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Southampton V Fulham The Verdict
Sunday, 16th May 2021 09:21

Saints won two Premier League games in a row for the first time since before Xmas as they beat Fulham with a fairly comprehensive performance that was only briefly in doubt to give us a platform to end the season with a flourish.

Saints carried on where they left of in midweek with Ralph Hasenhuttl only making two changes from the side that beat Crystal Palace, Alex McCarthy coming back in goal as per the manager's rotation strategy and Mohamed Salisu replacing the injured Jan Bednarek.

From the start it was clear Saints were focused and were determined to make this a second win in a week.

Fulham showed why they have been relegated, they had a lot of possession but did very little with it, rarely threatening the Saints goal.

But they were disciplined at the back and were not going to make it easy for Saints and clear chances were few and far between, on 27 minutes though there was one, a James Ward Prowse free kick went across the six yard box and Che Adams swept home.

From then on it seemed there would be only one winner and on the hour mark Nathan Tella swept home a glorious inch perfect cross from Kyla Walker Peters just 98 seconds after coming on as a sub.

But from looking so comfortable Saints shot themselves in the foot with 15 minutes left, they were over passing and at times seemed to pass themselves into cul de sacs and when they did , too often instead of doing the basics they tried something fancy to get out of it and got caught out.

Suddenly we were caught napping and Carvalho smashed the ball home.

Now suddenly Fulham sensed they could get something out of the game and you wondered whether this was going to be yet more points dropped from a winning position.

But this feeling was fleeting, Tella who had revitalised the attack when he came on played a lovely back heeled pass and Theo Walcott hit a shot that deflected past the keeper to make it 3-1 and Fulham were clearly finished.

So a great win that showed that despite what some would say there are some great foundations to build on.

At the back Mohamed Salisu showed that he can become a great player with just a little more experience, he can read the game in a way than none of our other centre backs are able to do and makes it look easy.

Jack Stephens had a decent game, he made a great saving tackle at one point, but he lost concentration for the goal and let Cavalho peel off him, this for me showed where we are as a squad, I have often criticised Stephens, but I don't rant about him, I don't demand he never plays another game for the club, he is a great squad player who can come in and do a job, but he has this fatal concentration flaw that is exposed.

This is harsh on a player who otherwise didn't put a foot wrong, but at the back you can't afford to switch off at this level or you get punished. Stephens was far from the only culprit in this game or indeed this season, but at the back you get punished more.

Football is a squad game, Jack Stephens is part of our squad and is at the heartbeat of the club, but it is a certain role he has to play.

James Ward Prowse was immense in midfield and for me was the man of the match, he has had to play a more withdrawn role of late but he can make a tackle and win the ball, however it does take something away from our forward play, Stuart Armstrong does replace some of that, but his is a different style of play than JWP.

Perhaps the answer will be if Ralph sticks with 3 at the back next season when we can have Oriol Romeu holding and both JWP and Armstrong in front of him.

Nathan Redmond did not have a great game and in truth should not have played 90 minutes, indeed the problem was that as the game entered the final 20 minutes we were visibly tiring with both Minamino and Redmond losing possession too often and Fulham were getting the ball too easily and able to surge forward, eventually leading to a goal.

Theo Walcott came on for the last 15 minutes and put in his best display since before Xmas and a couple of minutes later Ralph put on Diallo to replace the tiring Armstrong to add a more solid look defensively and make sure the visitors didn't get an equaliser.

Up front Che Adams showed what a good player he is, he is not appreciated by some, but he is a clever player and can score goals, this was his 9th and only 16 players in the Premier League have scored more.

This was a game that was not just about the result, but about Ralph Hasenhuttl finding out a few things for next season.

From that point of view there were some pleasing notes he would have made and yes of course we do need to make a signing or two, but we are stronger than the end of last season and our issues in the new year were not about a poor team playing badly, but a good team decimated by injury plus some appalling refereeing decisions, but mainly it was about the injuries.

From the points total it moved us up the table and with Burnley losing and Brighton drawing puts us in a strong position in the race for 13th and indeed a shot at 12th.

Time for positivity and on Tuesday night a return of the fans to St Mary's for a tough game against Leeds United which will be a tougher test than we got from Fulham.

Photo: Action Images



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pwithers123 added 09:57 - May 16
Superb game. Saints are so much better to watch these days. It’s high risk game that Hassenhutl gets them playing - but some outstanding passing and movement. Goals that were tram goals of high quality in movement and accurate passing.

