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Southampton V Chelsea The Verdict
Sunday, 21st Feb 2021 09:40

It was another Saturday and another injury, but Saints reshuffled yet again, dug in, had the luck for once and got a draw that felt like a win to end a awful losing streak, hopefully we have turned the corner and can start to win games again.

Saints fans where dismayed to hear that Stuart Armstrong was out for this game and this meant that Saints were putting out 10 of the only 12 experienced outfield players that were actually fit, some supporters complain that of late Ralph Hasenhuttl has had no plan B, it is hard to even have a plan A let alone B at the moment when every week seems to bring yet another injury.

One thing no one can moan about is the team spirit that carried Saints through this match.

This was not a pretty game to watch, but being on the back foot for most of the time suited Saints and for all their possession the visitors didn't get a decent shot in on goal that would have counted in all the game, yes Alex McCarthy made a decent save in the first half to tip an effort round the post for a corner, but such is the absurdity of the VAR system although if it had gone in the goal would have been ruled offside, as it had been saved it was still a corner.

Chelsea were down our throats from the first minute and looked set to overwhelm us, it was not pretty to watch, but as the minutes ticked on, the realisation was that this was a Saints side on the back foot, but it was set up well and fighting tooth and nail, the Blues had 75% of the ball, but they could not trouble Alex McCarthy such was the resolute resistance.

As the half hour mark came and went it seemed that the only was we were going to get into the Northam End half was when we changed ends at half time, but then suddenly came a magical moment, Nathan Redmond who has come under fire of late got the ball carried it and then laid a slide rule pass for Takumi Minamino, who ran on dummied the keeper not once and twice and nonchantly put the ball in the back of the net.

Totally against the run of play but we had something to hold on to now and again Chelsea blustered but could not get a decent chance.

In the second half Chelsea came out fired up, but in a first 10 minutes that was almost a carbon copy of the Wolves game, we held strong and then gave a way a silly penalty, Danny Ings making a badly mistimed tackle that was a nailed on penalty.

Surely the floodgates would open now but the defence held strong, was it a back three, was it a back four, truth is it was both, when we went forward we reverted to a back three, when we were defending Ryan Bertrand dropped back into left back and it was a back four, Ralph Hasenhuttl has done this before, but it is only now he has the players to implement it properly.

Again Chelsea came at us in waves, but the only other real chance of note in the game was when Jannik Vestergaard hit the bar with a looping header at the other end.

This was a team effort, ironically and no one can say this very often, Danny Ings was the worst player on the park, isolated for long periods with even James Ward Prowse unable to get any sort of passing going as Chelsea pressed and pressed.

The King Of The Scummers worked hard, but it was all about hard work and he saw little of the ball in a position that he could influence the game.

Around him everyone was working just as hard, in the centre Oriol Romeu and James Ward Prowse rolled up their sleeves and grafted, Moussa Djenepo had his best game in a Saints short, yes his positional sense is not great, but he ran and battled and got battered for his trouble, but he just kept getting up and going again, Chelsea must have wondered what they had to do to stop him.

At the back the central trio were magnificent and at the heart was Mohammed Salisu, in many respects he was a strange choice from Glenn Hoddle on the TV for the man of the match, but our former manager likes to get technical on these things and he could see that Salisu was reading the game and cutting out balls before they could put us in any danger. they say if you don't notice a referee then he is having a good game, this describes Salisu's performance, he wasn't throwing himself in the way of crosses like Jan Bednarek, he was just calmly and coolly getting on with things, h looked like he had been playing Premier League football all his life.

All the stats belonged to Chelsea, apart from the one that matters and that is the scoreline, as I said at the beginning, this was only a draw, but it felt like a win, hopefully we have turned a corner and things can now only get better.

Now hopefully we can get back to winning ways, although personally if someone told me we would only win 5 more games this season I would be quite happy, as long as 3 of those games were in the FA Cup.

There is still a lot to play for, hopefully we will get players back from injury and then we can show what we can do again, as we did in the first half of the season.

Photo: Action Images

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Nomaesaints added 09:57 - Feb 21

WestSussexSaint added 10:07 - Feb 21
In the context of recent form and how Chelsea dominated possession in the match this was a decent point and hopefully turns a corner on the form book.

