Saints fans will readily remember the frustrations of the tail end of last season, as the team hung onto valuable points whilst not scoring a goal since the Chelsea fixture when they bagged two in a 4-2 defeat. Then it was a different strategy that led to the departing of support for the then manager Claude Puel who favoured the “lets pass left, lets pass right”, philosophy.
Today was a different story in tactics, same story at the end but a more encouraging performance and a 12th man that actually liked what they saw, an attacking mentality!
The Swans were on their back foot the majority of the game apart from an Abrahams header that had he put away could have changed the whole structure of the game. Instead like 29 of the Saints chances it didn’t go in.
Gylfi Sigurdsson and Fernando Llorente were sorely missed as the balls were aimlessly punted upfield to an Abrahams who was often muscled out by the Saints defence. Virgil Van Dijk was also out of the squad but not missed as he was there supporting his teammates today. Technically not missed on the pitch as both Yoshida and Stephens coped quite adequately with the sublime threat.
In contrast Saints built well from the back with probing runs and forward movement (unlike last season). There was plenty of entertainment for the crowd and albeit the unnecessary frustration with aimless shots not finding their appropriate target and drifting wide and over on many occasions. Indeed Saints have not won the first game of the season since 1988 and so it wasn’t unexpected to many stat pundits.
It looked promising from the start as Gabbiadini flicked a header off the top of the crossbar, Yoshida acrobatic volley just wide and just missed a close range header close to full time. Tadic fired wide from 4 yards, and it goes on as the Saints just spurned there gifted chances. Sat on the sidelines I counted 17 that i thought should have gone in to find that they had 29 chances of which 2 were on target.
Pellegrino has his work cut out in stopping this goalless run, and I understand they have had adequate shooting practise and certainly they did some practise today.
We have quality and spirit in the team
West Ham are up next who have made some good signings and they will have an attacking threat. i wonder if our strategy will be more focussed on defence and containment with a counter attack, and if so a few of these quality players we have will need there shooting boots on.
there is still a few days left in this transfer window and with the quality signing in Lemina i hope a Central Attacking Midfielder is bought to support Gabbiadini as I thought today he got into some fantastic positions but was often without support or anyone to supply him.
Pellegrini said after the match:
“We did everything to win the game but we couldn’t, sometimes it is really difficult to score – we had 29 shots. We have quality and spirit in the team and it is best to keep going, keep training.” and I cant say any more than that. Certainly the Swans will go back with the feeling of having gained a valuable point with the absence of two key players. Saints on the other hand i cant help feel was two points dropped in a one-sided game that Saints should have one over and over and how often have I said that?
Referee: Michael Jones (Chester)
SOUTHAMPTON (4-2-3-1): Forster; Cedric, Yoshida, Stephens, Bertrand; Davis (c), Romeu; Ward-Prowse, Tadic, Redmond; Gabbiadini.
SUBS: Taylor, Long, Austin, Lemina, Boufal, Bednarek, McQueen.
SWANSEA (4-3-3): Fabianski; Naughton, Fernandez, Mawson, Olsson; Britton (c), Fer, Carroll; Routledge, Abraham, Ayew.
SUBS: Nordfeldt, Narsingh, Rangel, Bartley, Mesa, Fulton, McBurnie.