Now he is clear of FA Cup he can concentrate on the league. Pulled Ings off to be ready for Leeds - who look outstanding - that will be a tough game - as will West Ham. Two teams in top form.
Hopefully will be great to watch. Saints looked up for it.

Good season - If we get 12/13 position plus FA CUP Semi Final - only beaten by the winners

Great Manager -
2

HythePeer added 10:01 - May 16
I would have liked to see a few new faces on the pitch.
0

ElijahK added 10:10 - May 16
Well that sure was a decent display! Pretty much everyone did there roles, and did really well, especially Tella who seems to have some great potential and Adams may FINALLY be getting into form with his goals! I mean if we were to finish on like 46/49 points, most of us would’ve taken that at the start of the season.

Although I do wonder of how Redmond keeps getting played, especially seeing how well Tella has been recently and why he basically never gets dropped!? But other than that I think Rapls selection has been quite decent, as our back 4 have actually done pretty well since we swapped Salisu/Stephens for Bertrand. Let’s just hope with the signings that we SHOULD get, that we can fill in the squad and make sure it’s got enough depth that we won’t ever have to have 2 keepers on the bench, and only 9 non youth players available!
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WestSussexSaint added 10:12 - May 16
Overall it was a game we should expect to win and we did with some ease. Good performances from Adams, JWP, KWP and Stephens. It was great to see Tella score his first senior goal and that smile was worth the wait.

Minamino was marginally better than in the week but I still don’t see what he brings that Tella or Djenepo can’t provide.

As for Redmond he continues to baffle. It looked like he had turned a corner a few weeks ago but this performance capped off a decline back to the early season dross. Surely someone on the coaching team can see what is going wrong and work with him to correct things. If they already are and he can’t or won’t change then he doesn’t deserve his place in the team. For his and Saints sake it can’t be allowed to continue.
8

Jellybaby added 10:41 - May 16
Jack Stephens is an interesting case, clearly lacking in a lot of areas and yet our form has really picked up since his re-introduction, replacing the whiney Bertrand. If he adds significantly to team spirit then it may be worth overlooking his shortcomings?

Agree with others about Redmond, literally the worst game I have ever seen him play, maybe he was missing Bertrand, but Djenepo is surely a much better option?
8

underweststand added 10:44 - May 16
Putting a few results together is always positive. Another good display - even if it was against a relegated side trying to figure who best to keep in their Championship squad.

Better displays from Walcott and Minamino - and even Jack Stephens who, (aside from his usual lapse) looked very good going forward in the attack. An excellent performance from Mo Salisu who seems calm and has plenty of time on the ball . Ché Adams sneaked a second goal in two games, and nice debut goals for both teams young strikers.
Trying to "nurse " the recovering Danny Ings through the rest of the season may be a little problematic. However, Leeds are certain to be more of a handful than Fulham were.

HISTORICAL NOTE: As a schoolboy, Saints' 1970's starlet Steve Williams watched his hero Alan Ball dominate a superb Arsenal side of the time - only to find himself playing alongside Ballie in Saints' midfield several years later.
Yesterday, One-time Arsenal Academy boy, Nathan Tella scored his debut goal for Saints AND laid-on an assist to HIS Arsenal boyhood hero - Theo Walcott.
Sometimes, Football really does become the thing that dreams are made of....
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JoeEgg added 10:47 - May 16
Okay this was a much better performance from Saints and Nick loves to see things through rose-tinted glasses with his 'great'win, and 'great' foundations and 'great' player- all in the same paragraph. I will reserve my judgement until after the Leeds game. Leeds have improved enormously throughout the season and if Saints can beat them I may have to change my tune!
However I am still not convinced that Ralph is the right man for the job and I still worry over his team selections and style of play. Nick claims that we end this season stronger than we ended the last - well, it may appear that way to some but you will NOT be able to claim that if we lose Bertrand, Ings and Vestergard before our next campaign. Ings looked thoroughly upset at being substituted so I hope he really was told BEFORE the game the reason why he was only to play an hour!! Danny Ings is the one player we cannot afford to lose. We have rarely seen Salisu, Tella and Diallo this season and hopefully they will all be major players next season. However, Nathan Tella will soon be on the radar of all the top clubs - so another star in the making that we are unlikely to hold on to for long.
Leicester duly won the Cup Final and I always compare them to Saints when it comes to assessing resources, management, players and achievement. Leicester are NOT a big club but once again they have shown what can be achieved so why shouldn't we expect the same from our Club? I believe that once again we finish the season at a crossroads. There are many positives but so many of these positives look frustratingly fragile. Once again we stand to lose some our best players, while the younger players will be looking beyond Saints. I would prefer to see Eddie Howe in charge but 'great' wins against Palace and Fulham will keep Ralph in his job! As for the owners of our Club - so much uncertainty and a lack of ambition and enthusiasm. Anyway get me through the Leeds game first but at the moment I still dont feel either relaxed or confident about our immediate future.
-8

