|Southampton 0 v 1 Aston Villa|
Barclays Premier League
Saturday, 30th January 2021 Kick-off 20:00
Saints V Aston Villa The Preview
Saturday, 30th Jan 2021 11:30
Saints take on Aston Villa in a game where a win would see them back into the top 10 after two straight defeats in the Premier League, but another loss could see us looking over our shoulder.
There are two thoughts on Saints fans minds ahead of this evening's game against Aston Villa are what team will Saints put out and what time they get in the sweepstake for when Jack Grealish will throw himself theatrically to the ground after brushing an opponent.
Those with times between 90 seconds and 2 1/2 minutes have the best chance of picking up the prize money, which is a great shame because if he stayed on his feet I think Grealish could become a truly class act, instead of a figure of ridicule to most other than Villa fans.
The good news for Saints fans is that Ralph Hasenhuttl has some of the injured returning to his squad, notably Oriol Romeu and Moussa Djenepo and this will give him more options, especially on the bench where experience has been in short supply of late.
But he will be without Kyle Walker Peters again and also long term casualty Jannik Vestergaard, although the good news is that the Danish Central defender will return to full training next week.
The real dilemma for Ralph though is the defence, Ryan Bertrand will return at left back, so does the manager stick with Jan Valery who in fairness had a decent enough game against Arsenal or doe he try other options.
He could for instance put Ibrahima Diallo at right back and restore Oriol Romeu to the centre of midfield, this might not be a bad option as Dallo is fast and has quick feet and that could be an advantage to combat Jack Grealish.but the Austrian expressed concern about Saints getting caught out of position and for pace last weekend and he could think a little bit outside of the box.
That could see Romeu slotted into the centre of defence in place of Jack Stephens, although that itself could trigger a re shuffle in that Stephens can also play at right back.
Further up the field I would not be surprised to see Nathan Redmond restored to the left of the midfield with Theo Walcott dropping to the bench, the loanee has struggled to find an end product of late, he is still getting some good runs and work, but that final ball whether it be a cross, pass or shot has been lacking.
Otherwise I think Ralph will try to keep the shape of the side and keep changes to a minimum.
Up until recently I have always said the bench is key, we have options, that hasn't been the case of late, but today that will all change , if things are going right Ralph will have options and if they are going wrong instead of kids he will have the likes of Djenepo or Walcott/Redmond to bring on.
WE have to get back to winning ways, the injury crisis has cost us dearly, but the season is still there for the taking, in the Premier League it is tight, but we are still in the mix, we have a great chance in the FA Cup .so there is plenty to play for.
We are in a bad patch at the moment but still pulled out the odd result or two, now is the time to end the rot and get back to winning ways whilst others have a bad patch to come.
We can go into this game with more positivity about the available squad than at any time in the last six weeks or 7 games, time to get back on track
Photo: Action Images
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Letters from Wiltshire #35 by wessex_exile
As many were predicting, time finally ran out for Steve Ball mid-week, after the U’s lost 2-1 at home to Exeter City. Although a considerable improvement in score-line compared to the 6-1 thrashing they handed out at St James Park earlier in the season, apart from the first 10-15 minutes and very brief glimpses throughout the remainder of the game, it was a poor performance, leaving Robbie Cowling with no choice. After a brief interlude, Robbie named Wayne Brown as our new Interim Head Coach (that’s caretaker as far as I’m concerned), and after an even briefer interlude, Robbie and Wayne in a joint statement put to rest any lingering concerns about Wayne’s attitude to race. If Wayne can show the same sort of leadership on the training ground and in the dressing room as he used to show for the U’s on the pitch, I am certain he’s going to do very well in the job.
