|Southampton 0 v 0 West Ham United|
Barclays Premier League
Tuesday, 29th December 2020 Kick-off 18:00
Saints V West Ham United The Preview
Tuesday, 29th Dec 2020 14:37
Saints look to end a 3 game winless run by beating West Ham United in their final game of 2020 and in doing so open up a gap between the top 9 and the middle of the table, but what side will Ralph Hasenhuttl put out with injury issues still affecting his options.
I keep talking about looking at games in terms of tranches of 3 with a par score of 4.5 per trio of fixtures and Saints go into the game against West Ham, knowing a win will keep them on course, whereas defeat will see the ratio drop to under half that target.
The last three games have seen Saints take only 3 points, although it could be said that with the one home game in that set being Manchester City, that two points was a reasonable return.
If we go to the last 6 games, the haul is 8 points and that is still under par if we harbour to 7 aspirations or higher.
So we need to start getting back on track by beating the Hammers this evening, especially with the next game after this being Liverpool.
But although Ralph Hasenhuttl has Oriol Romeu back in the squad after suspension, he still has injury issues with Jannik Vestergaard seemingly out till the start of February , Nathan Redmond still struggling and Danny Ings although back in training, surely a big risk to start.
If Ralph sticks to 4-4-2 then he has a lot of thinking to do, does he keep Jack Stephens & Ibrahima Diallo in the side after bringing them in for the trip to Fulham. or does he bring back Oriol Romeu and give a surprise debut for Mohammed Salisu.
Up front with Danny Ings unlikely to start, does he keep faith with Shane Long who had a reasonable game at Fulham, or does he push Theo Walott up front and us Moussa Djenepo & Stuart Armstrong out wide.
But another option might be to revert to playing three at the back, something Ralph did quite often up till "that" game just over a year ago.
That could be an attractive option for the Austrian, Bednarek, Stephens & Salisu at the back, a more advanced role for Bertrand & Walker Peters with a central trio of Diallo holding with Romeu allowing a more free role for James Ward Prowse, with a front two of Che Adams and Theo Walcott.
I even suspect that there could be another take on this with Theo Walcott dropping deep to get the ball and run at the West Ham Defence.
Ralph Hasenhuttl can still put out a decent starting XI even with injuries, but the issue might be who he has on the bench, Danny Ings returned to training but surely won't be risked, but I can see that he might be held in reserve in case we need to find a big finish in the final 10 minutes.
Other than that though we will be stretched on the bench, Nathan Tella and Dan N'Lundulu have had cameo roles of late but not really showed that they are ready for the first team.
This will be a tough game, the Hammers are a side that are a little inconsistent of late, they can pull out some great results, but are just as likely to struggle, David Moyes might like to boast of how good he is a manager on Sky Sports, but he is clearly struggling to motivate a squad who too many times seem to lack spirit and fight, they play when they feel like it.
But we are due a win, we have lost the last 5 Premier League games against them, we last won in August 2017 when a last minute Charlie Austin penalty gave us a 3-2 win against a Hammers side who had been down to 10 men from the half hour mark.
Up to that game we had a decent record against them both home and away, so we could do with breaking our poor run.
If we do beat them we open up a six point gap between them and us and this will go a long way to starting to cast adrift the mid table teams between 10th & 15th.
It will be a tough fixture this evening and one that we go into with adversity, but hopefully this will stir us on to putting in a good display and send us into 2021 in a position we could only have dreamed of just over a year ago.
Photo: Action Images
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