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Southampton V Brentford The Verdict
Wednesday, 12th Jan 2022 09:11

Saints registered their biggest victory at St Mary's since November 2017 as they emphatically defeated Brentford to surge up the table into 11th place in front of the new owners of the club.

Saints fans have had to wait a long time to see their team hit four goals at St Mary's again, the last occasion being on 26th November 2017 when Everton were the visitors, when goals from Dusan Tadic, followed by a brace from Charlie Austin and a late goal from Steven Davis gave us a 4-1 victory over the Toffees.

Ralph Hasenhuttl had opted for a 3-5-2 formation utilising Romain Perraud & Nathan Tella as wing backs, the same formation employed by Brentford and it paid early dividends when Jan Bednarek scored his 3rd goal in the last 4 games to head home from a James Ward Prowse corner after only 5 minutes.

Saints were well in control of the game now and looked set to capitalise on a Brentford side that were offering little, but there was a shock on 23 minutes when Brentford broke quickly and crossed for Janelt to fire home from close range with the visitors first shot on target.

But those that though same old Saints and here we go again would be disappointed 8 minutes before the break when a fine shot from 25 yards by Ibrahima Diallo hit the post and came off the keepers glove for what was credited as an own goal.

Harsh not to give it to Diallo, a few years back it would have been, but now with VAR these type of shots get analysed and given as own goals.

So a slender lead at the break that didn't really reflect Saints dominance and there was still an air of apprehension in the concourses at half time, we had seen this before and we are the league leaders at dropping points from a leading position.

But within 4 minutes of the restart the game was stretched again when Saints won the ball on the edge of their penalty area, found Romeu quickly, who played a perfectly weighted path for Armando Broja to run from his own half and slot past the keeper.

This was surely enough to see off Brentford and they continued to offer little going forward, the games was but to bed in the 70th minute when Saints cleared a corner and Che Adams was through on goal, it looked offside to the naked eye in the stadium, but he lofted the ball over the keeper, the flag stayed down and VAR didn't rule it out and Saints were 4-1 up at home for the first time in over 4 years.

All that was needed now was Stuart Armstrong to come off the bench as the lucky talisman and that he did immediately after the goal.

Ironically though going so far behind stirred Brentford into life and suddenly they threw themselves forward with nothing to lose and they enjoyed their best spell of the game, Fraser Forster was called into action on several occasions and had to make some decent stops to ensure the visitors didn't get a foothold back in the game.

New owners Dragan Solak & Henrik Kraft watching from the directors box must have been pleased by the performance of their new club, as must Rasmus Ankersen who until 3 weeks ago was at Brentford and is now as CEO of Sport Republic the man overseeing the operation, he worked with Ralph Hasenhuttl ahead of the game on the way Brentford play and that must have helped.

It was very much a team effort and very satisfying given the players we had out such as Tino Livramento & Kyle Walker Peters, not to mention the key players who weren't even in the starting line up such as Stuart & Adam Armstrong and Che Adams.

There is competition for places now at St Mary's in all positions and we showed we can handle not having a recognised right back available not just by employing a stand in but by altering our formation and that must be good going forward.

Likewise the performance of Fraser Forster who looked like he was back to something resembling his old self of 2014-17, he looked confident and not only commanded the box and made some great saves after not being called into action for long periods, but was positive in coming out of his box and clearing, the defence looked a lot happier with him behind them.

Although there were several candidates for man of the match, the stand out player for me was James Ward Prowse, not just for his pin point balls such as the corner for the first goal, but the way he bossed the midfield, he showed he can do the simple things well, win the ball and lay it off simply, even a last gasp tackle when it looked like Brentford would pull a gaol back late on, his performance reminded me a lot of Steven Davis in his prime, JWP can definitely do the spectacular but again he showed he can also roll up his sleeves and graft when needed.

Hopefully this marks the beginning of a new era at St Mary's, it will be evolution not revolution, as the owners have said, in essence nothing much changes, they bought Saints because it already fitted the model they wanted for a football club, but it does perhaps loosen the purse strings and that has to be a help.

I have said all season this is a good squad, a stronger squad than we have had in a while all round, some disagreed, but this result showed that we are moving in the right direction, yes Ralph Hasenhuttl has made mistakes, but show me a Premier League manager who hasn't !

For the past 3 years he has had to run things on a shoestring, little money for transfers and the club having to pay out for players signed on big wages who were out on loan, so making the job even harder.

