Southampton At Sheffield United The Preview
Friday, 5th Mar 2021 12:35
The one good thing about a defeat when you are going through a bad run, is that you are one game nearer a victory, a vital weekend in Saints season, one in which they need to get a result, not just for their League position, but to restore confidence.
Good sides don't become bad sides overnight, the difference between the Saints side of October/November & December and the one that has begun the year has not been one of a side who have suddenly gone from good to bad, it is one of a squad decimated by injuries and to add to that a series of poor decisions going against us.
To break bad runs things have to change, the good news here is that to get back to winning ways the solutions are at the club, they have just been on the injury list for most of the past two months.
For most games in this run we have had to put out basically the only 10 outfield players we have fit and then fill the bench with kids some of them completely untried, indeed we have put two goalkeepers on to make up the numbers at one stage.
So we go to Sheffield United with some good news on the injury front, we suddenly have some options, perhaps it might be a week too early for them to start a game, but the return of Diallo, Walker Peters and Minamino to the squad will be a major boost, it must be soul destroying for the players to have to battle it out knowing there are no options to change things on the bench, that they have to run themselves into the ground and then some more.
Now there are those options, we have a plan B and for the first time in about 8 weeks I can't actually predict a starting XI with any certainty, usually naming the players isn't the issue, we only have 11 fit outfield players, it is about trying to guess who will be reshuffled to fit a gap.
The first question will be who will play in goal, Fraser Forster put in another decent display at Everton and I suspect that although Ralph is being a little coy, he will get the nod, the defence seem to be better set up with him in the side.
For the starting XI it is a little more difficult in that of the 3 returning injured players, I don't know how fit they are. I would guess that Ibrahima Diallo & Kyle Walker Peters are still a week off full fitness levels, so I would expect to see them on the bench.
I think the back four will see Moussa Djenepo reprise his cameo right back spot with Jan Bednarek & Jannik Vestergaard in the centre and Ryan Bertrand at left back.
I expect to see James Ward Prowse and Stuart Armstrong in the centre with Nathan Tella and Takumi Minamino on each side.
Up front we will have Che Adams & Danny Ings.
This is not a bad starting XI, if we had a full squad 7 of the 10 would be first choice, with only Tella, Redmond & Djenepo not automatic choices.
So although we are missing two key players in right back & central midfield, we are nearly there when Diallo & KWP return.
On the bench against the Blades though we will have McCarthy, Salisu, Diallo, Walker Peters, Redmond, N'Lundulu, Stephens plus one other, now that is the first time in a long time we have been able to say we have six outfield players on the bench with experience.
So a lot has started to change to break this run, if this is our named squad for the game at Bramall Lane, then it isn't far off the side that went top of the Premier League, only Theo Walcott and Oriol Romeu missing.
We stay tight at the back and weather what will be an early storm from the home side and the confidence will start to return.
Sheffield United themselves have their problems, they have as big an injury list as we have had and they are missing players at the back as they look to try and pull off a miracle after the worst start in Premier League history.
It cannot be denied that they are a side with plenty of fight, indeed they throw everything at the opposition to keep them out, but they still have a goals against record that is right down there at the bottom, we can't laugh though so do we.
There real problem though is scoring goals, they have netted only 16 times in 27 games.
Their recent win against Aston Villa was achieved after Phil Jagielka was sent off, but playing with 10 men doesn't change things for them defensively , they park the bus and then try to go with quick breaks, this worked last season when they could hold firm and get a goal, but not this season they usually concede.
It is really getting to last chance saloon for them, they lose against us and they need about 22 points from only 10 games, put bluntly starting with our game they have to win 7 out of their last 11 to stand any chance, deep down they know they are down.
So we have to put a nail in their coffin and in doing so push ourselves out of trouble.
A month ago I would have worried about this game, but not so much now, at Everton after an early storm we were the better side, at Leeds we could have and should have got a point if not the injury to Oriol Romeu, certainly the performance wasn't as bad as the final score.
Against Chelsea we showed we could defend and against Wolves we didn't have the rub of the green, a win has been coming we just need to get it and then we can march on again.
Photo: Action Images
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Letters from Wiltshire #45 by wessex_exile
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Letters from Wiltshire #44 by wessex_exile
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Letters from Wiltshire #43 by wessex_exile
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Letters from Wiltshire #42 by wessex_exile
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Letters from Wiltshire #41 by wessex_exile
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