Saints V Swansea City The Verdict
Sunday, 14th Feb 2016 10:09
Saints marched on with yet another clean sheet, yet another three points and leap frogged West Ham into the top six.
Saints have put in a lot of hard work over the past few weekss, but a lot of tht work would have been wasted had they not taken all three points at Swansea City, with all due respects to the Swans although this would not be an easy game with Swansea fighting for their lives, it is the type of match you have to win if you harbour hopes of a top six finish.
Ronald Koeman made four changes from last week's win against West Ham, only one of them enforced and three tactical, the Dutch manager knows the value of keeping the squad fresh and everyone involved and this will bode well for the rest of the season as we will not have either a team jaded through everyone playing week in week out, not a squad with half its members with little game time and therefore a little un motivated.
Perhaps the key to this game though was the return of both Matt Targett and James Ward Prowse, both were at the heart of things going forward and put in dangerous crosses, indeed it was Ward Prowse's pin point cross that found Shane Long for the winner, but they both put in an enormous amount of work to make sure Swansea could not get us on the back foot.
Saints controlled the first half and the only real chance fell to Shane Long on the stroke of half time, it was an almost identical move to the one later in the game that would prove to be the winner, Steven Davis crossed right into that area that is hard to defend, but Long couldn't direct his header anywhere but straight at the Swansea keeper.
In the second half it was pretty much the same thing, Swansea did have a lot of the ball although only slightly more than Saints, but a resolute defence did not let them create, in fact it was more than just the defence, it was the midfield that provided the wall that stopped the Swans getting near the goal, the old saying was "Attack is the first form of defence" with Saints it's more a case of "Midfield is the first form of defence"
In the middle of the park Romeu,Clasie & Davis worked tirelessly breaking up Swansea moves and then getting the ball forward quickly and Ward Prowse and Targett were superb out wide not only protecting their flanks, but getting the ball into dangerous areas quickly when they had possession.
Ronald Koeman clearly had a game plan, keep it tight, get a grip of the game and then win it, after the hour had gone he felt it was time to win it and he took off Romeu and brought on Soares for his attacking prowess and it was the Portugese defender who made a great run forward, instead of crossing held the ball up then laid it back for JWP who put in a perfect cross for Shane Long who headed home.
Having got ahead Koeman was not afraid to try and turn the screw further bringing on Charlie Austin for Pelle and Austin himself almost made it two with a shot that Fabianski turned round for a corner.
But Saints did have a late scare, Yoshida for Targett was a little strange although it was only for the final four minutes, however it almost proved costly, what looked like a harmless through ball caught Fonte in two minds for the only time in the game, he should have attacked it but let it bounce and was challenged by a Swansea player who won the header as the ball fell to Paloschi, Yoshida appeared to collide with him, luckily the rf waved play on, but I have seen them given for less.
Other than that Saints were generally water tight, Fraser Forster did not have a difficult save to make but did his job well, in front of him Swansea's threat was mainly about crosses into the box and Van Dijk and Fonte dealt with that very well, always getting a head in to clear.
So another win for Saints, another clean sheet and another performance that was clinical.
Saints have now played themselves into a great position, jumping above West Ham into sixth and only a point behind Manchester United who are in fifth, Saints now have a great chance to chase not only a top six finish, but higher.
Photo: Action Images
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