Now that these things are changing we will hopefully see Ralph show just why we gave him the job, certainly there was a new atmosphere in the ground last night and fair play to the fans who have been going to St Mary's this season, they have backed the team all the way and this game was no exception not only very loud vocal support from the Northam & Itchen North, but a buzz in the other areas, there will be trouble along the way, there always is, we won't win the League but we can now compete.

We now sit in 11th only 10 points behind West Ham in 5th, that is probably a gap that we won't be able to overcome, but we know that in the first half of the season we did not perform to our abilities, in truth we could easily have been within 4-5 points off that 5th place, of course that is all if's & but's, however if we have a better second half of the season than we did the first, then a top 10 place is within our grasp.

One result doesn't lead me to say this, it is having watched all the games this season, seeing our weaknesses and seeing our strengths, I have seen both improving as the season has gone on, there is now starting to be light at the end of the tunnel, this result allows us to start looking up the table and not back down over our shoulders.

Photo: Action Images

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IanRC added 09:24 - Jan 12
Agree entirely with all that including the man of the match. JWP isn’t the fastest but the ground he covered to make that tackle was incredible. Really hope we can sign Broja permanently, though I suspect it will be a tall order. Fantastic team spirit, particularly given the heroics at the weekend, hope we can carry it into the Wolves game, they deserve a good thrashing from us.


wrathoftazz added 09:38 - Jan 12
Firstly, I want to say an amazing performance by the whole team, including Ralph.

I dont think anyone was "disappointed" when it WASNT the same old saints. Surprised, amazed, proud but certainly not disappointed.

Likewise, I do not believe anyone has complained about Ralph because of lack of money. Dodgy subs, tatics, decisions etc yes but that's nothing to do with money. If anything, the Ralph suck ups have used the money side to justify decision making, like taking off the best players on the pitch and replacing with Long lol, or not seeing the keeper is injured.

Let's hope this is a corner turned and we can show our full potential. I still say Ralph isn't the man for Saints but I'm more than happy to be shown otherwise (by facts and performances not just by editors preferences)

beynali73 added 09:48 - Jan 12
This performance and particularly the scoreline have been owing to the supporters for some time after several seasons of frustration, embarressment and a few false dawns. One swallow does not make a summer and there is a lot of work to do but last night was the first time in a while I've left St Mary's and not felt as though the team played within itself.

Is a Ralph a footballing genius or was last nights change of formation forced upon him? We cannot be certain and it's not certain we have now turned corner - although there has been a thaw in the predictability of the second half capitulation of late. It will be interesting to see what Ralph does when he has a full squad avilable to him again and has to make the big decisions when there are a myriad of options available.

It's a nice feeling this morning and I hope that there will be plenty more to come - COYR's.

dirk_doone added 10:10 - Jan 12
Good report, Nick. You have been banging on for a while now about how much stronger our squad is this season and last night showed you were right.

It really did feel like the beginning of a new era last night and the performance reminded me of the halcyon days of 2016 when we could beat anyone at St Mary's, often by a big margin. There was the same carnival atmosphere back in the ground too.

Having Forster back in goal, just like he was in 2016, seems to inspire the whole team to perform better. Ward-Prowse, Diallo and Broja were outstanding. In fact, all of the team played well and it was especially good to see Che Adams come on and score with a neat finish, dinking the ball over the goalkeeper.

The new owners are magic.

PaleRider added 10:21 - Jan 12
Great article Nick - having the buzz back is so important. I think this is the most important thing about Gao's ownership - he sucked the optimism out of the club. It was great to see the new owners watching on and I hope they continue as they have started.

SanMarco added 10:26 - Jan 12
I keep smiling this morning! Best performance of the season.

The only note of caution is that this is just one game. Someone the other day said that there were always more comments after a bad result than a good one. Those that pile in after a bad result tend to take one game and use it as a stick to beat Ralph, fellow fans, owners, the club in general etc. I admit I am occasionally guilty. I think it is possible to use a very good performance in the same way. Crossing out the 'OUT' after Ralph and replacing it with 'IS GOD' is probably an over-reaction!!

Having said that - I am still smiling and there is no harm in that is there?! We do seem to be maybe turning a corner - we will certainly be further round that corner if we get a result at Wolves...

Can we buy Broja NOW?

WestSussexSaint added 10:38 - Jan 12
Nothing to disagree with in the article or comments above. It is also important to recognise that the majority of the players on the pitch had played on Saturday with extra time so some tired performances would have been understandable but the attitude and effort levels were excellent.

