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Southampton V Villarreal The Verdict
Sunday, 31st Jul 2022 09:15

Saints ended their season with a loss to the Spanish side at St Mary's, but there were some positive points not least Joe Aribo's wonder goal in the second half.

Ralph Hasenhuttl changed his line up from the side that started against Monaco in midweek and it gave an insight of his thinking for the start of the Premier League season next weekend.

Although I do think there may be some changes for the trip to Tottenham Hotspur I suspect they will be minimal and just tweaks.

The first 15 minutes were fairly even and then Viallarreal took the lead from nowhere and highlighted the need for Saints not to switch off, a Saints cross was cleared and it looked like the ball was heading for a throw in, but when it bounced on the touchline it bizarrely stayed in play and suddenly we were on the back foot, the player crossed and it took a deflection and Pino's diving header gave Gavin Bazunu no chance.

Saints came back and two similar chances, one on each side of the goal were fired into the side netting, the first by Stuart Armstrong and the second by Moussa Djenepo.

New signing Sekou Mara showed glimpses of his ability, but it was not to be a memorable debut for him and he was replaced at half time by Adam Armstrong.

The second half saw Saints looking the better side, Bella-Kotchap put in a great cross from deep on the right and it found Djeneppo, he took a touch but it was too heavy, he got a shot away which was well saved by ex Liverpool keeper Reiner in the visitors goal.

On 64 minutes came the goal of the match, Joe Aribo got the ball in his own half around 20 yards from the half way line, his run started with power and ended with a dribble and a finish that Mathew Le Tissier would have been proud of.

A few minutes later and it looked like Aribo had scored a second, but his header was ruled out for offside.

This cross came from Mohammed Salisu and showed that both he and Bella-Kotchap can get forward into the space created in front of them and deliver a decent ball.

But although Villarreal had offered little going forward and Gavin Bazunu had not had a save of note to make throughout the game, it was the visitors who scored what would be the winning goal, there was a suspicion of offside from where i was sat when a smart move played Moreno through and he gave Bazunu no chance with a smart finish.

Saints kept mainly the same of the original starting 11 until the 83rd minute when they made a raft of changes, they had a few flourishes in the final minutes, but the equaliser didn't come.

So what did we learn from this, firstly we confirmed that it looks likely our starting formation will be 3 central defenders and two wing backs, two holding midfielders with a 3rd playing just behind the strikers.

Secondly we learned that we need to keep our concentration, for large parts of the game we battled hard and looked comfortable, but we got caught out by two sucker punches, both different in their build up, but similar in that we lost concentration.

I think that Ralph knows about 75% of his starting line up for the trip to Spurs, but there are still 2/3 positions up for grabs.

The main issue is the left wing back position, Moussa Djenepo is not convincing when defending and Romain Perraud is not a wing back, the Frenchman is more of a traditional full back in a back four, he doesn't have the engine for the up and down work of a wing back, it will be a tricky choice for Ralph on the left.

The forward positions are all up for grabs, Adam Armstrong has done his chances no harm with two goals in pre season and looked busy again in his run out on Saturday, Sekou Mara looks like he needs to find his feet and Che Adams didn't get a run out, it will be interesting to see what Ralph does at Spurs, does he play two strikers and if so does he use a midfielder alongside a specialised striker as he did in this game or does he play two true strikers, or for that matter does he use just one.

In goal this game would have not helped Ralph decide, Gavin Bazunu did what he had to do well, which in the second half wasn't much, he had few shots to stop and stood no chance with either goal.

Overall Ralph will be pleased with the run out if not the result, he has a difficult decision or two to make and truthfully we still need that leader at the back who talks and organises and keeps those around him focused.

I am positive about this season, from what I see in pre season we are in a better position that we were at this point last year, we have lost three players in Long, Forster & Broja, but replaced them with 5 new signings (6 if you include Lis) so we not only have a stronger squad in terms of quality but quantity as well.

So for me there is cause for optimism, let's be blunt here the sate of football these days means that the top six now is cast iron and will be more difficult with the addition of Newcastle as a monied club, but I am optimistic that we can have a reasonable season, 15th for the past two years has been treading water, we now need to look to push nearer a top 10 place,.

In terms of resources there are 12 clubs who are ahead of us, then there are ourselves, Palace, Brighton & Wolves, behind us are Brentford and the three promoted clubs, the Premier League is getting tougher and more reliant on financial status than ever before, we do what we do because we haven't got the money to match those big 7 clubs and indeed even the likes of Aston Villa & West Ham pound for pound in the transfer market.

Things are not going to change as it stands, we have to do what we do, it is what it is.

Photo: Action Images

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IanRC added 09:31 - Jul 31
Alarmed to see the rumours of Che Adams leaving us for Leeds, hope it is just rumours.

Peterx added 09:39 - Jul 31
My take is that Romeu should start against Spurs and Lavia needs impact sub minutes to grow into it further.

Aribo and S Armstrong as 10's from an attacking sense look good to have both on the pitch.

Valery has done well in pre-season and I think it could be time to start him in the back 3 which still does not look particularly strong with the current contenders.

Looks like it is impact sub for a while for Mara till he gets up to the pace. On yesterdays showing he is not a nailed on starter by any stretch of the imagination.

If this game had VAR or bookings it could be different, we amazingly in a game of no bookings did not bring their winger down for the first goal and VAR could have adjudicated if the ball was out.

Also when our attackers were clear on a few occasions they were bought down which would have been yellows in the prem.

