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Southampton V Watford The Verdict
Sunday, 24th Jul 2022 10:07

Saints travelled to Wealdstone's ground to take on Watford in the 3rd of their pre season games and it stepped up the ante a little but still not to 100%, there were plus points and minus ones as well, but ultimately it wasn't a game where we were playing at full throttle.

Pre season is not about firing on all cylinders, it is about a gradual build up of fitness and aligning that with forming what the manager will see as his best formation and personnel to play in the side.

So this was not a Saints side who were playing at full pace, you felt that they were out there to yes step up there work rate, but ultimately to find their feet in what looks like being a new tactical formation for the team next season.

Pre season is about the squad being brought to it's peak condition as the season begins, not two weeks ahead of the start.

Watford however are a week ahead of their pre season with the opening of the Championship programme next Saturday and this was a game where they were looking to win and be almost at their peak.

In terms of line up, it has become clear from the games played so far that Ralph Hasenhuttl is looking to play with three central defenders, flanked by two wing backs, a central holding pair with an attacking midfielder in front of them and two strikers.

The problem with this game was that he only had two genuine strikers in his armoury and he opted to give them a half each and that made the formation a little lop sided when we went forward.

In goal Gavin Bazunu got his first 90 minutes in a Saints shirt, he looked the part, clearly happy with playing with his feet, he was very mobile and almost a sweeper behind his defence, what struck me was his mobility, when he played the ball out he didn't just sit back and admire his work, he was looking to provide an outlet should we get closed down.

In truth he didn't have much to do in terms of saves, but he did the rest well.

In front of him were a trio of Salisu, Bednarek & Bella-Kotchop, they coped well, but at times could not seem to get any sort of partnership going, Jan Bednarek held the centre, but he seemed to spend half of the time berating his partners rather than leading them, in truth playing this formation needs an organiser and with two youngsters in this game it fell on Bednarek and he isn't that man.

In truth his body language was not of a man who want to be at the club, at the end of the game he seemed to distance himself from his team mates and reluctant to join them in acknowledging a group of Saints supporters, if I'm honest Saints need to get a fee for him and reinvest it in an experienced leader to gel the back line, too many times we got caught out of position.

The wing back roles were filled by KWP on the right and Moussa Djenepo on the left, I think with Djenepo we have to be open minded about whether he can fulfil this role, in truth he has done it before and I think Ralph Hasenhuttl feels that this is his natural position.

In the centre of midfield Romeo Lavia held it alongside JWP with Stuart Armstrong in front, up front Adam Armstrong had Joe Aribo for company.

This appears to be the preferred line up now, aside from Ralph will play it with two specialist strikers up front with the arrival of Mara hopefully ahead of the season.

So what can we take from this game ?

Firstly that this was not a game that we can use as a barometer for the season, you felt that we held something back and we were looking to get comfortable in how we are now going to play and to look to hold the ball rather than plough forward at full pace.

Secondly that in this line up we are still short of a key player or two, we need leadership in the centre of the defence, I know I have been saying this for a few years now, but although for much of the game we were holding off Watford without too much problem, as was shown by the fact that Bazunu didn't have a save of real note to make, they did catch us on a couple of occasions where we were not playing as a unit in the back three.

Thirdly that we need another striker, the good news is that we have that in our latest signing Mara, but in this game it left us short of an outlet in the final 3rd, hopefully that will change by the time we run out at Spurs.

We can moan about the lack of a striker, the manager knows the problem and we are dealing with it, so it is no use judging our attack on this game, perhaps even not the next two, but when our transfer business is finished.

The final verdict is that this was a Watford side in their last game before the season starts, they were a week ahead of us in preparations and playing at almost full pelt, yet we held them fairly comfortably without breaking too much sweat, in a weeks time Saints will have completed their pre season programme and it is a vital week with two games, after that we will start to have some idea of whether things are going well or otherwise.

Overall if I was Ralph Hasenhuttl I would feel my team had stepped up a gear a little, they had followed the orders, not tried to be too clever and that this game will have answered a few questions for the manager.

Pre season is not about results, it is about getting fitness, developing tactics and fine tuning this to all fall into place when the League season begins, not about tonking teams two weeks before the season and hitting a peak two early.

Photo: Action Images

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saintpete01 added 10:26 - Jul 24
In Ralph we RUST

darthvader added 10:27 - Jul 24
Son and co will exploit the space behind the "wing backs" getting hit on the break is my biggest concern.

SaintNick added 10:40 - Jul 24
There is a bit of work to do on this formation that is for sure, but perhaps we won't use it in every game, Ralph always liked to change formations when the game merited it, so although we might want to play it against around 12 teams in the Premier league, it doesn't mean we will employ it against some of the top sides.

