Please log in or register. Registered visitors get fewer ads.
Southampton V Sheffield Wednesday The Verdict
Sunday, 14th Jan 2024 10:40

Saints fans were nervous before this game, the opportunity of equalling the club record of 19 games unbeaten in the League was almost a burden on the shoulders of the team whose job first and foremost to win the game and get three points.

This was a big day at St Mary's, there were two tasks in hand and if completed they would perhaps achieve a third, that of getting into the automatic promotion places.

Russell Martin was certainly taking no chances when he made his team selection, arguably this was our best starting line up and it had been the formation that had predominantly seen us through the last 18 games.

But it started shakily, we almost conceded in the first few minutes when we overplayed the possession football at the back and put Gavin Bazunu under pressure and were lucky not to concede.

But this would be the last mistake we would make and the game soon settled into a pattern, we had the ball and they got everyone behind it, Wednesday's tactics were simple, sit back, waste time and hopefully still be in the game in the final stages to have a crack.

This is a testament to how Southampton are seen by other sides, they are running scared.

The games first goal almost came when Ryan Fraser hit a shot into the ground which had to be headed off the line and the visitors were standing firm.

That all changed in the 35th minute when Adam Armstrong pulled the ball back from the byeline, really the defender should have dealt with it, but didn't and Che Adams took a touch past his man and fired home.

So Saints now had the lead, how would Wednesday respond, the answer was to timewaste and the keeper was the biggest culprit, they were worried about conceding a second before the break and every goalkick saw him try to waste more time.

The second half saw Saints in control, but before they could close out the game it needed Gavin Bazunu to make a smart save, this was perhaps our best performance of the season in terms of how we got the ball, passed it around and dominated, it was a true team performance, we played to the system and played it well, last season we were a shambles you didn't know what the team would be or what system we were playing, now we have identity.

Just after the hour came the second goal and this time it was Adam Armstrong who was the scorer, firing home as a defender made a desperate challenge on the line.

Now Saints were in control and Wednesday had to come out and try to rescue something and when they won a free kick in a dangerous position Gavin Bazunu had to be at his best to keep it out.

But in the final 20 minutes it was all Saints, Ryan Fraser ended the game as a contest on 75 minutes with a smart finish after an Adam Armstrong pass.

Now Russell Martin felt he would make changes, on came Alacaraz and Mara a minute after the goal and we now had fresh legs to make it a tough final 10 minutes or so for the Owls.

A strange change on 83 minutes when off went Jan Bednarek and on came Jack Stephens, the 4th change should really have been Tyler Dibling, the game was won and he should have got a little more game time than the 2 minutes of normal time plus injury time that he was given.

The 4th goal saw Sekou Mara slot home an inch perfect cross, it was a well worked goal, Fraser found Adam Armstrong who took the ball wide and then put in perhaps the perfect cross for Mara to score.

As mentioned on came Tyler Dibling who had a couple of decent runs, last year I saw him play for the U21 side and he looked a little weak physically, this season he has beefed up and he could well be a great asset this season, he looks like a cross between Matt Le Tissier, Jack Grealish, but with strength.

So at the final whistle Saints had achieved all three aims for the day, they had won the game, they had equalled the unbeaten run of 19 games in the League unbeaten and they had moved into the top two, sadly this would be only temporary as Ipswich would scrape past Sunderland in the 5.30pm game, but we had made a big point to the Tractor Boys, we are not only right up behind them, but we are the form team.

We can take several things from this game.

Firstly Russell Martin has put together a very good team and more than that a very good squad, Leicester perhaps not so much, but Ipswich are now looking over their shoulders and now we are not looking back over our shoulders and worrying about getting into the play offs, we are firmly in contention for an automatic spot.

With Leicester losing we have actually gained more points than them in the last 19 games, we might not be the team leading the division now, we might well not be by the final table, but since our four game debacle just after the start of the season we have slowly but surely honed our game and at this moment in time we are the best side in the Championship bar none.

Secondly we have shown it is a squad game, the reason we are so strong is that when we make changes it doesn't weaken the side, in cricket you have death bowlers, players who might not take wickets, but can make sure that the run rate stays down, Saints have their own football version of death bowlers, we have players who can come on and help close out games, be that as this one or for that matter help turn draws into wins as we did at Millwall & Hull or at Preston with a late equaliser.