In the end I thought we did well against a quality outfit.

Bazunu, JWP, Djenepo to me had decent games as well.

landsdownsaint added 10:21 - Jul 31
We looked ok , we had our chances mainly with Djenepo who got in on them but it never happened, I just reading echo comments & he’s already being singled out at not being good enough, I’m not saying he’s a great defender but used properly at some point in a game he’s a match winner , I think he’s had a good pre season & it’s pretty obvious when & when not too play him

SanMarco added 10:42 - Jul 31
“We have still in some moments missed the right way of defending, so this is still something that needs to get better. But for the young lads today this was a good game to come into the stadium, but you learn a lot I think and nothing comes immediately.” says Ralph a week before the season starts. Unlike Nick I fear the worst. It is great to plan for the "future" but for us fans the future is next Saturday...

PS nice goal.

felly1 added 11:11 - Jul 31
I thought Djenepo had a decent game. Everyone knows he has his faults and I'd be surprised to see him play 38 league games!!.. but he also brings energy, pace and a sense of unpredictability that I find exciting to watch.

SaintPaulVW added 11:24 - Jul 31
Ralph says players may not exit until after first game. Djenepo appears to be playing for his place. Imo Walcott, Redmond and Bednarek could well be off.

For me, the hits of the pre season have been Djenepo, Aribo and Valery. I could see Valery playing at RB to allow KWP to stick at LB.

August is always a bit rough for Saints fans, this season's fixtures look fairly stiff as well, so hopefully the team can continue to bed in the new players and we then kick on in late summer.

PeterL22 added 12:41 - Jul 31
Reasonable yesterday, if not as good as Monaco game. Sadly, I expect the “back “ five will be the same as yesterday! Not the best 5, but Ralph seems to think it is. Firstly, Perraud is by far the best choice at left WB/FB. Not sure what this rubbish about him not being any good as WB is all about. Generally when he plays, he is as far forward as KWP. He can cross with his left foot and will take a shot. Moussa, in contrast, only uses his left foot for standing and tries to over elaborate. I don’t think I need to comment on his defence! Defensive midfield picks itself- Prowsy & Romeu (Lavia is a great prospect but has a way to go - his least good performance so far yesterday). Che has to start up front as does Stewy Armstrong. I would finish off with Aribo. Latter two are our main goal threat. However, I don’t think Ralph will agree! I think he’ll have Adam A in place of Che and may well start Lavia. Now for the CBs- as I have said, I think yesterday’s 3 will start (but on form shouldn’t). They lack the pace (demonstrated yesterday) to deal with Son & Kane. My choice (out of an average selection) would be Salisu, Lyanco & either Stephens or Valery. Bednarek is too slow and Bella-Acotcha just hasn’t shown he is good enough yet. Mara , quite rightly will start on the bench 😇

stmichael added 13:30 - Jul 31
We have made 6 signings but reality is only one is ready for the starting line up.
2 if you include the keeper although he was slow getting down to his neat post for the goal.
Where have we heard that before🤷‍♂️

Kenm added 13:44 - Jul 31
at Spurs !, if our back line up are taken apart by Kane and Son our season will start to look dire ?, Leeds will look at the spurs match to see were they can do the same ?, unless Ralph makes any changes our season will look bad ?, Ralph should talk to the England manager and take notes from her !, or Saints put in a bid for her ? quickly ?

Block8 added 20:44 - Jul 31
Decent goal from Aribo, their first goal had a large slice of luck but their second was some class passing. Capoue controlled CM for the first half but we regained some control in the second and had a few chances.
Realistically this set up will be punished a Tottenham and I would like us to play with a defensive back four and have Salisu & Kotchap in the middle of that. Three central midfielders, Lavia, JWP and Romeu with Aribo in front of them and Adams & Armstrong up front. IMO that's a good starting line up and with five subs leaves us with, not only, a strong bench but a complete change of tactics should they be required.
Just not Dejenepo at wing back please, he is not at all ready defensively, if this is how Ralph want's to go then give him five or six games at wing back in the B team and see if he improves!

darthvader added 22:31 - Jul 31
We need to f7ck Kane and son up early doors that's the only way to defend against them, you know there will be dives galore as they go down at the slightest breath on them. So make it count .

Here's hoping for a repeat of last seasons unreal match and result there, I've watched it again today we looked unplayable . Fingers crossed we can do this again

wrathoftazz added 22:58 - Jul 31
The problem I have is even though we have bought these new players in and I am excited about their FUTURE prospects, Ralph won't use them and it will be pretty much same as last season.

Che leaving doesn't bother me, he doesn't really do much any way... was it 8 goals last season? AA shouldn't have been signed for the money we spent in the 1st place! Especially for an unproven CS player in the PL.

I'm expecting to lose against Spurs but it will be how we lose that could bug me... if the same old from last season carries over, then Ralph HAS TO GO! I'm not a fan of his, I don't believe he should be anywhere near our club but hey, let's see if he's learnt from the end of last season, I doubt it but happy to be proved wrong.

GRIM added 10:58 - Aug 1
As I have said before we have a bigger squad but not a better team.
Ralph may risk a couple of new boys against Spurs & then realize that they aren't ready for Premier Lge & revert back to some of the oldies.
Aribo will def start but I'm not sure in what position.
I think that's Ralph's problem, he's got all these players & he doesn't know where to play them or what system to play.
It's no good these young lads being stars of the future because we need a few stars now & we need to win some football matches.
I just hope it's not another desperate struggle again this season but I fear it will be.

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