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Saints V Hull City The Preview
Friday, 8th Nov 2013 08:26
Saints host Hull City at St Mary's in the last fixture before half a dozen games with the potential to be dubbed the spell from hell by the end of them, therefore a win is essential.
Its popular in the press at the moment in the press to acclaim Saints as the surprise package of the season at the moment, but supporters of Hull City will perhaps dispute that, the Tigers arrive at St Mary's sat in 10th place and knowing that a win will not only propel them up the table a place or two, but would see them only two points behind Saints, the fact that Saints themselves could actually sit 2nd if they win perhaps emphasises how tightly packed the Premier league is at present and just what a fine line we are treading between keeping up with the leading pack or being dragged back down into mid table.
It cannot be denied what a fine start to the season we have had, indeed our last six games have seen us not only unbeaten but gaining 14 points, yet we are still only sixth and defeat to Hull would very likely see us drop to 8th with the chasing mid table pack right up behind us.
So getting all three points in this game before we enter that tough six game run is essential if we are to keep up with the top six, as mentioned 14 points from those 6 games is outstanding, however half that total from the following six would be good going.
Team wise for Saturday, barring injuries it looks likely to be unchanged again, on one hand this is good as it gives us continuity, but on the other a little worrying as it perhaps highlights that we haven't the strength in depth we really need, apart from in perhaps one or two positions there is absolutely no competition for places.
On the plus side though hopefully what will carry us through will be the three members of Roy Hodgson's latest England squad, they will be buzzing and wanting to show the Three Lions boss that they are worthy of some game time in the up coming friendlies, its true to say that in the last home game against Fulham that this trio played the starring roles and we need more of the same again to destroy Hull.
But Hull are no pushovers as their league position shows and they have every right to be a little peeved that its perhaps Saints who are the team of the moment and not themselves.
A look at the league table though shows that their season has been based on home form where they have won 3 and drawn 2 of their opening five games, an initial look at their away record seems to imply that on the road they are not very good, 1 win and four defeats suggesting that they are poor, but when you look at their 5 games it tells a different story, they opened their away campaign with trips to Chelsea and Manchester City and came away with only 2-0 defeats in both, given that both sides have won all 5 home games so far that is a respectable showing, in their third road trip they beat Newcastle 3-2 for their solitary win and in their last two away games they were firstly beaten 2-1 at Everton another side unbeaten at home and then 1-0 to Spurs, that being a last minute hotly disputed penalty that having seen the replay on TV was a travesty of justice.
So in their first five away games, not only have Hull travelled to four of the top seven teams in the Premier League, but add Newcastle and its five of the top eight, now they visit us to make it six out of ten, like us last season they have not been blessed with the greatest start on the road and although it hasn't produced as many points as they perhaps would have liked to have seen, it has seen a run of solid performances that mark them out as hard to beat with only 9 goals conceded, although the goals for total of only 4 and 3 of them in that win at Newcastle is perhaps a worrying stat for us.
In essence Hull look like just the sort of side we struggle against at home, one that defends in depth and then catches sides on the break and as the likes of Sunderland and West Ham showed, we can get found out as being a bit one dimensional in those situations, perhaps Im being a bit harsh on Hull here, after all those four defeats couldn't have come at much harder places to visit and the Newcastle game perhaps shows they are very capable of attacking on the road, but it does suggest that they know how to adapt to differing challenges when they travel.
Therefore Saints should have options on the bench to try and change the game, Ramirez has done little this season to justify his inclusion as even a substitute, but when we look at our other options he still remains the only one that could perhaps offer something different if we are struggling to score, but the key will be what we put in front of him, Ramirez problem at Saints is he is a square peg in a round hole, he is a man who can hit a quality pass to unlock a defence, but we have had no one played up front who can seemingly make the runs needed, if he was at Liverpool and passing to Suarez and Sturridge he would probably be making hay and acclaimed in the media, instead here he is expected to come on and change the game, when in reality all he can do is pass sideways, obviously he will get the odd opportunity to either score or make a pass, but in the main he has no outlet for his talents.
The only real question about the team to face Hull is probably whether Osvaldo is fit again and able to take his place on the bench, it would be handy if he is, Im not one of those who has written him off in what has been a poor start to his career at the club, but again like Ramirez I think he has suffered from playing out of position, if he knuckles down and fights for his place it could be an interesting battle between him and Lambert for that central strikers role and that is what it should be, a straight choice between them for that position, certainly the form of Rodriguez and Lallana shows that the balance of the team is best with those two out wide and one central striker.
The inclusion of Rodriguez in the England squad will perhaps make some look at him in a different light, up until the last few weeks many were proclaiming that Osvaldo & Lambert could play together in the same side and it was often Rodriguez who made way, however since coming on against Swansea he hasn't looked back and there are perhaps a few people who are now backtracking on their views about playing Lambert & Osvaldo together.
What we now need is more of the same as when we beat Fulham, the England trio are the key to unlocking what will be a tight Hull defence, but what could be the key to unlocking the three points could be Mauricio Pochettino doing something different is we are struggling to score by bringing on Ramirez but pairing him with someone up front who has the pace and guile to peel off his man and get on the end of a defence splitting pass.
Saints should have enough to beat Hull and make no bones about it we need to with the run of games we have coming up, if Hull win a look a the fixtures is not good reading, whilst we go to Arsenal they face Crystal Palace at home, would you bet on us still being above them in a fortnight in that scenario ?
Photo: Action Images
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