Southampton V Crystal Palace The Preview
Tuesday, 11th May 2021 12:39
After having any lingering fear of relegation ended last night with Fulham's defeat Saints now have four games left this season in which they can play without fear and try and win a few games and end the season on a high.
There are a few dilemmas for Ralph Hasenhuttl now that Saints place in next season's Premier League has been confirmed, the first being does he concentrate on getting points on the board or does he look towards next season.
There are benefits to both, beating Crystal Palace this evening would not only move Saints up into 14th only a point behind the Eagles and make the league table look a bit more respectable, but more to the point 3 places is worth £6 million in prize money and that is not to be sniffed at . overtake Palace in the run in and that's another £2 million.
So when planning for next season does Ralph go for getting cash in the pot by playing his best side, or does he look to getting some of the promising fringe players a game and experience ready for next term.
The answer is probably a bit of both, at the back I would like to see Mohamed Salisu given game time, he was signed last summer to replace Jannik Vestergaard and although the Dane rallied and was in superb form before Xmas, since his return from injury he has looked more like the player of old.
With that in mind he could be our best hope of raising money to strengthen the squad, but first we have to play Salisu and find out just how good he is or for that matter isn't.
So for me I would partner Jan Bednarek with Salisu in the centre and drop Vestergaard to the bench, assuming Ryan Bertrand is still not fit then I would leave Jack Stephens at right back.
Of course there is the option of playing three at the back and again I would like to see that option tried.
With regard to Bertrand it seems he may have played his last game, he is supposedly injured but contract negotiations appear to be stalled on the length of any new deal and it seems Ralph may as he did last summer with Hojbjerg look to the future in the final games and not to those who won't be here.
I would also like to see Nathan Tella given a game, whether that is up front or out wide no one is sure where his future lies just yet, but so far he looks promising.
Up front the big question is whether Danny Ings is fit or not, personally I would prefer him on the bench this evening rather than start and to make sure that he is truly fit for Saturday against Fulham.
No one is saying that Saints do not need to make a signing or two in the summer, what we do have to find out though is who is going to be a genuine contender for a first team place and who is going to drop out, all clubs will be strapped for cash this year and we may have to sell to buy and that is why I think Jannik Vestergaard might just be expendable.
Tonight is a winnable game and it along with Fulham on Saturday will give us a big indication for the future, for me we have some good foundations and this has been a season decimated with injury, we showed before Xmas what we could do with a full squad, our drop in form wasn't a full team playing badly, with a full squad there is plenty to look forward to next season.
But we have to now do it where it counts and that is on the pitch, beat the Eagles and make our League position look respectable.
Photo: Action Images
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Letters from Wiltshire #48 by wessex_exile
“And now the end is near, and so we face the final curtain…regrets, we’ve had a few, but then again, too few to mention”. Not quite right Paul Anka, probably more than a few, but otherwise a fair assessment of where the U’s are today. It’ll be interesting to see how we perform with the relegation monkey finally off their back – I’m not expecting miracles, particularly with Tranmere needing at least a point to guarantee making the play-offs, but they’ll certainly be more nervous than we will be, so can we make that count? This will be my last blog of the season, and not yet sure what I may or may not do for next season, but suggestions are always welcome.
Letters from Wiltshire #47 by wessex_exile
Here we are, at the penultimate game of the season, and our last game in front of the cardboard U’s faithful at the JobServe. It has been a long, difficult, and definitely strange season, which frankly I’ll be glad to see the back of. That’ll we’ll be here again in August is definitely going to be something to celebrate, but I suspect we’re facing a summer of significant rebuilding both on the pitch, and possibly off it too. I won’t be the only one, but the biggest oddity for me has been being able to watch every single game – not always easy viewing, but something I’ve never done before, and probably never will again. But it doesn’t really make up for not being there in person, the long train journey away-days, meeting fellow U’s and other supporters, and of course sharing a beer or three. Fingers-crossed we can return to the terraces in 2021/22.
Letters from Wiltshire #46 by wessex_exile
That was quite a week for us all then. In the space of four short but remarkably tense days we have gone from having to take shoes and socks off to check how many more points we need to guarantee survival, or whether we would even achieve it, to breathing a huge sigh of relief knowing we’re almost there. But close of play this afternoon, whether by our own actions or the failure of others, I am sure survival will be confirmed. Of course, Tuesday night not only all but guaranteed it, it also virtually condemned local rivals Southend United to non-league football for the foreseeable. Looking at the host of fully professional former football league sides currently battling it out for the two promotion slots out of the National league (including Hartlepool, Torquay, Stockport, Wrexham, Chesterfield and Notts County), it is not going to be a walk in the park for Southend to return any day soon.
Letters from Wiltshire #45 by wessex_exile
Tonight, Colchester United face Southend United in what may not necessarily be the most important game of our respective histories (though it’s certainly very close), but is almost certainly the most important Essex derby ever. However this season pans out, by the end of it there’ll either be only one team in Essex, or worst case scenario, none at all. If the U’s win, then Southend will be 9pts behind with just three games to go, and a minimum of a -12 goal difference to overturn if they want to overtake us. Certainly mathematically possible, but that would rely on a remarkable turnaround in their form, form that they’ve shown precious little sign of achieving so far this season. The stalking horse is Grimsby, with their game in hand, who have rather belatedly shown an improvement in form, so their match against automatic promotion chasing Morecambe tonight is equally important, particularly if we want to avoid the unthinkable, with both Essex clubs dropping out of the league.
Letters from Wiltshire #44 by wessex_exile
So here we are, as the nation mourns the passing of His Royal Highness, Duke of Edinburgh, the U’s face the first of two season-defining moments, with our late kick-off match at home to Walsall. Before then, no doubt many will have been focused on events elsewhere, not least the early kick-offs for Grimsby (at home to promotion-chasing Bolton Wanderers), and particularly Essex rivals Southend United, who faced a tricky visit to Exeter City – still very much in the hunt for at least a play-off spot. As I finalise this blog, I know that Grimsby have beaten Bolton 2-1, and Southend earned a credible 0-0 draw in the West Country. More to the point, the U’s will know this too. Whilst I can’t help but feel that will ought to be to our advantage, it surely must also put additional pressure on a squad whose confidence is paper-thin. We must hope that Hayden Mullins, assisted by Paul Tisdale, get their heads right, and send the lads out this evening fired up with self-belief.
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