprised that Shane started. After all, we were playing a side at the foot of the table so, why not take the opportunity to blood one of the youngsters. Putting N'Lundulu on for a couple of minutes, Djenepo, too - why? We were the better side in the second half so, was this to run the clock down? It didn't make sense to me, it was hardly giving Armstrong and Long either a rest or protection. Ralph certainly has the team playing as he wants but, yesterday I feel was an opportunity to take a few more chances up front.

theralpholution added 11:15 - Dec 27
Whenever Long's name is on the team sheet I fear a lack of goals and this game had the feel of some past games from worse times where we had a lot of ball but lacked inventiveness. Fortunately he was not joined by the other master of the missed opportunity, Redmond but it did illustrate where we could strengthen, as there was little creativity around the box. Walcott was at his worst running into dead ends and Long's inability to stay onside meant an uncharacteristic 'goal' remained a more characteristic miss.
Stephens came in and showed why he is excellent cover in the centre-half position, it was another illustration of how unfairly the centre-backs have been criticised on this site when the team was in the early stages of transition. All were bought with improvement in mind and all have improved.
I was disappointed not to see Djenepo as I felt his individual skill can open up tight defences but overall he solid performance against an improved Fulham and we move on.

JohnT added 11:23 - Dec 27
I think we need to stop having this small club mindset & stop being satisfied with doing well against the 'big teams' but letting the lead slip...

DellBoyWally added 14:18 - Dec 27
With JV missing at the back we were not only robbed of a class act defending and a supply line forward but the leader at the back that Nick has been seeking, the shouting and pointing especially! JanB I think missed his partner, not having his best game.
Blatant penalty - arm out, lean into the ball, push it away with the forearm!!

AirFlorida added 16:49 - Dec 27
Disappointed not to have won but even without key players the progress we've made in 12 months was on show. We still had a confidence about us even though we created little and this is the sort of game we'd of lost this time last year. Five key moments and they all went against us unfortunately. The worrying thing is that this is now two games without a goal and three without a win. I don't think we have the depth in our squad to beat Wham and I fear we'll need a goal to secure a hard fought draw. Sticky period for us right now but we're in right end of the table and we're still looking up, not down.

SaintPaulVW added 16:57 - Dec 27
I thought Fulham played well. They were aggressive closed us down quickly. Bumped Diallo and KWP off the ball quite effectively. Pressed us. I would be surprised if they don't pick up points if they play every week like that. Luckily they didn't have much of a cutting edge.

Facing them this was a rejigged Saints with 4 enforced changes. Diallo improved over the game and has probably learnt a great deal from his first full game. I also thought Long was anonymous in the first half but then he almost scored. Perhaps he also needs a few games to get his eye back in?

We had the better chances to win, the penalty for handball should probably have been given. However it just didn't quite happen.

However if you are of a certain vintage for many seasons we could barely buy a point away from home so an unbeaten run of 7 away games and s clean sheet is a pretty good way to finish the year.

Now COYR to see out the year with a win!

SanMarco added 01:18 - Dec 28
Very like the Brighton game but this time a blatant penalty was not given. I think the fact that we rarely looked much better than a side who will probably go down shows 'squad depth' issues but to be fair it could be argued our three best players were out and any team outside the billionaire clubs would suffer from that.

The big question raised by the team selection: Why did we buy Salisu????

underweststand added 10:08 - Dec 28
...as a follow-up to San Marco's last comment, my issues with buying players are always;
What sort of role did he have in his prev.club ?...what formation did THEY play? ...and does he have the energy levels to play 95 minute games ," Ralph's style " in the Prem?.

Salisu looked impressive in his You Tube clips, BUT was that against top class opposition in THAT league. The only way we'll know about Salisu is to see him in action ..v. West Ham ?..or Shrewsbury (surely)?... in anticipation of selection for the Liverpool game (!)

It's fine having the ambition to bring on our Academy lads, but most who have succeeded have come into a settled and reasonably-successful sides, who could " baby sit " them whilst settling in...but now it's different. Those key players who are out are unlikely to return soon, or I suggest ....showing the same form they had prior to their injuries.

Djenepo was older than any of the 6 Academy graduates we had on the bench at Fulham and although we expect Romeu back for the West Ham game, we also need to question the form of players like Armstrong, who is barely a shadow of his former self and not for the first time - "went missing" for much of the game. Without that input we lack creativity in midfield.
Diallo who replaced Romeu in a defensive role, looked far more creative than anyone else. There are rumours about loaning the Man U lad, or signing another CB giant from Europe, but it's goals that win games - and right now we have managed just one in the last three games.

If we are to continue "picking up points" we need strikers who score regularly, and for all his efforts Adams has scored just once in the last 7 games and maybe remind ourselves that Theo Walcott has scored more Prem. goals than the rest of the squad put together. Food for thought in the transfer window.

MRHALL93 added 11:26 - Dec 28
Fulham beat us tactically, they pressed us well in the first half. Zonally marked the right areas of the pitch, meaning the switch to the fullback was hardly on. Then toward the latter stages of the game, they just sat back and allowed us to come toward them, again we failed to break down a team that parks the bus. Going forward, Fulham drew in our players for the press and made the pitch really wide.

Shane Long and Adams shouldn't partner each other. Theyre both similar players that want to hold up the ball and bring others into the game. Adams needs someone who will make runs to stretch defences as he's probably our best passer in the final third. He needs to work more to find space on the pitch. I also don't think that Shane can lead the press, even Tella did a better job at that against City.

I wonder if there's an arguement that we should change our system going forward when we're not creating chances. I think we could easily play a 4-3-3, but switch to a 4-2-2-2 when we're pressing opponents. If you swap Djenepo for Long then he can play LW with Walcott on the RW and Armstrong can drop in as a number 10. Constantly changing formations going forward would mean that defences will need to adapt to this. Which could make it easily for us to create chances.

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