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Southampton V Aston Villa The Verdict
Saturday, 6th Nov 2021 09:27

Saints earned their third win of the season in a disciplined fashion in what was a game of two halves, the early goal from Adam Armstrong enabling them to stick to their game plan and see out the game for a solid win.

This was perhaps the crossroads game for Saints, lose it and we would be looking over our shoulders, but win it and we put daylight between us and the bottom three, we did just that and now sit pleasingly in 12th place on 14 points, yes that might change slightly after the rest of the weekends games, but we took a big step in beating Villa and in doing so give Danny Ings the challenge he supposedly craved when he departed St Mary's, however it's not the challenge he expected with Villa potentially dropping into the bottom three this weekend.

It was fitting that the man who won the game was his replacement Adam Armstrong who lashed home from just outside the box in the 3rd minute after Che Adams had hassled the Villa defence, it wasn't quite clear if it was the Saints striker or a Villa defender who knocked the ball back to Armstrong, but it didn't matter it was a clinical finish.

The first half was mainly Saints and they had chances to double their lead, not least Stuart Armstrong who blazed over the goal from close range and also a good shot from James Ward Prowse which drew a good save from the keeper.

But the half time break gave Villa impetus and they came out of the blocks quickly, last season this would be a worry, but although Villa had plenty of the ball and got it into our box, they rarely troubled Alex McCarthy who was well protected by a disciplined defence well marshalled by Mohammed Salisu.

There was also some good substitutions from Ralph Hasenhuttl who was pro active in his changes, ten minutes after the break he took off Stuart Armstrong and brought on Lyanco to shuffle the formation and add steel in our centre.

In the main Saints looked solid throughout, it might not have felt like it at times given our defensive woes of the last couple of seasons, but we seem to have got things right these days and perhaps the most pleasing aspect was our ability to keep yet another clean sheet.

This was very much a team win, everyone did their job from the goalkeeper up to the forwards. Adam Armstrong took the plaudits for his goal and was busy throughout, but if we are looking for one his partner up front was perhaps a better contender for man of the match, Che Adams worked his socks off, not only in battling for the ball which lead to Armstrong's goal, but in dropping deep and defending when needed, not to mention a great header in the 2nd half which produced a great save.

Villa had a lot of the ball as previously mentioned but our work rate and commitment meant that they didn't get the chance to turn possession into clear chances and goals.

Slowly but surely Ralph Hasenhuttl has built not only a team but a squad, but more importantly one that has bought into his work ethic and the way he want's to play, in the past some have criticised his tactics and substitutions, part of that has been due to the depth of his squad, but that has changed and against Villa he showed he has tactical nous.

Substitutions were made at the right times, as previously said bringing on Lyanco, but also in the final 15 minutes bringing on Ibrahima Diallo to add fresh legs and the ability to close down the game and keep the ball to take the pressure off, likewise Armando Broja in the last 10 minutes.

So a pleasing evening for Saints, I expect there will still be a few who moan about our lack of goals, but good sides have the ability to win 1-0 on more occasions than others, Lawrie McMenemy's side of 1983/84 was just that, we battled through the season and had a lot of close wins, enabling us to be in a good position at the end to start scoring goals and surge to a final position of 2nd, still our best League season ever.

Ralph Hasenhuttl's side remind me very much of that side, a balance of experience and youth, a squad that can adapt to different formations and the ability to keep their heads under pressure, we are not quite up to their level just yet, but as some of our supporters ranted about last season and the certainty of relegation, we have slowly put together a good squad and are building momentum, this was not a 1-0 win such as that over Liverpool last season when we scored early and had to hang in there and ride our luck, this was a disciplined side knowing their jobs.

Yes of course we want more goals, but if we don't concede then confidence rises and the goals will start to flow.

Ultimately though this was a fixture marked in the calendar to be Danny Ings night, it was going to be all about Ings scoring against his old club and talking about how he left for the "Challenge" etc etc.

But ironically the script was torn up when he got one of those niggling injuries that he seemed to suffer a lot at St Mary's, he would not run on to the pitch to take the acclaim of his new fans and the wrath of many of his fellow Sotonian's who felt that he took the money and run, they could live with him leaving to try to win trophies with a big club, but really Aston Villa !!!!

So the fact that it was his replacement Adam Armstrong who scored what was ultimately the winning goal and did it in true Ings style was pleasing, the chants about Ings were few and soon died out, Armstrong went a long way in to showing that there was new heroes to acclaim and although he has made a slow start he has the ability to score goals.

A great night at St Mary's, the supporters were tremendous, all four sides of the ground wading in with some great support, it was a pleasure to leave the ground and here people around buzzing about a Saints game again, yes football is a fickle mistress, last season showed that things can change quickly, but we go to football matches to support our team and enjoy ourselves and the game and last night we all did just that.