The talk on social media might have been about worrying that we would blow up against Wednesday due to the pressure of that unbeaten run record being equalled, were far off the mark, our players now have a confidence that comes from knowing that they are the best squad in the division, that they play the possession football game better than the rest.

I would not say we will stay unbeaten for the rest of the season, but if we have a setback we will deal with it and move forward as we did after that 4 match run of defeats.

There is the outcry for a forward in the transfer window, obviously if Che Adams leaves then we will need one, but otherwise there are goals from every part of this team.

It was hard to pick a man of the match, the officially announced one of Ryan Fraser had it's merits, he undoubtably had a 9/10 performance, as did Kyle Walker Peters, in a starting line up that didn't have a man who should have got less than 8/10 for a good all round performance that saw them dominate, but deal with it when stretched.

But one man stood out and had perhaps one of the most complete performances that I have seen in a Southampton shirt in a long while.

Adam Armstrong was everywhere, he had 3 assists and scored one himself, he was at the heart of everything, at one point in the second half chasing back and making a tackle when we could have found ourselves outnumbered at the back.

Man of the match is often a difficult decision, more often than not it is the flair players who win it, those that take on players and fly down wings or score goals, but Adam Armstrong isn't quite like that, yes he has pace and takes people on, but he is different, he is clinical, he is the player with the most goals and the most assists this season, he is the man who truly make the difference.

On Saturday this was a man of the match performance from him, but not just that it was a 10/10 rating, that is because he was the one player who truly influenced the game.

It has taken a couple of years for Adam Armstrong to get the credit he deserves, his game is about more than goals, it is about work rate and it is about creating, there are players with more flair than AA, but none who truly influence games as much.

Photo: Action Images

Please report offensive, libellous or inappropriate posts by using the links provided.

Bowlercow added 11:06 - Jan 14
Dead right Nick a ten out of ten team performance When you look back at this run it is hard to remember the doubts that many had about the change of style. Rustyball has however produced a team that look like they are enjoying themselves Time enough to worry about how we would cope in the PL when we get there Just relax enjoy the moment and support the Saints

Now my little moan . Why is there little or no variation in our corners regardless of who takes them I know our set piece coach departed but surely the players themselves must have some ideas

JoeEgg added 11:16 - Jan 14
"The talk on social media might have been about worrying that we would blow up against Wednesday due to the pressure of that unbeaten run record being equalled"

Just about the only thing in the report above that I dont agree with! The only thing that matters is that we have one of the automatic promotion places at the end of the season.

In a remarkably short time the team have turned a very poor goal difference into a very impressive one. We suffered some embarrassing defeats early in the season and the 'real' progress made by Russell Martin's men will only be finally realised when we take on the likes of Leicester and Ipswich for a second time. Our away form will also provide a major test over the next few weeks.

But as Nick writes, Championship teams are now beginning to fear Saints, often making the first half uncomfortable and frustrating viewing. But the fear tactics confirm that Martin has already made his mark and we are certainly moving in the right direction;

Just to rubber stamp Nick's comments about individual players. Adam Armstrong fully deserves to be singled out for the 'influence' he can have on the game. While for me KWP will always be my favourite!

felly1 added 11:35 - Jan 14
I Understand why you picked A. Armstrong as the MOTM, and there were plenty of other worthy contenders.
I though Smallbone was excellent and it was nice to hear Martin single him out in the post match interview.

landsdownsaint added 11:59 - Jan 14
I think it’s impossible to pick a mom yesterday , for me they were all 10 . A shoutout to Bednarek who I thought his time at saints was over for the interests of the club & his own career , what RM has done with him is staggering

SanMarco added 12:07 - Jan 14
It is all coming together rather well! We will have a downturn at some stage - away from home especially we work on quite small margins, and sooner or later will lose by a goal somewhere, so I think catching Leicester is a very tough task but we are in a three-way fight for the second place. If I were a betting man I wouldn't bet against that match at Leeds being a rather important one!!