Letters from Wiltshire #34 by wessex_exile
I won’t dwell on Robbie’s latest message to the supporters – we’ve all read it, and we’ve all probably drawn our own conclusions about what it doesn’t say as much as what it does. To me, bottom line, I suspect the clock is now ticking for Steve Ball (at least), turn around this terrible form pretty damn quick, or start clearing out your locker. Regardless of personal opinions on any of the individuals concerned, I would like to think none of us actually wants to see people made redundant in the current climate. But, these are difficult times that require tough decisions. If Steve Ball is up to the job and can turn this around, I’ll be more than happy to support him. If he’s not, he has to go before irreparable harm is done…and we all know what that will look like, we’ve been there before…
Letters from Wiltshire #33 by wessex_exile
Today we face a trip to Crawley, not usually a venue that bears fruit for the U’s it has to be said. In nine visits we’ve only won once in the league, and once in the League Cup. Of course, we’ll all remember that League Cup victory, indeed many of us were probably there to see us progress through to 5th round and the dream fixture against Manchester United at Old Trafford. All of our goal-scorers that night, Luke’s Norris and Gambin, and Cohen Bramall (okay, technically an O.G.), are no longer with us, so let’s hope at the very least that recent departee and subsequent returnee Frank Nouble can bag another like his late equaliser against Mansfield. Steve Ball commented during the week about how tight the league is at the moment, and he’s right that a couple of back to back victories would see us move significantly up the table away from danger – but we’ve got to win them first Steve – something we’ve failed to do since our 1-0 victory at Scunthorpe on December 8th.
Letters from Wiltshire #32 by wessex_exile
Fifty years ago yesterday, Colchester United of the 4th Division pulled off the greatest cup giant-killing ever, beating 1st Division Leeds United 3-2 at Layer Road. Watched by 16,000, and the Match of the Day cameras, Dick Graham’s U’s, a rag-tag band of mostly aging journeymen, defied the odds to defeat arguably the greatest club side in Europe at the time. “The greatest cup giant-killing ever” is a bold claim, and over the years various football magazines and websites have run their own polls of which was the greatest. Whilst that day at Layer Rd always features, as the years have gone by other feats fresher in the memory have been put forward as a candidate – we probably all remember Ronnie Radford’s screamer against Newcastle, Sutton’s exploits, or even Bradford City quite recently at Stamford Bridge – but these pale into insignificance when you pause to reflect on the Don Revie side that we beat that day. Sprake, Cooper, Charlton, Hunter, Lorimer, Giles etc – all full internationals, all household names – the only one missing was Billy Bremner, and that was because he was injured. By comparison, all we had to offer was Ray Crawford – at his peak arguably on a par with some in the Leeds side, but that peak had been ten years earlier playing for Ipswich and England. Eleven heroes didn’t just try and hold out against Leeds United, they took the game to their illustrious opponents with such tenacity, grit and no small amount of flair, and before we knew it, the U’s were 3-0 in the lead. As legs tired, Leeds got back into the game with goals from Hunter and Giles, but we held firm – typified at the death by Graham Smith pulling off an impossible save to ensure the U’s achieved the greatest cup giant-killing ever!
Letters from Wiltshire #31 by wessex_exile
And so the dust settles on another transfer window closing, and despite (my) expectations that the possibility of incoming business was going to be remote, we have instead seen a veritable flurry of activity, with no less than three coming in. Big Frank Nouble, making a very welcome return on loan from Plymouth Argyle, of course needs no introduction. Neither really does feisty Brendan Sarpong-Wiredu, here on loan last season, and this time signed full-time from Charlton Athletic for an undisclosed fee. Actually paying hard cash for someone did come as a surprise, presumably offset by the sale of Cohen Bramall to Lincoln for a similarly undisclosed fee. However, the fact that the Addicks have insisted on not only a sell-on clause, but a rarely used buy-back clause too, suggests (a) Wiredu’s signing fee probably wasn’t too high, and (b) Charlton are protecting those finances with these clauses. The last one, which would have been a complete surprise for me were it not for a contact leaking me the news earlier yesterday, is left-back Josh Doherty on loan from Crawley. Josh was only announced once outgoing left-back Bramall was confirmed, and presumably his loan is directly related to part-time fashion model, TV and radio celeb and former left-back Mark Wright signing for Crawley on a non-contract game-by-game basis in December. We have also released seven from the academy, Ollie Kensdale, Miquel Scarlett, Sammie McLeod, Michael Fernandes, Ollie Sims, Danny Collinge and Matt Weaire, and I’m sure we all wish them the best for the future.
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