Finally nice to be at StMarys and enjoy the last 20 mins of the match. I think I finally relaxed after the 4th goal went in.

halftimeorange added 10:43 - Jan 12
Happy days are here again - it certainly seemed so as I walked out of St Marys. There were a lot of solid performances and stand-outs from JWP, Romeu and Perraud, the latter giving nothing away to the visitors. Broja had the Brentford defence in his pocket from early on showing his amazing speed in chasing down their 'keeper. It was noticeable that when Armando went off Brentford reorganised and became a more potent attacking force. Although he's been better of late, Mr Marmite (Nathan Redmond) reverted to type and chased patently lost causes without ever properly engaging in the game. It was good to see the oft-maligned Fraser Forster acknowledge the crowd singing his name but, we all know that one howler will have the more fickle on his back again. Finally, a clap for the referee, Stuart Attwell who wasn't overly fussy and allowed both sides to get on with things. The game was a pleasure all round and I'm sure those waving the Albanian flag were, like me, very happy with their night out.

felly1 added 11:01 - Jan 12
Great result last night and there's a lovely feeling of optimism at the moment that I'm going to relish whilst it lasts!
Our form has really picked up since the Arsenal game, starting at Palace where we et the 3 points go but played with a swagger and intent that's been missing for ages. Since then it's been 8 points from 4 games and Ralph and the coaches have to take credit for this as he must have realised our 4222 formation he rigidity stuck to was found out out big time and now we have a squad of players that can adapt to a variety of formations. JWP was motm last night , Broja superb up front, Forster, Perrau, Lyanco and Diallo are growing in confidence and as said by Nick we really do have a decent squad now.

dellboysaint added 11:30 - Jan 12
Not surprising that picking up 8 points from four games has coincided with Fraser Forster being in goal. He provides more quality and reassurance for our defence. He made some saves last night that McCarthy might have struggled with. I hope McCarthy has played his last game.

PaleRider added 11:56 - Jan 12
halftime - the flags I saw were Serbian not Albanian! Best not make that mistake in the company of Serbs or Albanians or anyone else from the Balkans!

underweststand added 12:04 - Jan 12
The Goals. (nice saying that in plural). Bednarek keeps his personal Goal Difference in + .
Hard luck on Diallo , but he will know that he did all the hard work, and the goalie only helped him. Broja doing what he does best - in an " old-school centre forward " role , and Che Adams getting back on the scoresheet - in between injuries and bouts of Covid.

This was surely Perraud's best game so far, and he was unlucky not to get a goal himself.
Romeu proving that he can still find a defence-splitting pass and got an assist, and I think we've runout of superlatives for Prowsey's performance.
Tella is improving all the time, and both the Armstrong's getting into the action.

Farlow added 12:16 - Jan 12
We simply must sign a goalkeeper in this window.Frazer Forster is
absolutely shocking at dealing with crosses. Great team performance.

saint901 added 12:48 - Jan 12
Really happy with the result obviously but more pleased about the attitude of the players and the tactics employed.

The players worked for each other and we looked like a team rather than a collection of average Prem players plus a couple of better ones. It's been coming a while with the West Ham and Swansea result and not before time because the next two games are tricky (to say the least). I am though encouraged.

The tactics last night were spot on until we had to make a few changes. Brentford still play like a Championship team and pack the centre of their defence with a couple of big strong lads, bunch of water carriers in midfield and a talented forward in Toney. (Incidentally how can he lead with an elbow in a challenge - twice - and not get sent off?).

By playing the full backs wide and stretching their back line, space was created for Broja and Redmond (who had an average game). With Romeu and Diallo patrolling the space 20 yeards either side of the half way line, encouraging a press against defenders who were not comfortable on the ball, we exploited their weaknesses. (If we had played like that against Burnley, Leeds and Wolves, we woudl have more points on the board).

So, good game, will give the team confidence that that can play in any system and they will need it in the next couple of matches.

deanosfc8 added 12:50 - Jan 12
Its funny how the Ralph out brigade have gone quiet of late.
It maybe that your now glory hunting at Chelsea as I suggested. Anyway most of us stuck by Ralph and the team and are now being rewarded, maybe you might wanna join us..?