NigD added 10:56 - May 16
At least it shuts up the crazy and unrealistic ‘Ralph out’ brigade for a moment. With a fitter team to pick, our close controlled football is clever and a joy to watch. Of course we would love to have a couple more works class finishers, who wouldn’t. But we are in a better place now for next season. Hope we can find some gems in the transfer market. Onwards.
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erick added 11:02 - May 16
I don't how redmond plays for 90 minutes, this season he has very poor. His good days are past him. Stephens played a decent game the goal couldn't be prevented. The squad needs quality additions and under 10 million signings I don't think will cut it in every part of the team especially the forward areas. Ings signing his contract will be our biggest summer deal. The scouts should be looking at Eredivisie for decent young players like Joey Veerman, Belgian league for players Noa Lang, Denmark for Lindstrom. Young players over achieving their expected metrics. For a team to succed in premier league a combination of three things need to be met; finances, quality signings and a good coach.
1

halftimeorange added 11:04 - May 16
I get that finishing as high as possible brings better team morale and more needed cash but, and I know this has been said before, Redmond does not deserve to be in the team on the majority of his performances now and in previous seasons. He just doesn't seem to have the brainpower to make the most of his or, indeed the team's, attacking opportunities, he dodges tackles and continually berates his colleagues for his squandering. I expect Bertrand will be glad to get away from him. Minamino is too lightweight for the EPL. Yesterday he was knocked off the ball virtually every time he ran with it. Walcott may have scored yesterday but, overall he's well past his best. On the plus side I wonder if any thought has been given to playing Jack Stephens in a midfield role where his marauding runs would be better for the team as he is not easily knocked off the ball and his habitual errors would generally not be catastrophic. Although I've been critical of Che Adams' finishing he does seem to help Danny Ings create chances. The big plus was Nathan Tella but, we all knew that. How come Ralph doesn't give him a start? Nursing him, I don't think so.
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Farlow added 11:04 - May 16
Che Adams is improving all the time his last two goals have been more typical of a goal poacher,which is his next step forward.Mo Salisu looks a great player in the making,i expect Liverpool are licking their lips.Well played Jack Stephens showed his value as a squad member.Tella looks an exciting one for next season.
8

SaintPaulVW added 11:20 - May 16
If this is the comments section after two 3-1 wins then God help us.

Great performance by Tella and Salisu. KWP, JWP and Armstrong put the hard work and miles in.

Ings and Adams look to have a few goals in them again.

Good workmanlike performance by the rest of the team with naturally a few errors and players that need to play the full 90 minutes, to allow others to be subbed, managing their performance over that 90 minutes due to our high press strategy.

Ralph's subs proved decisive. I like our shape with a back four converting to a back 3 to allow KWP to get up field.

Roll on Leeds and West Ham.

COYR!
8

felly1 added 12:03 - May 16
Well played Saints. 2 wins on the bounce and life is certainly alot more rosy!
I actually thought Minamino had a decent game and made lots of intelligent runs and opened up space for others. Stephens had his best game for us in ages.. Yes he got done for their goal but you name me a centre back who doesn't get caught out or turned during a game, most of the time they get away with it but sometimes you don't. If defenders were perfect every game would be literally nil nil!!.
Love to see Djenpo get a few games in. He's erratic but I just always sense he can make things happen and I love his determination.
Salisu is looking good but we should remember he's still young and there maybe some ups and downs to come for him, he certainly looks a great prospect though.
Two tough games to go, fingers crossed we can get something out of these games.
4

corkcitysaint added 13:07 - May 16
Two good wins and morale boosters for players and fans alike against what I would consider to be "sparring partners" with the real fights to come against Leeds & West Ham. This will tell where we really are currently. Good to see the subs having an impact also.

I always worry when I see Stephens on the team sheet. As noted above he is prone to an error every game. In the Premier league, you are punished more often than not. However, I have been encouraged by his last couple of displays and I was delighted to see him actually go forward with the ball on a few runs rather than the easy pass back option. These runs are not something that Bednarek seems to do.

I don't think Stephens or Salisu on the left of a back 4 works. To me it seems imbalanced and isn't our solution long term. A back 3 with Salisu on the left possibly. The last match against Leeds, Bielsa made an interesting tactical change / comment when he changed their attack down our left rather than right side as he noticed only KWP going forward. Neither Stephens or Salisu "bomb" forward when in this position so it will be interesting to see what happens during this upcoming game.