I think Salisu was MOTM as he was solid and unflustered that belied his inexperience. A notable shout though to Djenepo who ran himself into the ground. You still get the feeling he is being micro managed through the match and he is one over exuberant tackle away from a red card but in this match you cannot fault his effort and commitment to the cause. In fact it probably should have been one or two fouls on him that may well have resulted in red cards for Chelsea. I’m sure that if they had been Saints players committing the fouls the ref or VAR would have had a different view.

I’m still unconvinced by Redmond as a second striker. It was a sublime pass to set up the goal (great finish!) but other than that while he was busy he never really looked like doing any damage or building attacks. In a game like that where we defend for most of the game you need a striker that can hold the ball up when it is cleared so would have thought Che Adams would be a better option.

Now we need to kick on and get 3 points at Leeds who are in a dodgy spell themselves to make sure there is no doubt of Fulham catching us and build confidence for the cup game to come.

davidargyll added 10:08 - Feb 21
Very much my reading of the game too Nick, not a thing of beauty, but we’ve ended our dismal run.
So far as individuals are concerned, up until his truly superlative goal, I couldn’t believe how Minamino several times in the first few minutes misplaced his pass or had the ball taken off him very easily. And ditto NR who once again rushed around as if he’d got a bullet up his arse to very little avail. And I thought here we go again...
But then what an absolutely sublime pass by him to Timo for what must be in contention for the goal of the season. All is forgiven, you two...I am not worthy...! Particularly, as someone else said, Che would doubtless have blasted it either straight into the goalies tummy or up into row double zee...!
Two other performances of note were Moussa, an absolute revelation - perhaps he’s been told to get on and show us what he’s got under the bonnet and start to justify his “potential superstar” tag. And my God he put in a shift, didn’t he? Talk about taking one for the team, but in his case it was about a million (kicks and bashes that is): just the sort of performance that makes a Saints fan proud.
And Salisu again, in a very understated way, was towering in defence, seeing off several attacks with seemingly the minimum of effort and the maximum of skill. He has certainly been worth waiting for...
But overall I thought Saints’ performance generally wasn’t flashy at all, on the contrary, apart from the goal, at times it seemed almost bland. Which maybe will go some way towards answering the critics - myself included - that the team IS able to take its foot off the “100%-all-the-time-forward-press” pedal if it has to and play a more contained game. Clearly a well thought-out strategy the squad had a the week to devise, that paid off handsomely and earned us a well deserved point. Let’s have more of that.
But unexciting though our performance might have been, it did also have the consequence of making Chelsea look very ordinary. Mason Mount aside, for all their very slick passing, we did keep them under control very successfully. OK we hardly got a touch on the ball for the first half an hour, but I would rather look at it as a good defensive job well done, especially as I don’t think they had many if any shots anywhere near doing us any damage. And of course JV nearly gave us all three puntos.
Ultimately though I think that match was a tale of two managers: ours, who has the right idea and is a great man-manager and theirs, who hasn’t and is arrogant beyond belief.
And the post-match comments sum up why.
Ralph, having spent the week getting his team’s attitude and set-up corrected, was sensible, to the point, charming, humble, happy to say how hard they’d practiced etc, and full of praise for their barnstorming performance.
Tuchel on the other hand, apart from looking as if he’d got a lemon stuck up him all through the match, was determined to find fault in someone else, ie not him, for his team’s lacklustre performance, so spent time telling the world about Huson-Odoi’s bad attitude.
Now, if there is one thing that is absolutely verboten in the manager’s handbook - and it doesn’t matter whether it’s in business or industry or (especially) football - it’s publicly criticising an individual by name, particularly after he was very obviously subbed on and off within half an hour. That will upset not only him but the entire camp like you have never known and not only do I predict Chelsea won’t make the top four as a result, but that Tuchel will not last.
But ultimately, whilst noticeably not mentioning Tuchel, Jake Humphreys’ comment about the Saints camp after the match summed it all up: that, if you ask any member of the entire team at St Mary’s, to a man they are 100% behind RH and his way of doing things; it’s so sad (not) but somehow I don’t think that will be echoed at Stamford Bridge this morning...

theralpholution added 10:11 - Feb 21
Excellent defensive performance with the back three showing a useful alternative to the normal formation. Salisu, Djenepo and Minamino gave stand out performances. Great pass by Redmond who looks better in the central role but needs to assist in this way more often if he is going to keep his place. Chelsea are a tough team and they were strong in the challenge but Ralph had the team well drilled. Lots to be positive about.

