|Watford 0 v 1 Southampton|
Barclays Premier League
Saturday, 30th October 2021 Kick-off 15:00
Southampton At Watford The Preview
Friday, 29th Oct 2021 10:06
Saints travel to Vicarage Road to take on a Watford side buoyant after blitzing Everton last weekend with four goals in the final 12 minutes, can they take the sting out of the Hornets and bring them back down to earth.
A week ago you would have had Saints as firm favourites for this game, we were above them on goal difference and at approximately 4.35 pm on Saturday afternoon with the Hornets 2-1 down at Goodison park and with us level pegging at home to Burnley we had moved a point above them in the Premier League table.
But sometimes football can change quickly and Everton collapsed and let in 4 goals in that final 12 minutes and lost 5-2, but was this a freak result or had Watford really improved that much under Claudio Ranieri in the week since Liverpool beat them at Vicarage Road 5-0 only a week earlier.
We will find out tomorrow, however I am of the feeling that this was more an Everton collapse than a Watford resurgence, although I take nothing away from their win, they took their chances when they had them and having shocked Everton with two goals in as many minutes to turn the game around and lead 3-2, they then took advantage of an Everton side in disarray.
Josh King who had been linked with Saints back In February and had ironically joined Everton, had not scored a goal whilst at the Toffee's had failed to score for Watford before last weekend and indeed had not scored a goal in the League since notching for Bournemouth in July 2020 again ironically at Everton in Bournemouth's last game in the Premier League before relegation, yet he hit three at Goodison Park .
So Saints job is to stop the Hornet's in their tracks and in doing so move above them with the first away win of the season.
Do that and it will be a solid start to the season, fail to do it and we are still looking over our shoulders and the knives will be out on social media.
The truth is it is going to be tighter around the bottom 3 than normal this season and with Newcastle about to spend mega millions in January it is vital we get wins under our belts and pull away from the bottom 3.
At Chelsea on Tuesday night there was a lot of good to be taken from the game, ok it was effectively two second teams battling each other, but a Chelsea reserve team would probably finish in the top 10, so it was great to see the spirit we showed at Stamford Bridge and several players are now going to give Ralph Hasenhuttl selection headaches.
In goal he has to decide between Alex McCarthy and Fraser Forster , in truth I thought Forster should have started the season at number 1, McCarthy endured a few poor games in the opening spell but pulled it around, I still think that Forster is our best bet after his display at Stamford Bridge, but McCarthy has done little wrong in the past few games so I think he will stick with him.
In defence Lyanco was a rock on Tuesday and showed that he has the fight needed to play in the Premier League, Ralph has to decide whether to keep him in and leave out Jan Bednarek or switch to a back three.
This is a very tricky one and one I find it hard to call, if it is going to be a back four I think I would be brave and plump for Lyanco.
In midfield we have the returning James Ward Prowse, but again Oriol Romeu and Ibrahima Diallo have been strong in the three games they have been in together, JWP is our captain and best player we can't leave him out, which leads me to believe that we might switch formation for this game.
With Armando Broja missing through injury It is pointing to a switch to a 3-2-2-1-2 formation.
I think he may play Benarek, Lyanco & Salisu as a back three with two wide players Tino Livramento and Stuart Armstrong just in front as wing backs.
Sitting in the middle will be Romeu & Diallo in a holding role with James Ward Prowse in front of them.
Up front it will be Che Adams & Adam Armstrong, although it could be either one of them benched for Nathan Dyer.
I think this role gives us strength at the back and in midfield, but gives us more opportunity to get the ball quickly to our attackers.
Defensively we have improved this year, but it has come at a cost, we don't get forward enough and we don't use players to the best of their abilities.
In midfield too often JWP has had to work hard to defend and has not had the freedom to do what he does best and that is pass the ball forward and up front all of our attackers are essentially channel runners, they want to run on to the ball not continually be trying to get on to the end of crosses.
A change in formation would allow us to do that, we can get Stuart Armstrong and Tino Valentino forward and at the same time hold the back line with a midfield trio rather than duo.
This will give JWP that freedom to put his foot on the ball and pass it, he is an adaptable player but of late he has been playing more as a defensive midfielder than an attacking one, he is the key to unlocking defences and get our attackers playing to their strengths by running on to through balls.
For me this seems the logical way forward and we need to be brave.
It is a game that can show us what the next few months hold, if we lose Watford will be 5 points above us and that is a big gap at this time of year, we have to win and push ourselves up the league.
