Southampton v Burnley
12th August 2018
Danny Ings runs on as substitute for the injured Armstrong to make his first appearance for Saints
IBO Reporter : channonite
Another season, another manager and several new players. As it turned out, the match ended in a goalless draw and to be honest, in the first 15 minutes I didn't think that there was a cat in Hells' chance of that happening.
First match of the season and a Sunday, 1.30pm kick off meant an early start to wade through the Southampton summer shopping traffic and the usual selection of cruise ships traffic.
We had brunch in West Quay and headed towards the ground, via the West Quay club shop, to have our free '99' ice cream, in spite of the pouring rain, courtesy of Virgin Media. Cheers guys.
Heading into the ground, we found that the team was a little different to what we were expecting. First off, Hughes was planning to play the expected 3 CBs, just not the three I thought. Yes, there was Vestergaard and Hoedt, but also Stephens. And then there appeared to be Redmond in the team, which was almost beyond comprehension, given his pre-season non-performance. It was good to see Danny Ings on the bench at least.
Burnley had only just returned to the UK, after their Europa League exploits and had made just the four changes from the team that played on Thursday.
Two things were clear from the start of the game, the first was that Burnley were match-fit, having played three competitive games already. The second thing was that Saints three central defenders were not comfortable playing in this formation and looked like an accident waiting to happen. Within the first few minutes, ex-Saint, Jack Cork had the ball in the net, but we were saved by the linesman flagging for offside. On the opposition bench, Sean Dyche was going berserk. I wonder if he has blood pressure problems?
The match was a difficult watch for us Saints fans during those first 15 minutes, or so. The team were all at sea and seemed unable to get out of their own half. Not only were the defence not functioning, but the midfield were struggling and Charlie Austin cut a lonely figure up front.
Gradually, bit by bit, Saints settled, although the three central defender concept seemed to be an alien one for the team, if not the manager. Lemina was showing signs of dominating in midfield with Stuart Armstrong making some telling runs.
At half-time I was reasonably happy, the team had not looked in any real danger, once they had weathered the initial Burnley storm, but it wasn't clear where Saints were going to conjure a goal from.
The second half started as the first had finished. It emerged after the match that Hughes had given the team five minutes of the second half to start making an impact. As it turned out, he was given the opportunity to make changes when Armstrong took a heavy knock and had to come off. As well as replacing the injured Armstrong, Hughes also substituted the clearly match rusty Cédric and replace the pair with Danny Ings and Mohamed Elyounoussi. The shape of the team was also changed, with Stephens was moving across to right wing-back and Vestergaard and Hoedt became a more conventional central pairing.
It had an immediate effect. Ings looked way better than I expected and looked very quick, decisive, holding the ball well and picking out some intelligent passes. Elyounoussi also looked good, with his direct running causing havoc in the Burnley defence. Even Redmond was by now playing like a man possessed and the three forwards were running rings around Burnley. Almost immediately it showed up how static Charlie Austin was and he was rapidly replaced by Manolo Gabbiadini.
For all the improvements in play a goal still looked elusive. Part of that was down to Burnley's new signing, Joe Hart, who looked much more like the good goalkeeper we remember from his early days and he made some good saves in that second half. In fact one surprising stat after the game was, that of all the weekends Premier League fixtures, this one had the highest number of shots on goal, with 34. Of those, Saints had 18 and Burnley 16, but only 3 of those 18 for the home side were on target.
The last twenty minutes of the game was all Saints, barring a couple of breakaways which came to nothing. When the Burnley forwards did break through the newly confident defenders, there was McCarthy to stop them. I was a bit nervous of McCarthy's sometimes tentative performances in the preceding two friendlies, but he was back to his best here, albeit his kicking was a bit wayward at times.
The three at the back formation didn't work, not because it is a bad formation, just that it needs intelligent players to implement it well and I am not convinced that Hoedt in particular, is up to it. At least Hughes showed that he is not afraid to change things if they are not working. He has a plan B, which is a step up on the tactical rigidity of the previous two managers.
The big plus for me was Danny Ings. Feck me this guy is seriously good. The starting forwards for me now just have to be Ings and Gabbiadini, The Englishman may not be the big target man a lot of fans were hoping for, but what we now have is so much more than that, we have a very quick, intelligent footballer. He could well turn out to be the catalyst for this team, as he made the players around him look good, particularly Redmond. Elyounoussi also looked the business, another quick player, with some really smart moves in his locker, he will become a fan favourite very rapidly.
The goals will come. My glass is now half full.
Danny Ings made an immediate impact
2 Cédric (Elyounoussi 56')
17 Armstrong (Ings 56')
10 Austin (Gabbiadini 72')
4 Cork - Booked 15'
7 Berg Gudmundsson (Taylor 87')
13 Hendrick (Barnes 76')
11 Wood (Vokes 73')
Sunday 12th August
Referee: Graham Scott
- Southampton 48%
- Burnley 52%
- Southampton 18
- Burnley 16
Shots on Target
- Southampton 3
- Burnley 6
- Southampton 8
- Burnley 5
- Southampton 10
- Burnley 9