IanRC added 10:13 - Feb 21
Agree with most of this Nick, half way through the first half I exchanged messages with another Saints fan saying we were awful, unable to hold onto possession (missing Adams ?) but as things went on we got better. In the end it was a very good battling performance.

One who should be singled out is Djenepo who I thought was great getting all over the park and generally putting himself about. Coupled with that some great skill as when he left Alonso looking like an idiot on the wing or that incredible dribble through the middle when he beat three players around him, needless to say the media preferred to focus on Mount.

If a Saints player had tackled someone like Kante did Djenepo I have no doubt he would have been sent off for at least as dangerous a tackle as Jankewitz against McTominay, Werner’s tackle was much better. Both were serious dangerous play and VAR again refused to act against a big team. Couldn’t believe when the referee eventually brought out a yellow for Alonso’s pull back on Djenepo.

All told very encouraging but we need a result against Leeds, hopefully Armstrong will be fit.

IanRC added 10:14 - Feb 21
Haha, was typing mine whilst you made the same points WSS

underweststand added 10:16 - Feb 21
I couldn't forsee the day I'd call Djenepo Man of the match (sorry) Player of the match, but I really did yesterday. It was a toss-up between him and Vestergaard or Bednarek..but what about Salisu?. He wasn't in the action quite as much as the other CB's but he didn't put a foot wrong and looked calm and collected amidst the non-stop Chelsea attacking.

Minamino does a lot of running without affecting the game very much, but his goal was a masterpiece of anticipation and finishing. He was worth his place for that move alone.

Chelseas do what they do best, hold the ball and pass more than Liverpool, and their penalty saved Touchel's face and was unfortunate for the ever-running Danny Ings who didn't have a good day at the other end of the pitch.
Overall only one point but it felt like 3 - just for the team effort alone.

Farlow added 10:33 - Feb 21
A good point gained but playing Redmond as a striker does not help Ings at all.Hes far to easily knocked off the ball where as Adams does create space for Ings.Iprefer Redmond out wide cause he needs space.Superb finish by Minamino but i struggle to think of any other contribution he made.A great defensive display against a very good Chelsea side.Great displays by Salisu and Moussa which augurs well for the future.

halftimeorange added 10:48 - Feb 21
I find it baffling that Saints can put in a shift like this one but, falter against a poor side like Newcastle's. Admittedly Salisu added a growing assurance to the centre of defence and, in general terms, McCarthy didn't faff about in getting rid of the ball. That said, we were missing two key players in Armstrong and Walker-Peters, also the promising Diallo so, all in all, nobody can deny that this was a really good team effort. I don't know what to make of Djenepo. He played like a man possessed yesterday with a "I will not be beaten" attitude. Why only yesterday? Minamino and Redmond are not dissimilar and contribute not a lot over ninety minutes but, the difference is Minamino seems to be a goal poacher so, maybe only one of them should be in the side at one time (yesterday's assist was Redmond's first for months). I also wonder if Minamino could feed off Che Adams. Time will tell. I feel a lot more secure about our remaining games after yesterday.

LordDZLucan added 10:59 - Feb 21
I'd prefer much echo everything that's been said by you, Nick, and everyone that's contributed. All I'd add is that given the treatment that was meted out to Moussa by the Chelsea players which pretty much went unpunished I'd like to think that the benefit of the doubt associated with any future incidents would go in our favour. It's only fair.

SanMarco added 11:39 - Feb 21
I think Ralph was reading TUI this week. Forget labelling plans with letters - he showed the tactical flexibility we were asking for, within the resources he had. I fully agree on all the positive comments about Djenepo and on the inconsistency of those 'tackles' not even getting yellows - both were reds in my view.

Although they combined beautifully for the goal I think I agree with halftime's comment about Redmond and Minamino not being in the side at the same time. We did look light-weight in the first half and those two were the chief culprits. Ings' frustration at his isolation up front may have led to his silly tackle.

Finally a response to a few comments from the Chelski faithful about us 'parking the bus': We didn't have to - you weren't actually good enough to force us to do so. Of course we don't know what would have happened if the careless pen hadn't happened but 1-0 us was a distinct possibility the way Chelski were playing.

PS Anyone else have a chuckle at Carragher whining about the deadcert pen and that ref looking at the replay for half a second!!