As for players- firstly, if no one leaves I don't really see the need to bring anyone in. Obviously like-for-like if any key player does go. For me KWP is the player of the season with Adam Armstrong running him close (that pass for the third goal looked simple but it was real class) and several others not that far behind. Nick is spot-on about the home form - one of the keys to getting an excellent home record is that the visitors are scared of you - helps you win even on off days, not that yesterday was an off day - but like everyone we will have them.

The tippy-tappy stuff right near our goal still often feels unnecessary to me but then I'm old and grey (and occasionally getting greyer due to said tippy-tappy!!!) So RM's trip to Swansea will either break the record or end it...couldn't be better!!

WestSussexSaint added 12:07 - Jan 14
A good write up of the match and performances.

Overall it was truly a complete team performance but I agree with Nicks view on MOTM being Adam Armstrong. A Captains performance by demonstrating how to attack and cover in defence.

That said a quick couple of call outs for players who have been maligned at times. Smallbone was largely unnoticed in midfield but he has worked hard on attacking part of his game so there is less sideways and backwards passing now. Consequentially Saints are now dominating teams, keeping them on the back foot, and not just keeping possession for the sake of it. Also Ryan Manning had a really good game. He might have benefited from Wee man being ahead of him who is better with defensive cover than Sulimana or Edozie. That said he did the simple things well, allowing Wee man to terrorise the Wednesday right back.

Finally, a call out to Flynn Downes. That tackles in the first few minutes was as joyful to watch as any of the four goals scored and set the tone for the game. He is the player we have been missing in that role since Romeu left for Spain.

halftimeorange added 12:16 - Jan 14
I wholeheartedly agree with Bowlercow's sentiments in respect of our lack of variation of corners. I don't think any of yesterday's crosses resulted in a direct shot on goal. My take on Saints is that Russell Martin's tactics are having a wearing effect on the opposition as for long periods they are chasing the ball without success and the more we keep it the more their fatigue sets in. Yesterday was a prime example - the Wednesday centre backs were out on their feet at the end and that's partly why we scored two quick goals late on. That is not to say that we didn't play some attractive flowing football. The only observation I would make is that Ipswich did not look like a team which will roll over for our benefit. I don't think we dare let up in this division if we want to go up. Man of the match - well, I wonder who chooses the "official" man of the match? For me TH-B is consistently one of our best players, so self-assured and rarely hurried but, defenders rarely get selected in a winning team.

Hamnottingham added 12:18 - Jan 14
Absolutely, anyone in the midfield/attack could have got MotM and of course that is very often the case. However, over the course of the unbeaten run (and absolutely must be considered for Player of the Season come May) either Bedbarek or Harwood-Bellis should be a shoe-in. Week after week they look imperious, dont get MotM but blooming 'eck they provide the basis for everyone else to shine.

highfield49 added 12:47 - Jan 14
Without doubt some of the best football that I've watched in my sixty five years following the team. Come what may RM has transformed the squad into a classy, competitive unit exuding a level of confidence unseen for many, many years.
I get the impression that none of the players wants to leave the club during this window. The grin on Che Adams face at the end of the match seemed to reflect more on the team performance than an imminent move to another club.
Whilst not many of us who post on TUI are Jack Stephens fans let's be fair to him as well. He dropped to the bench and lost the captain's role to Adam A but nonetheless replaced Bednarek who had been booked and was under pressure not to pick up a second yellow card. In my view just another example of every squad member putting the team before ego.
And if Dibling turns out to have a mix of the qualities of Le Tiss and Grealish, plus added physical strength, then we're all in for an absolute treat in the months ahead.

Staycalm added 13:37 - Jan 14
So many good comments above. I for one must eat 'humble pie' as I thought early season, that RM was leading us to disaster but 'hey ho' what do I know!!

Excellent point by WestSussexSaint. We really did seem like we had lost that control of midfield without Romeu but Downes has now taken on that mantle admirably. Good to see Smallbone being so positive and as many will know, Jo Tessem had him down as MOTM, probably as he had maligned him (deservedly at times) in so many previous moments in games.

Simple truth is that from Front to Back, we look good. Bazuna looks so much better than earlier in the season, no doubt drawing confidence from have Bednarek and Harwood-Bellis in front of him, doing a good impersonation of 'Lundekvam and Svensen', from some good old days.

