Southampton 2 - West Bromwich Albion 0
Our worst showing so far. We probably should have been three down at the break, but for a few athletic saves from Johnstone. Field, our one positive I thought, came on at the half and a good ten minute spell ensued. But that pressure fizzled out and the introduction of the other subs did nothing to improve us.
Sawyers and Livermore are too slow at this level and it was clear that Southampton were going to press high and hard to take advantage of it. I lost count of the times Sawyers lost possession in dangerous areas. Where was Gallagher? Is he injured? The introduction of Field, who is a journeyman, highlighted how poor the others were. He won the ball and passed it off - simple.
Do we need to sign a goalscorer? Sure, but until we sort out the defensive side of our game it won't make any difference. Southampton smothered Pereira and Diangana so that Robinson and HRK got no service. Even our threat from set plays has dried up.
Fiscal responsibility is admirable, but if we don't stay up, it's self-defeating. It's still early, but today's game has left me gloomy.
Have to agree with Oshawabaggie.
We were unable to either play through Southampton or around them with width. We seem to have similar issues to when we were last in the Premier League in that our midfield is ineffective at this level and we have no 'outballs' to play to relieve pressure.
Being realistic about our finances it is hard to say whether our greatest need is to improve the defence and midfield our in having a genuine number 9. Robinson played very well against Chelsea but this week he was left isolated by the lack of any genuine service to work with.
We looked like a Championship side today. The other thing for me is that with no supporters in the grounds, I think this hurts the smaller 'lower level' teams more as home advantage, I would argue is even more important. Obviously we were playing away today!!
I think if we had played until 5pm we wouldn't have scored. The best team won, no argument about that. I hope that the international break can revive our fortunes.
Well that was just top to bottom a bloody terrible let down. I thought the manager, coaches and players all had a bit of a shocker.
A surprise inclusion of Edwards and a change of system that didn’t include the extra midfielder we’ve been crying out for looked bold or niaive depending on your viewpoint.
The bench also looked weak. No Gallagher, Phillips, Hegazi, Grosicki. Maybe things going on behind the scenes or us trying to ship players out but I’d rather we have the best players in the squad available.
We could’ve been down after 5 minutes - opened up too easily with SJ making a good stop. It didn’t get any better and in the opening 30 we could’ve been 3 down. Both full backs vulnerable defensively, midfield outnumbered but not tracking runners, wingers neither tracking runners or holding the ball to get us out. SJ made some remarkable saves.
Somehow we got through it all without conceding before, at a terrible time again, when the chance of a break was on Diagana made a terrible decision instead of laying it wide and with everyone out of position we were routinely punished.
Field for Edwards half time was understandable and we began the second half better, at least able to get the ball in their half.
I wouldn’t say we deserved anything overall but Semi and Bartley both failed to make anything from set plays and the handball rule again seemed to change to whichever version isn’t in our favour to deny us a penalty that might have been given in any ‘normal’ season.
But as Grady and Pereria were getting into the game Bilic made 2 changes too early in my opinion - HRK for Robinson (who I think deserved another 15 now he wasn’t totally isolated) and then Sawyers (who’d been moved up to the 10 role) for Krovi. This was understandable as Sawyers wasn’t at the races but we switched to 4-3-3 and it derailed any momentum we had.
Before we could find our feet another Southampton runner went totally untracked in the gap between our fullback and centre half and was smashed home on the volley by Southampton’s holding midfielder, vaguely tracked for some reason by our left forward. Game over.
There was little point in even playing the last 25 minutes and, as organised and well coached as Southampton were, we looked miles away from being good enough against a team we need to take points off to have any hope.
4 games in and other than our front 3 I don’t think any player could argue if they are dropped. Hegazi, Gibbs, Ivanovic and Gallagher should probably all start our next game and I think would improve us, and I’m pretty sure we’ll have a new striker although the pedigree could be anything with our owners - who knows?
Saints 2 v Championship Standard Squad 0
Up to now the riposte to the charge that this is a Championship Standard Squad at best, is that we have only played Top 6 teams.
Today destroyed that myth.
But once again as a reminder to the Deluded;
Unfortunately this is our weakest squad in the Premier League since 2002. Not even sure if we will even get 20 points this year.
There's a hole in the middle where our playmaker used to be
Really hard to work out what's going on from watching this one. Seems to be pretty clear that Bilic is in awe of every side in the division and will afford them every respect he can when he comes to laying out a game plan for us.
Once again, and whether you think it's 541 or 343, the holes remain the same, we saw the lone forward, more often that not a half-pitch width's away from our two most (only?) creative players, and behind them, that massive gulf in the middle of the attacking third, all the way back to those two holding midfield players.
Livermore we know, can always be relied upon to do a good job going around imposing himself on the game by giving away some "enforcer-style" fouls but what have we, or rather these tactics done to Sawyers? When he's had a player ahead of him, in the middle of the park, he would rarely get caught in possession even though, yes, some of the flicked one-touch passes didn't come off, but against Soton he no longer appears to know what he should do. At one point Johnstone even threw the ball to him when he had two players up his arse - what's he supposed to do? He tried to do something - it didn't come off - and he head dropped again. It's all about confidence, and our current tactics don't appear to be giving the team any. Robinson up front another case in point: what did he have to work with.
More to the point, it's not even clear that the three centre-back deferential plan is making us look any more solid. The Albion fan I was watching the game with and I had just been sharing our slight worries about the keeper when he pulled off two magnificent saves after our defence had once again afforded the opposition all the time they needed to get a shot off, and from inside the box too? There's little point stacking the backline with players if they just stand and watch the opposition move around them.
The opening goal, when it finally came, and it felt as though it was always coming, just added weight to the calls to give up on three at the back. There were three defenders between the Soton player at the top the box and the goal and he was still allowed get a shot off and through those three past a despairing dive from Johnstone.
There was a very cruel irony in the way that Romeu effected his strike for the goal that killed the game in that, had our own defenders, in attacking some very decent deliveries into the box which had given just the keeper to beat, gone with a diving header instead of trying to get the legs up to the ball, we might have scored two.
The odd wasted set piece aside though, yes there some slight changes in the formation at times but none of them ever saw an identifiable playmaker or link-man who might help get Robinson into the game, and of course, even he was swapped out for HRK, not only did you feel sorry for the former but, were the latter to hold up the ball, who would be in behind him for the lay-off? No-one: not unless he "laid it off" all the way back to the holding players.
Only real positive: Field getting a game, not that he's the answer to the lack of creativity through the middle.
Playing without a playmaker or link-man in centre-mid isn't working, Slaven. Three at the back isn't working either, Slaven. Not only that, the three you're deploying at the back don't seem to be able to defend. Hegazi perhaps? And whilst you are at it: Phillips? Grosicki?
All text, pictures and graphics are copyright of BOING unless otherwise stated