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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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WestSussexSaint added 13:06 - Mar 5
If Sheffield United plan on parking the bus then playing Djenepo at right back is probably the correct call as he won’t be under pressure so much defensively. Plus it will add an attacking option which we definitely don’t get with Bednarek playing there. This all assumes Nick is correct and KWP is not fit enough to start. If he is then he has to play, resting him after 60 mins if the game is secure by then.

The key to this game (and every game) is goals. We have to start converting the chances and hopefully Ings and Adams will have found their scoring boots in a cupboard at Staplewood this week.

If Redmond has to start then it should be in his traditional position on the left but I think Tella looks like the better option right now so would prefer he started.

A Sheffield United win doesn’t recall do much for them as they are already effectively down. However for Saints looking to get 2 or 3 more wins this season this realistically has to be one of them.

SanMarco added 13:39 - Mar 5
Yes, WessexSussex goals - a couple of those ought to be enough. I think Nick's first sentence in this preview is the statement of the season!! I suppose a hundred defeats in a row would mean we really savoured that win in the hundred and first...

The mood music from Ralph is Diallo but no KWP + Djenepo needs a rest so I fear more RB shenanigans. We oughtn't to fear this game. We have better (and presumably fresher) players. Blow this and we aren't relegated but we are one game closer to Nick's first win I suppose!!

saintmark1976 added 13:51 - Mar 5
“ The one good thing about a defeat when you are going through a bad run, is that you are one game nearer a victory”. Or logically Nick, another defeat or possibly a draw?

RobtheSaint added 16:11 - Mar 5
Despite our problems with injuries and poor VARs I think the need for a Plan B is more about how we play rather than just having fit players. I believe our weakness as an attacking force comes about as a result of our very slow build up from the back and the little triangle in midfield. If you shut your eyes you can see the same set play nearly every time which gives the opposition all the time in the world to defend against it and hence very few chances and little service to the forwards.

I think if we were get forward quicker or even pop it over the top for Danny and Che to chase we would at least create more chances and reduce the pressure we often put on ourselves when we get caught in possession. As much as I like much of JWP play he is guilty of looking back more times than forward.

Centurion added 16:52 - Mar 5
Surely Sheffield Utd are in the realm of 'shit or bust', so parking the bus makes no sense.
I think they will really go for the win. If our defence holds up this could give us opportunities at the other end.
A MUST win game for both teams!

Boris1977 added 19:08 - Mar 5
I'm assuming they will be without jakielka due to his red card the other night.

Just hope we score - and score first

allsaint54 added 12:36 - Mar 6
If Ralph starts Redmond he deserves to be sacked. He doesn't even warrant a place on the bench, let him stay at home and contemplate his over inflated ego. Fact is we've won just 1 PL game that he's started.

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