Southampton V Villarreal The Verdict
Sunday, 31st Jul 2022 09:15
Saints ended their season with a loss to the Spanish side at St Mary's, but there were some positive points not least Joe Aribo's wonder goal in the second half.
Ralph Hasenhuttl changed his line up from the side that started against Monaco in midweek and it gave an insight of his thinking for the start of the Premier League season next weekend.
Although I do think there may be some changes for the trip to Tottenham Hotspur I suspect they will be minimal and just tweaks.
The first 15 minutes were fairly even and then Viallarreal took the lead from nowhere and highlighted the need for Saints not to switch off, a Saints cross was cleared and it looked like the ball was heading for a throw in, but when it bounced on the touchline it bizarrely stayed in play and suddenly we were on the back foot, the player crossed and it took a deflection and Pino's diving header gave Gavin Bazunu no chance.
Saints came back and two similar chances, one on each side of the goal were fired into the side netting, the first by Stuart Armstrong and the second by Moussa Djenepo.
New signing Sekou Mara showed glimpses of his ability, but it was not to be a memorable debut for him and he was replaced at half time by Adam Armstrong.
The second half saw Saints looking the better side, Bella-Kotchap put in a great cross from deep on the right and it found Djeneppo, he took a touch but it was too heavy, he got a shot away which was well saved by ex Liverpool keeper Reiner in the visitors goal.
On 64 minutes came the goal of the match, Joe Aribo got the ball in his own half around 20 yards from the half way line, his run started with power and ended with a dribble and a finish that Mathew Le Tissier would have been proud of.
A few minutes later and it looked like Aribo had scored a second, but his header was ruled out for offside.
This cross came from Mohammed Salisu and showed that both he and Bella-Kotchap can get forward into the space created in front of them and deliver a decent ball.
But although Villarreal had offered little going forward and Gavin Bazunu had not had a save of note to make throughout the game, it was the visitors who scored what would be the winning goal, there was a suspicion of offside from where i was sat when a smart move played Moreno through and he gave Bazunu no chance with a smart finish.
Saints kept mainly the same of the original starting 11 until the 83rd minute when they made a raft of changes, they had a few flourishes in the final minutes, but the equaliser didn't come.
So what did we learn from this, firstly we confirmed that it looks likely our starting formation will be 3 central defenders and two wing backs, two holding midfielders with a 3rd playing just behind the strikers.
Secondly we learned that we need to keep our concentration, for large parts of the game we battled hard and looked comfortable, but we got caught out by two sucker punches, both different in their build up, but similar in that we lost concentration.
I think that Ralph knows about 75% of his starting line up for the trip to Spurs, but there are still 2/3 positions up for grabs.
The main issue is the left wing back position, Moussa Djenepo is not convincing when defending and Romain Perraud is not a wing back, the Frenchman is more of a traditional full back in a back four, he doesn't have the engine for the up and down work of a wing back, it will be a tricky choice for Ralph on the left.
The forward positions are all up for grabs, Adam Armstrong has done his chances no harm with two goals in pre season and looked busy again in his run out on Saturday, Sekou Mara looks like he needs to find his feet and Che Adams didn't get a run out, it will be interesting to see what Ralph does at Spurs, does he play two strikers and if so does he use a midfielder alongside a specialised striker as he did in this game or does he play two true strikers, or for that matter does he use just one.
In goal this game would have not helped Ralph decide, Gavin Bazunu did what he had to do well, which in the second half wasn't much, he had few shots to stop and stood no chance with either goal.
Overall Ralph will be pleased with the run out if not the result, he has a difficult decision or two to make and truthfully we still need that leader at the back who talks and organises and keeps those around him focused.
I am positive about this season, from what I see in pre season we are in a better position that we were at this point last year, we have lost three players in Long, Forster & Broja, but replaced them with 5 new signings (6 if you include Lis) so we not only have a stronger squad in terms of quality but quantity as well.
So for me there is cause for optimism, let's be blunt here the sate of football these days means that the top six now is cast iron and will be more difficult with the addition of Newcastle as a monied club, but I am optimistic that we can have a reasonable season, 15th for the past two years has been treading water, we now need to look to push nearer a top 10 place,.
In terms of resources there are 12 clubs who are ahead of us, then there are ourselves, Palace, Brighton & Wolves, behind us are Brentford and the three promoted clubs, the Premier League is getting tougher and more reliant on financial status than ever before, we do what we do because we haven't got the money to match those big 7 clubs and indeed even the likes of Aston Villa & West Ham pound for pound in the transfer market.
Things are not going to change as it stands, we have to do what we do, it is what it is.
Photo: Action Images
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