Delighted for Tella. Great to see how much scoring means to the young lad. Pity it was at an empty stadium..

Finally, a congratulations to Steven Davis on a title win with Rangers and also being voted Player of the Year by SFWA. Very tidy player.

4

AirFlorida added 13:22 - May 16
Every saints fan's dream.. A shot at 12th
-3

SaintStu7 added 15:49 - May 16
Another much improved performance, nice to watch. Tella or Djenpo must start in place of Redmond. Rarely have I seen a Saints player as poor for such a consistently long period. Gives the ball away, wastes good chances and appears to think he’s great. Once Oriel is back maybe pairing him with Diallo and playing JWP and Armstrong left and right would be a good option.
2

davidargyll added 17:19 - May 16
Three players I thought stood out, Mohammed Salisu, Jack Stephens and inevitably Nathan Tella.
The first is destined to be a Saints star of the future I predict, cool and calm under pressure with a fine eye for a telling pass.
And yes I am staggered I find myself mentioning JS but I really think he is finally starting to do something. Maybe, like a lot of players, if he is always the bridesmaid, never the bride, he becomes too concerned about making a good impression and has consistently underwhelmed. But given a decent run in the team - as he has enjoyed since Romeu has been sidelined - he is starting to show that he does have talent and skill. And when he started on two or three occasions yesterday to run with the ball forward through the midfield I got really quite excited. Yes OK, I will wake up soon, but credit where credit is due.
As for NT, I don’t think I have ever seen a broader smile on anybody’s face after he scored. He too I predict is going to be a star. (But being hunted by another club JoEgg? Why can’t you be positive and think just maybe he might want to stay at somewhere where he is clearly enjoying being at?!)
And as for our real enigma, Theo, who scored an absolute cracker, what can I say. Yesterday showed at last just what a class act he can be; let’s hope one swallow can make a summer, especially as it looks like we are going to take him on a permanent deal.
Overall, a depleted Fulham were mostly rubbish, Carvalho apart, so maybe we shouldn’t flatter ourselves too much and it will be interesting to see how they do against Man U, if only to be able to compare the scores, and of course how we do against Leeds (whom I reckon we will struggle against) and WestvHam (who might just be running out of puff?).
Finally a word about Nathan Redmond, whom I see has been absolutely castigated on Twitter. To be honest, I didn’t think he was bad, not good, if anything rather anonymous, but terrible? I don’t think so. Again, he has got better over the last few weeks, from admittedly a pretty low point, but let’s cut the guy some slack.
0

Peterx added 12:07 - May 17
Would like to see us start three at the back in one of the next two games.
0

Colburn added 13:40 - May 17
A good win against a relegated team without one of their star loan players out, another much needed result but let's not get too carried away, Fulham were a poor team and showed why they are relegated. I don't quite see how this quietens a 'crazy and unrealistic Ralph out crowd'. In fact, there has only been a call for a change of manager after the second 9-0 loss and a run of games where out of 17, we won only 2 and drew 2. This is a shocking run of results and we are in a results business, so there is nothing unrealistic or crazy about fans wanting a change of manager after such a run. Nigd, I think your comment is unrealistic and crazy as the facts and stars speak for themselves. I have thought we have needed a change because of this run, because he hadn't brought through the likes of Salisu and Tella and because he keeps sticking with players who are serial underperformers instead of the hungry lads on the sidelines. So mow we have beaten Fulham, Palace, Burnley and Sheffield Utd, we are suddenly out of the rut are we? I do hope so and as said before I love Ralph as a person and would be happy to change my mind again about him as a manager but this is not the result to confirm insanity of those who were aware of the 17 game run..
So Nick, 2 paragraphs on Jack Stephens which criticises him at the same time as you try to reverse out of your previous opinion on him. Let's be blunt, do you know how difficult it is to step into the toughest league in the world after no or little game time and do so without fault? You consistently judge players who step in when we all know that any player needs a run in the side to be at his best, be at his fittest and 'match fit'. When Jack had a run in the side, he was immense.
Let's hope our unsackable but warm hearted manager has learnt his lesson with Redmond, who we seem to carry every game from a defensive perspective. It is no wonder we have struggled when we haven't had 11 players prepared to roll their sleeves up each week and the fans lost faith with Ralph... He picks the team and sets them up mentally.
If we beat Leeds or West Ham, then I will be happy to see Ralph's third revamp of the team, but they are very different tests to the last two.
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