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Saints At Norwich City The Verdict
Saturday, 20th Jun 2020 09:32

Saints got back to winning ways at Carrow Road, but the performance highlighted both the strength's and weakness's of the team this season.

Ralph Hasenhuttl read my preview judging by the starting line up he put out at Norwich City for the resumption of the Premier League season proper for Saints, that meant a place for Pierre Emile Hojbjerg and a start for Michael Obafemi up front.

Norwich came out of the traps with plenty of fight as we expected and in the first 10 minutes we were all at sea, too many times the Canaries found their men unmarked and we failed to clear the ball far too often and gave it away when we did get it, in truth we should have been at least a goal down in this period and perhaps more, indeed our best defender was Danny Ings who made a timely tackle to slide the ball out for a corner just as it looked like the trigger would be pulled and the ball in the net.

But after this dodgy period Saints started to impose themselves on the game, James Ward Prowse showed his leadership talents and we started to have some shape.

Michael Obafemi was struggling to get in the game and make the runs that gave an outlet, but luckily Danny Ings was not suffering those problems, he was full of running and had several good chances to score including a shot that hit the bar.

The game went in at the break goalless, but Ralph Hasenhuttl would have been the happier manager, he had seen the bad in his side, a lack of marking and organisation and he had seen the good, but it was still a note of caution, we had taken control of the game but had wasted several good chances, would we pay for it in the second.

We got the answer after just four minutes of the second half resuming, Saints started the second as Norwich had started the first and ran at the home side, the ball fell to Danny Ings who finished with a perfectly placed curling shot.

Five minutes later and it was two, this time Stuart Armstong scoring with a shot that was well placed into the bottom corner, Ings was again involved as he seemed to be with everything.

Now Saints were well in control of the game, but there was still the worry that they might let Norwich back into it and as the game entered the final 15 minutes you could see the Canaries winding up for a desperate finish and again we looked like we had a few lapses in concentration.

As the game entered it's final stages Norwich had the ball in the net, but it was well offside but it was a wake up call, minutes later Nathan Redmond made the game completely safe and again it was a clinical finish, not rushed, not smashed with force, just well placed.

The home side were now completely crushed, they knew the game was up, although to be brutally honest they seemed to know that the moment the first goal went in.

With a raft of late substitutions there was not final flourish that would turn it into a rout, but the job had been done.

The good points were the performances of James Ward Prowse, Nathan Redmond and Danny Ings, JWP looked like the Captaincy spurred him on, it gave him confidence it didn't drain on it, Nathan Redmond looked back to his best in the second half, taking the ball and running at players and deserved his goal.

Danny Ings was superb, he is a clever player, pre game it was said he was involved in 46% of Saints goals and when we attacked he was usually at the centre of it.

The bad points though were still at the back, in the first 10 minutes we looked like a pub side, the two central defenders appeared to be unable to organise and communicate and too often unaware of where they should be and we kept failing to clear the ball properly giving away a succession of corners where the ball should really have been controlled and cleared.

But we played through them and won and that is true, but being blunt this was Norwich City the worst side in the division this season with the worst home record apart from us, a better side would have punished us early on and not been so charitable when we attacked.

But we did the job and that is what counted, it gave us a 10 point gap between us and the bottom three and some vital leeway, as we moved up a place in the League it highlighted just how far we have come since October and also how our poor defending has been the difference between being in the bottom half and the top 10.

I keep harping on about this but the reality is we throw so many games away, 3 out of the last 4 games all saw defensive lapses and individual error cost us points, every team concedes goals, but in those 3 defeats literally all the goals conceded should have been defended,, but were not done so to the standards you would expect from a Premier League player.

If we had just drawn those games then the table would look far different today, we would be 10th and only 4 points behind Sheffield United in 6th, if we had Virgil Van Dijk we would be top six, of course we haven't but that shows you the potential of this squad and what it could achieve with a couple of good signings.

Photo: Action Images

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davidargyll added 09:44 - Jun 20
What is is about Yan Valery?
He looks confident but invariably cocks it up and gives the ball away far too easily. It seems to me that RH can only have played him because he had no other option,but surely his days are numbered. Given the horlicks he made in the Newcastle game, and last night giving the ball away very early on, which needlessly put us under the cosh which better teams would have taken advantage of, I cannot see he is part of the Saints’ future.
And I don’t quite follow this huge downer on social media on PEH.
He was OK, no more no less, and I guess when you’ve been demoted in whatever job you’re in you’re never going to 100% on your game. But a lousy performance? Compared with Valery he was brilliant!
Otherwise, yes at times we played indifferently but then we put together some great movements which led to each goal. We can count ourselves really lucky that we had an easy game for a comeback, in which we could afford to make a number of errors and not have to pay for them, and at the same time being given so much space to play to our best.
Well done the lads.
Phew. Only three points to go!!