Judge the manager now when we have been bringing in players we have identified and not on the last three years when he has had to work with no money and a limited squad.

stmichael added 11:00 - Jul 24
Like Ben Mee perhaps🤔
Oh that ship has sailed.
I have zero confidence in our transfer policy this summer whatsoever..

highfield49 added 11:13 - Jul 24
Having only seen five minutes of the game on the official site there's not much on which I can comment. My main thought concerns whether or not McCarthy learnt anything from watching Bazunu playing. What a difference in mobility, concentration and focus, Bazunu already looks like a bargain.

SalisburySaint added 11:13 - Jul 24
Find you dig at Bednarek a little unfair, as senior defender it’s his job to organise and be vocal with other members of back three, which is what he did

New keeper on what I’d seen on streams of other friendlies looks assured and should start v Spurs

Overall looked solid with little treat up front, but hopefully this will be addressed in the next week

SaintNick added 11:14 - Jul 24
Mike this is your 9th successive year of predicting doom and gloom in the summer transfer window, only once have your predictions come near to being true.

So having zero confidence means you are not impressed with Gavin Bazunu, you saw nothing in yesterdays game that made you think that that we had made a good signing.

I remember your protestations about signing unknowns from Feyenoord & RB Salzburg with Chelsea & Atletico Madrid reserve team players in the summer of 2014.

you are consistent I will say that for you

Colburn added 11:18 - Jul 24
I think we all need to start the season with a clean Ralph sheet. I would have liked to have seen a change before now, that's no secret... but the fact is, he's not going anywhere so he is our manager and we must get behind him and the new squad for the start of the season and see how things develop. I think our signings are raw, green but come with huge potential in the likes of Lavia and Maria, Bazunu looks ready to bench Mccarthy, so let's all give Ralph and the lads another chance. Sure if we look a mess and fail, it's fair to criticise but nothing is going to change so let's just get on with it and support the team.
This game again means nothing other than learning to gel and improve fitness and sharpness. I expected to lose to Watford as they start their season in 6 days but it sounds like we did something ok. The goals will come with fitness and the new strikers which I'm sure we come in. It is disappointing we are still waiting for them but that's my only criticism of the summer spending, the personnel looks promising so far. I'll settle for another nil nil at Spurs

I_would added 11:33 - Jul 24
If Ralph is going to play Djenepo then he will have to be fitted with a Subbuteo base so he will be able to stand up. 3 at the back, I've constantly said is going to help our defensive woes. However, 2 DM's is one too many as shown in the first 3 games by our lack of chances. If Ralph persists with 2 DM's we will be relegated, unless he is removed at Xmas. It is no good asking Prowsey to step up to AM as he is bereft of attacking ideas, hates possession and is too slow.

wrathoftazz added 11:43 - Jul 24
Well.... I thought we would keep the EXCUSES to atleast the start of the season but nope... they are starting already and they appear to be along the SAME BS lines as always. Not at full steam, a week ahead, blah blah blah blah blah.

Ralph SHOULD have gone LONG AGO, he is useless and a championship manager at BEST. His tactical prowness isn't there, his man management is dead and buried and he is just not ALL INSPIRING as some (cough writer of article) would have people believe. Maybe, when we get relegated, the BS excuses will stop or atleast blame other people but until then, I just give up. Some people are happy with average, or in our case, below average... some people are blinkered and for some god unknown reason just can't see White for White and Black for Black. Ralph's STATS are FACTS and yet, they are ignored and blanketed over... people should stop flogging this dead horse and pray we move on before it's to late.

No striker + no motivation + no clue = CHAMPIONSHIP 2023

ItchenNorth added 12:48 - Jul 24
Sides are built from the back. I'm happy with clean sheets, keep them coming.
I get the feeling we are pinning our striking hopes on signing Liam Delap, so perhaps we just need to push the boat out and go get him. He a real talent and understandably Man City are somewhat reluctant to under sell him anywhere.
I'd also like to see Saints sign one player with Premier League experience, because when it gets tough, you need a calm head, someone who's been in it before.

derbydog added 12:56 - Jul 24
All a bit pessimistic on here. Coaches will tell you that the way to success is to begin by sorting the defence out, if a team is not letting in goals it stands a chance. We gave shipped goals for quite a few seasons and we have had a couple of clean sheets in the last week. Nick won’t he happy until Bobby Moore is exhumed to lead at the back, but we do have a leader in Lyanco, but he may not be a good enough footballer to make the team. Levi Colvill looks like a leader in the making, if we can get him. But then we have six centre backs, seven if we include Simeu in the equation. None of them close enough to drawing a pension to satisfy Nick, but surely enough quality in there to do the job? The best way for Bednarek to get his move is to play out of his skin, not sulk. Maybe the new coaching team know how to get a defence playing together properly?