Colburn added 12:05 - Feb 21
Agree with most points already made. Pleased that Redmond got an assist but one swallow doesn't make a summer and for the rest of the game it felt like we had no outlet up front without Adams on the pitch who in my opinion is the best at creating chances with his through balls. It is ironic that the goal came when Redmond received the ball initially on the right wing, away from the centre backs and he is rarely on that side of the pitch these days.
Djenepo was my motm, what an outstanding shift he put in, bravely getting stuck in after some rather unpleasant challenges on him which would have probably seen a red card if they were the other way round but the officials now make things up as they go along.. In answer to one post, Djenepo, like anyone else, needs a run free of injury to get into any sort of rhythm and this is why we have not been able to see the best of him. Interestingly, this was his best game for us yet he never got near the opposition's box. This can only bode well for his future and I'm delighted with him and his attitude.
Salisu still looked a little off the pace in moments and thus is to be expected but I thought he grew in the second half and his positional sense and passing shows much promise, he looks really good.
Hoping that Ings isn't going through the motions before a summer move but he didn't look the same with his efforts yesterday and in the last few games like he's lost a bit of his tigerish ways, a little slow to press and not trying to anticipate situations as much but maybe I'm just looking into things too much there.
We must get some sort of result midweek or this battling point won't feel as positive.

mattlegod added 13:19 - Feb 21
Spot on review.

I must admit to needing to eat some humble pie regarding Djenepo, this was definitely his best game in a Saints shirt, finally showing he can play defensively aswell as offensively. Salisu showed he has much promise about his and we can finally see what Ralph has been seeing in him in training. I too am not convinced that Redmond is a striker, he simply doesn't have the natural instinct.

I wonder whether Minamino and Redmond should swap positions. Minamino is not a good midfielder, his tackling and passing is well below standard but you have to admit he can find the goal!

JohnT added 13:28 - Feb 21
When I say ''plan b'' over on Saints Gossip I mean when the other side works our system out in the first half & in the second half outplays us when we fail to adapt.

DellBoyWally added 13:47 - Feb 21
3rd game on MotD but Saints not mentioned once in the post-game review!! Those tackles deserved some kind of comment. Both were worse than the one that saw Djenepo red carded. And most certainly worse than Bertie's that Friday.
Get Armstrong back on the right in place of Redmond (1 successful pass in 8 months!!) and keep Mini on the left - he can score
We now have the makings of a very decent back 3/5 with quality in our CBs and KWP and Bertie as wing backs. 3 decent defensive MFs in MoDi, Romeo and JWP. Attacking MFs/No10s in the aforementioned Stuey and Mini along with Mousey.
Anyone have a striker or two to spare?? Swap you a Redmond and a Stephens

SaintPaulVW added 14:37 - Feb 21
I don't think there is much to add to the comments above.

It was interesting to note that most 'pundits' seemed to think this result was a slip up by Chelsea rather than a very good performance from Saints. Particularly as several of our players took a while to get used to the fast pressing style of Tuchel. Kante particularly was on fire in the first half taking balls off Saints players seemingly at will. But we stood firm. Ralph switched formation, game managed well and all the players put a shift in.

With no further injuries, hopefully we can start to make some progress now.

Looking forward to a good game against Leeds.

AmericanSaint added 17:38 - Feb 21
Nick, you and everyone have summed up the game pretty well. If you think the pundits/announcers in the UK were biased, you should have heard them in the US on NBCSports. They picked Mason mount as MOTM, when IF anyone on Chelsea should have got it, it was Kante. All they did for 90 minutes was talk about Chelsea this, Chelsea that. They even had the balls to say Chelsea were short of player due to injury and didn't mention our issues. It was a joke and an embarrassment to them. They even said that the fouls on Djenepo were not malicious (maybe right) but didnt warrant cards at all. The the showed the replays several times and they said "well maybe a yellow might be warranted". Anyways, they were clowns and NBCSports should be ashamed of the biased towards the BIG clubs. See it week in week out. Well we have Leeds that we need to win to really turn the corner and if everyone plays like this on Tuesday, then we should be in good shape, BUT we can't underestimate Leeds even in their current poor form. COYR

saintmark1976 added 17:39 - Feb 21
Happy to agree with SanMarco. At long last Ralph showed some flexibility in regard to our tactics rather than his “ one size fits all “ high press game which other clubs have now worked out how to play against.

I sincerely hope that on his part it’s just the start of a more flexible tactical approach for the remainder of the season.

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