Southampton V Norwich City The Preview
Friday, 25th Feb 2022 08:38
Norwich City arrive at St Mary's looking to try and grab what looked like an unlikely lifeline as the two teams kicked off three months ago in late November, back then though the situation was strangely familiar to today.
On November 20th Saints travelled to Carrow Road on the back of a 4 game game unbeaten run that had seen them take 10 points and turn the season around whilst the Canaries where rooted at the bottom of the table.
Strangely as the two sides line up again today, Saints are once again unbeaten in 4 in the Premier League and looking to kick on into the top 10 and Norwich are looking to try and keep up with the rest of the pack in the relegation zone.
So as was shown back in November, this game is a far from foregone conclusion and Saints will have to work as hard as they have done in the four previous games to ensure that they take all 3 points.
But things have changed since that day in November, we now have a different goalkeeper between the sticks and the re emergence of Fraser Forster can perhaps be seen as the one defining factor in why it seems over night we are a side to be reckoned with.
Against Everton Forster didn't have a shot to save, but his performance was still commanding, the fact that he did the basics well meant that Everton never got a chink in our armour.
At the start of the season I was surprised that Alex McCarthy got the nod over Forster and it gives me no pleasure to reflect that if Forster had started the season then perhaps we could have had a good shot at a European spot.
Certainly we would have beaten Norwich three months ago, we dominated the game, but we let in two soft goals to gift the home side a victory that for their battling they could say they deserved, but for the pattern of the game they didn't with 2 of their 3 meaningful attempts on target going in.
For our part we have to stop them gaining their first double of the season tonight, but for our own sakes put in a performance that will see us jump into 9th place and close the gap between ourselves and Wolves who sit in 8th place on 40 points.
It won't be easy, Norwich are fighting for their lives, the last two games have seen them lose, but they were playing Manchester City & Liverpool so that can be excused, before that they had taken 7 points from 4 games.
In their last outing against Liverpool they led going into the last 26 minutes before Liverpool got into gear and scored 2 goals in 3 minutes and turned the game around to win 3-1.
The warning to Saints is in the stats from that game, the home side had 70% possession, Norwich scored from their only shot on target, indeed only 5 attempts overall, this is iust the type of side Saints do not like to play against at home.
Our game is based on breaking fast from defence, our weakness is defending against teams on the break, this is the type of opposition that we hate.
But we are a far different side from the one that lost at Carrow Road and with the crowd behind us we can make it a victorious night.
Ralph Hasenhuttl has almost a full squad to choose from, of course we await the team news an hour before kick off to see if someone is strangely missing, usually because of Covid, but the manager has reported no new injury concerns.
That means just long term casualties Alex McCarthy & Lyanco out, plus hopefully shorter term Nathan Tella.
So I don't see much change from the team that started against Everton, I think Romain Perraud will have to settle for a place on the bench after missing last week and have to wait for his chance again.
The team seems to have a familiar pattern about it these days with few changes, but this is positive, players are playing for their places and in literally every position there is someone in reserve itching for their chance to get in the side and stay in the side, there is no room for a substandard performance you will lose your place and find it hard to get it back.
Tonight will be about trying to play to our strengths, ideally we would score early to mean we dictate play and that at some stage Norwich have to come out, we have to make sure we give them nothing to hold on to, OK ideally we would score early 3 times, but I would take one.
Football is enjoyable again at St Mary's, but in closing I would say one thing, this is the same squad that started the season, we made several signings in the summer and it has taken the manager time to find his best side and craft it into the way he wants to play, but he has done so and should be given great credit for that.
Last season some accused him of having no plan B, that was because he literally didn't have a squad big enough to have one, now he has and we see his tactical nous coming to the four.
Of course tactical nous is limited to the quality of the squad and in this respect we like most other clubs in the Premier League have financial limitations, but we are making progress and moving forward and if we win tonight will have a very good chance of a top 10 finish, maybe higher.
Photo: Action Images
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