halftimeorange added 09:47 - Jun 20
All the old faults were there to see - Valery almost giving Norwich a chance from the off, Bednarek and Armstrong guilty of passing to the opposition. Redmond dithering when he could have moved the ball on. Wild shooting from Bertrand. Obafemi not looking to pass when Ings was through on goal. Having said all that, Norwich were awful and, as a consequence, Saints are nigh on safe but, wallpapering over the cracks won't change anything in the long term. Nice to see a couple of youngsters given an airing. There won't be many other games when Ralph will have the luxury of doing that. And, thank goodness that we've got Ings. Useful games from both JWP and Stephens, too.

felly1 added 09:54 - Jun 20
Firstly I have to say i enjoy reading your post match verdicts and the contributions of the regular posters on here.
But considering we have just won 3 nil away from home against an admittedly a weak Norwich side you would have thought you could summon up a little praise for a clean sheet and an impressive attacking performance.
Admittedly Valery look shaky and gave the ball away and yes we had a slow start but b'jeezus you spent a massive chunk of your piece picking holes in the defence that has not conceded??
I know we could with a couple more defenders to strengthen the squad but please try and be a little positive when we have just won 3 nil away from home.

IanRC added 10:04 - Jun 20
First game back give them a break.

LordDZLucan added 10:05 - Jun 20
Your analysis is wide of the mark as usual. Central defenders were fine. The main problem was giving the ball away in bad places. Chief culprits were Yan Valery and Pierre Hojbjerg.

SaintPaulVW added 10:31 - Jun 20
Defending is about organisation. I think a bit of slack is due on the first game back. Given David Luiz's total meltdown the other night this report reads as being far too critical on our players who after all kept a clean sheet. I agree we need new blood but bemoaning the defence in a 3 nil win is a bit rich.

I thought Ings and Armstrong looked in need of a bit of sharpening up myself but got away with it with a couple of smart goals and assists.

Stephens deserved more from his run forward.

It's the case that attacking players can play rubbish for 99% of a game and still have great game....defenders different story.

Agree Ward Prowse and Redmond looked very sharp.

Interesting to see how we go against Arsenal. COYR!


schatfield added 10:35 - Jun 20
Norwich were awful but we still had to take our chances and we did. Played alright I thought.
The rest of the season will be interesting now. We are one of the top away winning sides in the league and now we dont have our awful, moaning home fans to play in front of, I think we will pick up a few more wins there too.

Flamingbankers added 10:51 - Jun 20
Fantastic result.I thought the whole team except Valery and Obefemi played well. Ings, JWP and Redmond were excellent.I thought Hojberg played well but not £35 million well.Harping on about a few mistakes because i'm passionate that we improve all round and become the team that were a few years ago: amazing that Valery made the same mistake as the Newcastle goal with his first touch. Obifemi made a poor judgement in not crossing for Ings with a two-to-one. Both lads have more potential but they have to learn quicker because nobody 's going to give them a break in the Premier League.I think they both need to go on at least a 10 game loan( possibly followed by extensions) and improve their respective skills. Valery needs an injection of controlled urgency in his game. Everything on the field has to be determinedly fought for. I'm proud at the way the team quickly dominated the game and showed what they were capable of - although we were lucky that we weren't a couple of goals down at the start. We've been awful nervy starters this season. For Godsakes smash kick the ball into safety if you're unsure - playing it across or through someone often leads to disaster against quality players. Amazing that this message has not been driven home to some the team - I don't get it when Bednarek shows them how to do it every match.

saintmark1976 added 11:25 - Jun 20
For pity sake Nick change the record. You are now as myopic about the defence as you were about Yoshida. Anybody reading your post without knowledge of the result would surmise that in fact we had lost 3-0.

Norwich were very poor but you can only beat what is in front of you which is exactly what we did, and should you have missed it for some reason,without conceding a goal.

dirk_doone added 11:38 - Jun 20
Why so much negativity about our central defenders? That was an excellent performance from Saints and Bednarek and especially Stephens had good games in defence, which is why Pukki got nothing and ended up being subbed. The only weak link was Valery.

We kept a lot of clean sheets when we had a settled back four of Cedric, Stephens, Bednarek and Bertrand earlier in the season. It was when Vestergaard came into the team and when we lost Cedric that we conceded lots of goals. We lost 0-9 to Leicester with Valery and Vestergaard.

What I especially liked were the surging forward runs, not only from our midfielders but also Stephens.

dirk_doone added 11:58 - Jun 20
Anyway, on a more positive note, Ralph has done a great job of preparing the team for the run-in. That was one of the best performances from Saints this season. It reminded me of when we used to dominate games in the halcyon days of 2014-16.

If we keep playing that well, it will give a real boost to season ticket sales and we could yet get our 5th top 8 finish in 7 years. I'm really looking forward to our next game v Arsenal and now hoping the teams below us in the table beat the teams above us.