We should go their with confidence, we would have done so had Everton not collapsed in the final minutes, we would have been above Watford and looking to make that gap bigger, but it is what it is and we now have to put them back in their place.
After the performance at Chelsea we should be more optimistic about the season, we have showed we can compete with the top sides, now we need to show we can despatch the sides around us, the game on Tuesday showed that unlike the second half of last season we have an experienced squad and won't have to rely on academy kids to make up the numbers.
Yes some of those players aren't having the best of times and Theo Walcott came in for a lot of unfair stick on Tuesday night, some weren't happy that he came on for Tella, but in a game like that we couldn't carry any passengers, Walcott worked hard and made sure we weren't swamped, the fact that we finished stronger than Chelsea and could easily have won it in the final stages but for the brilliance of their keeper tells you something about how we got the substitutions right, we got fresh legs on at the right times.
Perhaps Theo Walcott is not am 8 or 9 goal a season player anymore, but it is about using the squad and over a season we have Walcott, Tella & Djenepo even Elyounoussi competing for the same position, it is about getting 3 or 4 goals out of each of them , spreading the goals, spreading the assists and spreading the workload.
Likewise up front, last season we had two strikers that got 21 Premier League goals between them, this season we have three, the trick is to get all of them getting at least 7 goals and if we can get at least one of them into double figures then we will have improved.
Last season saw the onus on a small squad, if one player wasn't performing we didn't have options, this season we have options.
So having said all of this the time for excuses is over, we have got through the spell from hell that was the opening 8 games, it is now time to show we have what it take to push towards a top 10 placing again, this will be hard because put bluntly there are 10 clubs including us who could finish 10th and those same 10 clubs could just as easily get dragged into a relegation fight.
Photo: Action Images
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When Saturday Comes #22 by wessex_exile
It’s the 15th of January, and still the U’s are attempting to play their first home match of 2022. Weather looks good (check), players have returned from injury (check), no on-day Covid testing to get in the way (check), so barring fire famine or flood, I reckon we must have at least a 50:50 chance of a game at the JobServe this afternoon. Whether it’ll be three much-needed points or not, and if you’ll pardon the pun, I at least did see green shoots at the New Lawn on Tuesday. We still lost, and the table doesn’t lie, but definitely signs to encourage me that whilst it’s not going to be a comfortable journey, we’ll be alright by May.
When Saturday Comes #21 by wessex_exile
Here we are then, what should have been the first home game of 2022, and I discover seconds before posting this that the game is called off because of a waterlogged pitch. Having gone to the trouble of writing this, even though we’re not playing I’m going to post it anyway – it’s not like you’ve got anything else to do this afternoon.
When Saturday Comes #20 by wessex_exile
Finally, When Saturday Comes…and the U’s (for now at least) have a match to play. Mind you, I’m writing this on Friday afternoon, so there’s still time yet for yet another Covid/ injury postponement, I guess. I certainly hope not, as I’m planning on heading over to Crawley for this one. Mind you, now that the EFL have decreed there will be no on the day testing to eliminate the possibility of last-minute cancellations, I think I’ll defer buying a train ticket until this evening. Needless to say, a repeat of our last visit to Broadfield (The People’s Pension Stadium under the terms of a sponsorship deal) would do very nicely indeed.
When Saturday Comes #19 by wessex_exile
When Saturday Comes…and the U’s find themselves fixtureless again, following Hartlepool’s request to postpone the game because of positive Covid tests amongst their squad. To heap further fixture congestion problems on the U’s, in short order Forest Green Rovers did likewise for our already rearranged match at the New Lawn on Tuesday night, and for the same reason. They’re not on their own either, with in all (so far) four Premier League and 19 EFL matches postponed today – all for positive Covid tests in their squads.
When Saturday Comes #18 by wessex_exile
A little later than usual today I’m afraid – ‘tis the season to be jolly and all that, so I have just been out for the obligatory Xmas tree – bah humbug. Mind you, I was treated to the sight of literally hundreds of Santas (and the occasional elf) on a charity fun run through Calne on the way, which for want of a better expression was certainly surreal. Officially entitled Santa’s Scamper, the entry fee for participants goes to charitable causes, and to date the organisers have raised nearly £8k for charities such as Wiltshire Air Ambulance, Dorothy House, Hope for Tomorrow, Barnardos and of course their main charity every year, Hannah’s Trees – well done Santas!
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