As I said it was a team effort, hard to pick a man of the match, you have to look beyond the man who scored the winner and look at those who dug in and worked hard and in that respect you could pick virtually everyone who stepped on to the pitch in a red & white shirt and that was the most pleasing aspect of the night.

Photo: Action Images

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wibbersda added 09:47 - Nov 6
I'll take Quality over Quantity if the there are all like the last two goals we have seen. Why are people still deriding Ings. The man kept us up last season and left giving as some well needed funds knowing that his best years are behind him. Anywho we have lots to be positive about this squad now and thay are a joy to watch at last!

SaintNick added 09:57 - Nov 6
We needed to get quality and quantity and we have seemed to have done that over the summer and indeed last summer with Diallo, KWP & Salisu

deanosfc8 added 10:04 - Nov 6
In Ralph we Trust!

We march on.....

landsdownsaint added 10:17 - Nov 6
I understand Livramento getting all the plaudits but KWP is so underrated first half last night he was immense

Farlow added 10:41 - Nov 6
I thought we were poor in the second half after a good first 45minutes.
So full credit for scrapping for the 3points.Lyanco certainly adds steel.
Tino looks just as happy on either side so why not swap sides with KWP
who is much more right footed.I sometimes criticise Bednarek but thought
he was solid last night.

IanRC added 10:53 - Nov 6
Che Adams was immense last night, thought Tino looked a little exposed defensively and still not convinced Elyonousi is our best option in that position. When all is said and done however a good three points and we can now look upwards. Some interesting games in the December January period but we can look at them with confidence.

On a less pleasing note what does an opponent have to do to be shown a red card when playing against us. Referees appear all too willing to punish our players but El Ghazi should have been given three yellows in the first half if the referee had done his job properly. The second season running Villa have been allowed to keep a full team on the pitch when one should have been sent off.

davidargyll added 11:13 - Nov 6
Am I the only person who thought that Salisu, having generally played really well for us this season, had an awful night yesterday and, due to slovenly back passing and general ineptitude, nearly cost us three goals?! I’d say on the back if that display he definitely deserves to be rested for a game or two which of course with good backup players we can now afford to do.
Him aside, what a great display…at times…because when you dominate the midfield you run the game, but obviously when you don’t you don’t. Which was what happened yesterday. In H1 we were in completely command and with KWP running riot down the LHS, we were unstoppable. But in H2, the boot was on the other foot, we hung back and you could argue that Villa just about shaved it. But my goodness on kast nights showing they really miss Grealish and a certain Mr Ings because they simply couldn’t get the ball into the right areas, let alone the back of the net.
So we march on, ok still without a hatful of goals to crow about, but to counter that the one thing we do seem to be having lots of right now is LUCK. So last night the “Adams Brothers” had it when we scored, as did Salisu (when they didn’t) but on another occasion they won’t. Let’s hope that isn’t for a while yet.

halftimeorange added 11:21 - Nov 6
In the pub afterwards the general view was that we got away with one. Villa changed their tactics in the second half to almost good effect. The obviously tiring Stuart Armstrong was not providing cover for Tino and Villa targeted the youngster with Watkins, in particular, giving him the runaround. Tino showed his immaturity and began to make careless errors and sitting back and noticeably not going forward on his rampaging runs. Maybe the kid needs a rest with KWP reverting to RB and Perraud playing on the other side. KWP, of all our players, retained his form throughout the game but, his effectiveness evaporated as Elyonoussi went off the boil. By this time McCarthy was making kicking errors and the whole central defence and midfield looked jittery. We couldn't win a header up front to take the pressure off and I personally thought the introduction of Broja was ten minutes too late (and I'm not sure Adam Armstrong should've been subbed as his speed of turn was still occasionally bothering Villa). Lyanco's appearance helped steady the ship a little but, he also lost the ball under pressure. The referee was weak and El Ghazi should've gone for his blatant dive in the box. Also, Oriel, who continued to fight for every ball, could well have given Villa a penalty. Some you win, some you lose. Yes, we won and I'm delighted about that but, in my opinion Ralph needs to balance the team better according to the way the game is progressing, not make last-ditch substitutions.

highfield49 added 11:41 - Nov 6
Whilst I agree with davidargyll that Salisu was not at his best last evening I think, on reflection, that was because he has set the bar so high recently that he had a good match rather than brilliant. What a difference though in the tenacity of the defence, if there is a certainty this season it's that we wont be letting nine goals in any time soon. Villa's keeper made two exceptional saves to keep the score tight and let's not overlook the quality of the Villa front line, even without Ings. All in all a good result to take three points from a game that last season we would have lost or drawn. Full credit to RH for the team selection and substitutions as well.

Farlow added 11:51 - Nov 6
Totally agree with davidargyle Salisu was dreadful i guess that was another reason for Ralph bringing in Lyanco so soon.