Eddie Howe.. Do me a favour!

davidargyll added 12:58 - Jan 12
What an amazing atmosphere at SMG last night! I am still smiling at the noise, the enthusiasm, the skill, the sheer entertainment, emanating from the massive amount if graft the entire squad put in. None more so than Romain Perraud who, along with JWP, just never stopped. And Ibrahim Diallo, whilst almost too enthusiastic at times, still fought really hard to get back the ball when he lost it. And Armando Broja, what a star! And wouldn’t it be just wonderful if we can make him OUR star permanently.
But it’s wrong to single out individuals, they were all fantastic. And if nothing else last night showed that when you control the midfield, you control the game and my goodness did we boss it. And wasn’t it amazing that no less than three of our goals came from open play? When was the last time that happened?
And now finally. where are all those moaning minnies, the anti-Ralphers, the glass permanently half- empty’ites? Come on you lot if you are real fans, now is the time to finally admit you have got it all wrong, and start to back the club the players the manager everyone…

Peterx added 13:11 - Jan 12
Technical comment but harsh that Diallo was not given the goal.

If the keeper had not been there the ball could easily have spun into the net as it came off the post close to a 90 degree angle.

I would have thought the definition of an OG would be more if the defender touch was the certain factor of changing a 100% off target shot into a goal an that if their is doubt it should be credited to the attacker.

SaintPaulVW added 13:25 - Jan 12
New owner bounce?

Hope so!


codge added 13:39 - Jan 12
Che Adams was not offside because when the pass was played he was still inside his own half,l thought for sure he was offside until you saw the replay, great performance all round from the team.

darthvader added 13:42 - Jan 12
Alsocredit to our new Southampton goal machine Jan Bednarek!

JoeEgg added 14:14 - Jan 12
From the first week of the season I commented that I thought we had a squad worthy of a top ten position - I complimented all those that scouted these players and provided some highly promising signings (Thierry Small still to play). Most of the new signings needed time and a system and tactics that would bring the best out of them and soencourage the kind of enthusiasm and confidence we saw againbst Brentford. I felt, and still feel, that Ralph got his selections , tactics and substitutions wrong time and time again. Last night we saw a first major glimpse of just how promising this group of players really are, and we saw a Ralph with more positive tactics and a more appropriate use of substitutes. This was the entertaining Saints I have been craving for and probably not seen since the best days of Pochettino and Koeman. This kind of performance should now be the norm as these players grow in confidence and the new owners inject their own positives and ambitious style. A very exciting time once again to be a Saints supporter .

DellBoyWally added 14:20 - Jan 12
In all the comments there is barely a mention of the defence! The 3 CBs were awesome. Lyanco and Salisu are monsters. At times our Brazilian looked as though he wanted to single-handedly demolish Brentford. A second half piece saw him intercept, lose and win the ball back 3 times and pushed Brentford back to their own half. Playing keepy uppy in the first half and in the second he celebrated a clearance as though having completed a Champions League Final hat trick! Love to see it. And JBad looked a lot more relaxed.
Shame that Redmond mixed good bits by drifting about aimlessly at times. Not up to the standard we've seen of late.
I liked our 3 midfielders: Romeu back near his best; Diallo looking top class; and JWP playing balls forward! Like JBad he looked more relaxed with extra class and reliability alongside.
FF - what a step up from MC! And collecting crosses to!
And a bit of a novelty - 2 strikers scored 2 goals!! A new tactic????

PaleRider added 15:38 - Jan 12
I have to say - I love the tone on here today; it's so full of optimism but not at the expense of seeing that yesterday was far from perfect.

I think now is the time to really judge Ralph - he has made mistakes but I always sensed that there was a bad "vibe" about the place, which seems to have lifted. He could be the manager we all hoped for.

I also think we might have not one but two new cult heroes in Lyanco and Salisu. Lyanco may not be the best player but he has really brought something to the squad. Salisu is quality - and again does it with enthusiasm. I would rather see players who give their all than some of the money grabbing journeymen that Newcastle (& maybe Everton and Villa) have been going for.

Hopefully a bright new dawn for the Saints, which has been building over the last few games.

halftimeorange added 16:05 - Jan 12
PaleRider, With all due respect the flag being waved in the front row of the Kingsland on the halfway line yards from where I sit was definitely Albanian (black double-headed eagle on a red background). There might well have been Serbian flags elsewhere in the stadium as that would've made sense. Either way, we all had a good night.

ItchenNorth added 16:12 - Jan 12
It's aaaaaaaaaaaa long way back to London when you're s***
It's aaaaaa long way back to London when you're s***
It's a long way back to London, long way back to London, long way back to London when you're s***

Lol. Song of the night that in the Itchen North. I was signing that this morning when I woke up. Great fun. Great atmosphere, great team performance.

In Ralph we trust !

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