Wouldn't it be great if Danny Ings won the Golden Boot? He has been superb for us this season.

kevleykeegle added 12:02 - Jun 20
Has anyone thought of making Valery a winger? He's talented going forward but a liability in defence.

Nomaesaints added 12:11 - Jun 20
Lets face it Valery is not a RB or anything in defence.He ball watches too much.. He would be more suited to play on the right hand side of midfield if at all.
PEH played yesterday as if he was trying not to get injured, thought he was poor overall.
Obafami neesd to go out on loan to get experience thought he was poor too.

aceofthebase added 12:15 - Jun 20
Leave Valery alone, he knows he gave the ball away early on but so did others. He played well for the rest of the match and was always a threat going forward and if we expect our backs to presss forward then we must expect others to cover his position in defence.

kernow added 12:27 - Jun 20
Obafemi involved in the first and third goals, I don't agree that he was poor and definitely doesn't need to go out on loan. He is strong, quick and real handful up front. He's scored some good goals too.
Valery made a couple of errors but he wasn't alone.
This was a good Saints performance.

Number_58 added 12:42 - Jun 20
How has Nick coped over the past few months without Bednarek and Stephens to take his frustration out on? Looking at the table, if you take away the Leicester fiasco (difficult I know), our GD isn't actually that bad.

derbydog added 15:22 - Jun 20
I’ve always loved your misuse of apostrophes, it’s part of your charm, but “weakness’s” is a new high, or low. Apostrophes don’t belong in plurals. Keep up the good work’s!!

TimSaint added 16:35 - Jun 20
We were all a bit panic stations and hot potato for the first 10 mins and couldn't string any passes together, but once we got through that and began to find our feet, slowly we began to improve and make our mark on the game.
Yes. as others have said, 3 players were frustrating - and not just for that initial 10 mins. Valery makes too many mistakes and doesn't seem to learn from them. PEH gave it away too much, didn't have his usual drive and every time he gets the ball, he looks to go backwards. Obafemi was only starting because of the knock to Long. Oba needs to work on his decision making and crossing. He got into some great positions but took the wrong option or was too slow to react. He could have had a couple of assists if he passed, perhaps a penalty if he had taken his man on in the 2nd half, but slowed down and got tackled. He will come good, and has already shown glimpses of what he can do away to Chelsea, but needs to put in the work.
A deserved win and just a shame we did not score more and work on that negative goal difference we have. I knew we would win, as soon as the first one went in. Would have liked the Subs to have come on earlier and for them to set Adams up with a goal, but perhaps he is saving himself for Arsenal.
Speaking of which, hopefully all the cobwebs have been dusted off now and we can start the Arsenal game in the way that we played the 2nd half. Long will be back, Arsenal picked up a couple of injuries and a suspension away to City, plus despite winning as I type, their keeper has been stretchered off with a knee injury.

Saidou added 16:58 - Jun 20
First game back , we won , a clean sheet..yet you are still moaning.life is not perfect. How do u live your life? It wasn't all good but we won.What would you rather take , a fancy display or a win?

AmericanSaint added 17:06 - Jun 20
Yeah, I am in agreement with everyone here that you are being too harsh on the defense. Have you watched any of the other games. All the teams in the first 10-15 minutes look like they have rust on their shoes. Arsenal couldn't get 2 passes together and MC almost gave a goal away. All we needed was a win and we got it. Nothing pretty but a win and the very space we needed from the relegation zone. I also agree that I think PEH was playing not to get hurt. He was ok, but definitely did not seem to have his heart in it. Anyways on to Arsenal, who just lost to BHA. Can we make it 3 in a row for them?? COYR

highfield49 added 18:01 - Jun 20
The simple truth is Nick that our most error prone players are not going to have improved their game by not playing for three months. The critical factor was not to lose against Norwich and put even more pressure on the weak areas of the team. Whilst there is no room for complacency, and new signings still have to be made, it is a pointless, probably literally, exercise to get on the backs of individuals who we know aren't good enough at this level. I'd expect Adams and KWP to start the next match but otherwise let's not rock the boat too much when we're steering clear of stormy waters.

Peterx added 08:05 - Jun 21
I thought Obafemi had as good a match as he has had in a Saints shirt. Not sure why he was remonstrating with Ings for not giving him the pass when Ings hit the post in the first half. I think he would benefit from taking a look at Shane Long's hard work and attitude and try to match that. The second half was the most clinical finishing I've seen from a Saints side. Can't wait for Arsenal.

lemmsy added 09:43 - Jun 21
Basically Norwich were awful & saints were decent but not fantastic.The rest now is arsenal, watching them against Brighton they were really quick on the break, skilful going forward but fragile confidence and as suspect as we are at the back.If we get the tactics right I think they’re there for the taking!

Whatsforpud added 12:36 - Jun 22
Very naughty of the defence not to concede!
Did anyone notice that McCarthy cut out the short passes to (sometimes marked) defenders, and fed the forwards. Much better.

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