Colburn added 12:02 - Nov 6
I agree with the pub concensus that we got away with one yesterday. We played well in the first half but could have shown a little more intensity after the goal as Villa were at sixes and sevens, seize the moment! At half time I was concerned we had only scored the one and that the ref was doing his best to help Villa. How El Ghazi avoided a further yellow, twice, is anyone's guess.
In the second half we stopped attacking, displaying fear and little intention of killing off the game with a second goal. This was the tactics, it wasn't Livramento who chose not to attack and as with so many games and as mentioned by the pundits, this habit of handing the initiative to the opposition in the second half must be addressed or we will lose our leads and points again like the past couple of seasons..
Delighted with the win, obviously, but it was nerve wracking to watch rather than a joy in the second half. We are better than that and I don't understand why we have to try to outpass the oppo in tight spaces for an hour, or this obsession with doing this in our own half, making riskier passes backwards than those forwards. Fortunately Villa were very poor and lacked confidence and we did defend well. I agree that this was not Salisu's best game with the ball but did his job in the box. At least Ralph made changes before it was too late so there is progress in some areas. Terrific strike for the goal, a worldie, can see Armstrong being a hit.

felly1 added 12:23 - Nov 6
Excellent post Nick, like you I was struck by the buzz of the Saints fans particularly at the end of the game and its so nice to be there and be part of that positive feeling.
We still have a lot of improving to do and the squad has limitations but the confidence and plan B and C are now in place and I really feel Ralph has learnt the lessons of last season of trying to play cavalier brave attacking football and not having enough focus on the defensive side of the game.

ItchenNorth added 12:53 - Nov 6
Contrary to some, I thought Salisu was excellent last night, certainly in the second half (which was the only half he was needed in tbh !). Lyanco also looks a real solid player and it seams that with Livramento, KWP or Romand; we've got a great foundation to fight for clean sheets..

Romeu was a breast again and with JWP; who"s PEH again !

Great atmosphere at St Marys as well.

I'll take a 1-0 win all day long.

In Ralph we trust !


ExiledSupporter added 13:16 - Nov 6
Given the number of times that Villa put the ball into our box in the second half, sometimes with farcical attempts at putting it into the net, I think we should all be grateful that Ings wasn't playing. He would have scored several in all probability.

Our scoring problem remains the quality of our passing/crosses that actually reach players when the opposition has been pressed back into last ditch defence. I feel that AA is capable of being as good as Ings without the injury absences, his first touch is usually good, he turns very quickly and he would most benefit from playing beside Broja who will disrupt opposition defences much more effectively than the industrious but erratic Adams.

And yes, it's obvious Tino should be on the right side of midfield (and Walcott on the bench, not on the field) with KWP at right back and the very effective Perraud at left back. Why doesn't RH explain why he is not doing this...its inexplicable (irrespective of Tino's rather disappointing for much of the second 18 he probably needs resting here and there.

SaintPaulVW added 13:19 - Nov 6
A couple of points.

While I agree that KWP was excellent, had he been left footed we could have had a mass of great crosses and been better able to build on our lead.

KWP was getting all sorts of space in the first half but constantly had to stop and run in field to get on his favoured foot. A left footed player would have had the speed to get behind Villa and cross back across goal.

I also felt that both Salisu and Tino by their high standards had poor games. I think it's important to remember that these are both young players who are still developing. Tino has been a wonderkid but overplaying him could risk injury and then an an enforced absence. Similarly Salisu barely played last season so a change for a few games may keep him fresh. Difficult choices ahead.

Lots of good stuff last night, the domination of the first half, the tricky start to the second counteracted by Ralph getting the subs right, McCarthy looking good and Adams and Armstrong combining for a goal. 10 points from 12, could well be 13 from the 15 must win 5 games. Ralph is doing well, just need to avoid boom and bust by resting a few players for some games.

Villa were fairly petulant at times and El Ghazi should have gone. I don't think I'm being biased to say that the ref got a lot wrong.


lemmsy added 14:27 - Nov 6
Thought we were good in the first half but really need to press home that advantage when we’re so on top because you just knew villa had to get better second half.Saying that after the first ten minutes of the second half we adjusted really well villa didn’t threaten too much, more our nerves than Mccarthy having to excel.wouldn’t say they were awful but Salisu, tino & jwp we’re below the high standards they have set . The referee was bloody poor all round, bottled it with el-ghazi but could have given penalties also
Exiled supporter , Ralph has explained why he won’t play tino in midfield for now .There’s a detailed interview on Hampshire live .