The team spirit is great to see. One player scores and the whole team is happy for him. Not the often seem Prem League attitude of 'me, me, me'.

I really can't see why Adams would want to leave for a bit-part in some other camp, that he might well hate, apart from a few more pounds in the bank!!

ItchenNorth added 14:01 - Jan 14
Great performance by the team again. This run is something special.

I have to rant though about some of our fans.

My only annoyance is yet again fans at St Marys. What we are seeing now/yesterday will likely never be beaten by another Saints team and almost certainly when this unbeaten run is over, never in our lifetime. So why were there 10-15000 empty seats at the final whistle ! Russell Martin and this team are making history, they deserved our full appreciation and support at the final whistle yesterday. Yet what they got was a whimper. The stadium should have been as near dam it full at the end.

Some will say we've achieved nothing yet or records mean nothing if we don't get promoted, but that must run pretty thin if you are Martin or the team right now, given what they are doing and equalling the clubs record run !

Yes of course promotion is the single most important stat this season but seriously, some of our fans need to give their heads a wobble. It appears entitled that 'we wont lose now, we've scored 4, im out of here'!

I full expect that these so called fans will be there to lap up the glorous moment if we win promotion, invade the pitch, and forever proclaim 'I was there'.

Where were you yesterday !


SaintEPW added 15:37 - Jan 14
Dibling looks very special - No need to buy anyone - even if Che leaves

underweststand added 16:58 - Jan 14
We're running out of superlatives every week .. the experienced heads like KWP, Stuart A. and Bednarek are steadying the ship, but Adam Armstrong and Ryan Fraser really stand out in every game ... as well as adding goals and assists to their names.
Many of the younger lads are still finding their way in the senior game, and both Alcarez and Mara are beginning to show up when they come off the bench, and Tyler Dibling looks to be a handful for defenders when he comes on late in the game, surely due a goal soon.

Monksway added 17:16 - Jan 14
Unlike last year this was a very experienced team with the youngsters coming on off the bench. Bazunu and Harwood-Bellis were the least experienced and both were regular starters for Burnley and Saints respectively last year.

lemmsy added 18:30 - Jan 14
A few points
Comments on social media that sports republic weren’t interested in us getting promoted & were about draining money from the club have been put to bed.
The boring analogy comparing Russel Martin with Nathan jones & a🤡 have also gone quiet.
Saints brand of football being tippy happy & negative, we may have started off slowly but it can’t be used to describe us now..
Are we good enough if we get promoted? Probably not, the difference between the two leagues is getting bigger ( look at Burnley) but we can only deal with that a progress if we get there

NewburySaint added 19:18 - Jan 14
That for me is our best win so far this season because in spite of playing against a team intent on spoiling the game in any way they could, and with a referee who, if he has refereed at this level before it didn’t show because he appeared to very “green” and wasn’t even applying some of the simplest of laws, we still found a way to win handsomely!

NewburySaint added 20:57 - Jan 14
Now to replicate these results away from home. Oh, and what a save from Bazunu!

FrankSaint added 12:13 - Jan 15
Am I wrong, or has Che Adams suddenly turned into a two footed striker? I can't remember him shooting with his left foot before this current run let alone scoring. Now he's scored three in a row with his left foot. I guess he may have had some very focused coaching on that standing leg. Well done to the coaches for making him and enabling him to change his ways. Put me right if I am wrong. COYS.

Whatsforpud added 14:25 - Jan 15
Re the comments about the corners, they were mostly decent corners, inswingers from Manning on the right and S. Armstrong on the left. Some were wasted as we had no one beyond the back post. Having said that, we haven't got a tall attacking player, like Lambert perhaps.
I agree with Westsussexsaint about Manning. After a shaky start of the season, he has improved enormously, and he and Fraser are linking well.

You need to login in order to post your comments

Blogs 31 bloggers

Knees-up Mother Brown #22 by wessex_exile

Southampton Polls

Logo for 'BeGambleAware' Logo for 'BeGambleAware' Logo for 'GamStop' Gambling 18+
About Us Contact Us Terms & Conditions Privacy Cookies Advertising
© FansNetwork 2024