2 DMs is also probably a must for a team with our recent record. Lavia looked good and may be a player who can turn defence into attack. JWP can already do that. I reckon Aribo played midfield yesterday not up top and he could be that link who can defend and attack. Stu can play that role too so we seem well stocked there. A striker or two and we seem to have a large squad of players in all positions except left wing back. Remember that Liveamento was a big part in any master plan so we got unlucky there. It’s the sales to do some book-balancing that have been slow…

Block8 added 12:58 - Jul 24
Can't comment on the game as I didn't see it but tend to agree with Colburn's comments, whilst Ralph is here we need to be behind him and OUR team.
Also agree with darthvader about our vulnerability down the flanks against pace, from reading the match reports Bella-Kotchop was left exposed a bit too frequently, by KWP, and he is no slouch!
The only other thing is if Ralph seriously believes Bednarek will be gone by seasons start then he wouldn't be getting game time? Unless he is in the shop window perhaps?

felly1 added 13:05 - Jul 24
Agree with Colburn. Let's judge these lads by Xmas.
I would add though that I'm not sure about Djenepo at left wing back.
It was clear last season when he played on the left that he couldn't cross with his left peg and will always try and cut back inside. It became predictable for the opposing defenders.
I want to be surprised and being the eternal optimist that I am I'm hoping we'll be somewhere about mid table by Xmas but I'm fully aware we could be in big trouble this season if these youngsters don't step up in a big, way.
Always fun reading the frothing n foaming of the angry brigade though.. Keep it coming boys!

kevleykeegle added 13:06 - Jul 24
Wrath - you seem awfully ANGRY dude. Chill a little, let the season get UNDERWAY before you BLOW A GASKET, or consider supporting the ones in blue DOWN the road. Is this why you call yourself WRATH? It’s like listening to an old timey fire and brimstone preacher

DellBoyWally added 13:14 - Jul 24
It concerns me that we are signing plenty of potential but can they compete in the PL? Not sure but don't we already have potential in the age-group and academy teams? We just sold big potential to Chelsea! Perhaps the intention is to get saleable assets around the first team and hope they stay up. Make money for the owners when sell on and do a Brentford with the academy.

claus5 added 13:33 - Jul 24
With a few noteable acceptions, what a lot of moaning misery guts get on here! Give Ralph and the team a chance, we have spent way more than normal already, let's get behind the team. if we're in the bottom 3 at Christmas then we can all moan together.

landsdownsaint added 13:47 - Jul 24
I had my concerns about the new signings not having much experience but now I’m im feeling quite positive after reading some of the posts , Ralph’s the man atm & let’s get behind him & the lads

saintmark1976 added 14:08 - Jul 24
When Djenepo originally came to us he was allowed to play in an attacking position, scoring sublime goals against Brighton and Sheffield Utd. After a few seasons of association with our master coaching, tactical and motivational expert, when he can get a game, Djenepo is expected to play in defence?

Ralph wouldn’t know a natural talented footballer if he bit him, let alone where to play him.

As the first poster comments, “In Ralph we Rust.”

JoeEgg added 15:20 - Jul 24
"Ralph wouldn’t know a natural talented footballer if he bit him, let alone where to play him."

But give him to Christmas. Wash, rinse and repeat.

The try the same formula in the Champioship.

DellBoyWally added 15:39 - Jul 24
Reading comments from the (predictable) moaners on here there should be some available seats for the true Saints fans.
I just hope the get (Joe) Egg on their faces and we can all laugh at them. Again!!!

BESaint added 18:03 - Jul 24
As ever, I really want to believe but, like others here, am really concerned that we have not signed anyone with Premier league experience. Ben Mee... maybe, maybe not, but some one to fit into the centre of defence that knows the league... and obviously a striker, just not a kid who is going to blast it wide most of the season.
AND I don't know what the thinking is re. Smallbone, he seemed to be coming back from injury, etc, in a positive way, can someone please enlighten me, seriously, some of you have seen all the recent matches!

felly1 added 18:07 - Jul 24
If we are in the bottom 3 or only a few points above by Xmas you can understand the calls for Ralph to go.
He would have had 3 and half seasons by then to improve things.
It's just a shame so many posters on here seem so negative with anything Saints related.
It's almost like they prefer a situation where they can moan as maybe that's their preferred default mode personality wise.
I guess any new manager will get about 10 games max and unless we're winning regualery the knives will be quickly out for the next guy and the cycle starts all over again!
Football fans eh, you gotta love em... Pure madness!!

saintmark1976 added 19:43 - Jul 24
felly1, let’s just imagine that Ralph had been nowhere near the club ever and we have just sacked our manager( let’s call him Mr X) and we are now looking for a replacement.

Amongst other candidates Ralph applies for the vacant position.

Ralph tells us that whilst managing his previous club they have two nine nil defeats and the longest run of consecutive defeats in the club’s history. In addition, under his management the club drops more points from winning positions than any other club in the same league. His only relative success is the club’s appearance in a cup semi final where his team don’t have an attempt on goal during the whole game.

Serious question for you. Would you employ Ralph as our new manager?

landsdownsaint added 20:04 - Jul 24
I get the feeling Djenepo is being handed the same stick Guly used too get , I know if we start off bad and he’s playing he’s gonna get loads of unwarranted abuse , I still feel he’s a game changer & he’s are only player that can put a pass in behind

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