Block8 added 17:40 - Nov 6
3 points an extremely good first half may have got us a bit too excited. Villa made a couple of positional changes at half time and pushed up on our full backs. This pressed us back and caused many problems before Ralph made a clever change, going to 3 at the back. JWP was quite superb and it appears his enforced rest has done him the world of good. I believe KWP plays LB when the opposition has a left footed right winger (Bailey tonight) so he can counter the cut inside to shoot! So what we gain on the swings we lose on the roundabout. I sat next to a couple of young lads from Belgium who were mighty impressed with Saints and the game itself. We have a good squad now and I fully believe that if we keep creating chances as we are now, someone is going to get battered, hopefully Leicester!

underweststand added 18:03 - Nov 6
Another clean sheet ands a valuable 3 points to give us a breathing space.
Much less goal chances than in previous games, but Adam Armstrong's goal was worth the admission money.
Agree with many others (above) ..How on earth did El Ghazi stay on the pitch in the first half..? who was on VAR ? Very inconsistent refereeing, I hope he watched himself on TV.
We might have scored more, but for the Villa keeper who made a couple of great saves.

Fairly good performances all round, especially from KWP and our two front " A-men."
My only reservation was about Stuart Armstrong, who is so often a gamechanger for us, but looked decidedly off-form yesterday.


JoeEgg added 20:26 - Nov 6
Hahah the 'In Ralph we Trust' boys are out this week-end. 1-0 against a disappointing Villa side will do for them. Good for you lads ' enjoy your three points!
We saw a very different second half and only Ralph's bolstering of the defence by adding Lyanco saved us from actually dropping points after looking more than comfortable in the first half.
From the start of the season I have insisted that Walker-Peters is our star player - thanks Ralph nice to see him in the team at last . We have such a promising young squad and I cant help wondering what Ronald Koeman would have made of them and our second half tactics!

Saidou added 20:53 - Nov 6
We usually give opposing teams/players the chance to stop their bad runs. I thought this was going to be one of those games. Glad we won.

ItchenNorth added 23:12 - Nov 6
Ha JoeEgg. We only use In Ralph we trust to stir the bedwetters who can only see the negative in everything Saints do most weeks.

Take a chill pill. Enjoy the ride, we won, again !

KriSaint added 13:07 - Nov 7
Great victory but I could k*ll the referee.
Couldn't believe that - for the second season in a row - Villa got away from playing a man down. Had El Ghazi been sent off in the first half as he very, very, very obviously should have been, Villa might well have collapsed, and we could have won much more comfortably, - and wouldn't that have been nice...? - But no, no sending off, and no comfortable second half.
The surprisingly poor referee level in the PL has long been killing me. Never have I been more nervous about who is refereeing our matches than these days, and I've been a Saints supporter for nearly 42 years. In all honesty I cannot say I feel ok with ANY PL referee :( , and people like Mike Dean (total joke), Jon Moss (ditto) and Martin Atkinson give me heart attacks.

Whatsforpud added 19:39 - Nov 7
Am I the only one who is irritated by our insistence in taking these short goal kicks between keeper and centre backs within the penalty area. We don't seem to get anywhere with them, and it slows the game down too much. We are getting nearer and nearer to getting unstuck with them. I regret the rule change to enable this. Just because we can, it doesn't mean we should.

Peterx added 05:33 - Nov 8
Strong first half followed by a weaker second half with a Plan B. Last season we would probably have shipped two goals in the second half.

Grateful that Luiz and Ings were not on the pitch.

On the Norwich game lets not get ahead of ourselves, they did well on the weekend and will also have new manager bounce. I would be happy with a point.

saint901 added 09:41 - Nov 8
Good first half, very resistant second half.

It's taken me a while to work out why the 2nd half went as it did. I think that Villa came out with every player about 5 yards further forward and pushed on their full backs, keeping out attacking threats passive. That closed down the space that JWP and Armstrong S had in the 1st half and in turn stopped the ball being played forward on the ground.

To be fair to RH he made his subs earlier than he usually does and I liked what I saw of Lyanco. He looks to be very mobile and strong. I would have perhaps liked to have seen him as a deep laying midfield rather than being behind Salisu and Bednarak, but obviously RH knows him better than most of us.

The ball was not running for Livramento but to be fair he's very young and consistency cannot be expected. He has a while to collect his thoughts and realise that he can't be a superstar in every match.

KWP has decent and is growing into that left back role. He does have a tendency when defending to go toward the centre, leaving a wide player out and in the absence of a midfield player filling in, that perhaps needs to be addressed.

The ref balanced things up by denying a clear penalty against us after failing to send off El Ghazi. He also allowed us to get away with some blatant time wasting.

Overall we showed some character and confidence in defending a one goal lead and I don't recall Villa having more than a couple of serious efforts in the second half.

I'm expecting Norwich to be more points for us but a new manager and perhaps a different mentality about not conceding a goal will make it tougher than it could be. Their win at the weekend was a piece of individual skill and then a break. We need to guard against that.

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