Southampton v West Brom
St.Mary’s, Saturday 16th January 2016
> Brace of Goals from Ward-Prowse
> Saints back up to 10th in the League
Back to 3-5-2 we used against Watford. West Brom is parking the bus to start the match. Saints start off pressing and looking solid. A bit surprised to not see Tadić in the starting XI, but given the formation, perhaps wide delivery to the middle isn't going to come from a midfielder.
Somewhat disappointed that BigVic gets put right back in. Ron dropped both Clasie 'n Romeu (can claim fitness?), so at least a wholesale change in the center triangle might avoid fewer calls for dropping the very successful pairing from earlier in the week.
At 3' we're seeing the same Mané we saw against Watford. Impossible to contain and driving the defense mad. Just outside the box on the left hand side, Dawson makes a weak attempt at a tackle and gives Mané an ankle full of boot. Freekick is placed and Bertrand and JWP line up for it. Given the spot, it seems perfect for JWP and I'm thinking... here would be a great opportunity to prove you're a freekick specialist, instead of never producing from the spot outside of the U21's, but still trying to claim the title.
GOAL! JWP bends a beauty in past a courtesy dive from Myhill. The strike we've been waiting years for. Skims past the bar and into the net. JWP looks ready to cry and the whole side catches a lift off the wind in JWP's sails to finally deliver from the spot.
The early goal was a problem against Hammers but there's a feeling tonight that it won't repeat. I can't explain it, I just feel like JWP getting that spot goal is going to lift the whole squad like few things could.
I don't think this is the same formation we were seeing Caulker boot long balls from before. That was a 5-3-2, but this 3-5-2 releases Cédric and Targett up front where they excel, i.e. not having to play defense. As defenders, that should probably be slightly worrying, but hey 3 points will make everything seem gilded. Having Bertrand in the third CB position makes far more sense than Yoshida, as he has better passing vision down the field and marking an attacker that gets through the DMF and leaving Fonte 'n VVD to focus on clearing deep balls, tough marking of Anichibe and making sure Fraser could have a tea party and go undisturbed.
Saints are playing with great pace and intent. The kind of thing that happens when you're pressing your opponents instead of yourself. Impressed with BigVic so far. Definitely seems he is focused on playing within himself. He takes a couple of shots at the long lead pass to no avail. We know you want to show us you can pass like Schneiderlin, you can't Vic, just go back to running over people and avoid cards. Easily the most 'Cork-esque' showing I've seen from Vic. In the middle of the pitch he's consistently dribbling up to pressure then turning and passing behind. Letting the defense get themselves out of position and trusting his teammates, rather than trying to just bull his way through the entire West Brom bus.
That said, West Brom start trying to push forward a bit more, but it's still half hearted as only really Berahino and Anichibe are forward. They put up a few good half chances and earn a corner. Gardiner does well to get his head on it, but pushes it just wide hitting the side netting. West Brom are trying to respond, but I think Ronald's tactics are suffocating them. They can't counter against the three at the back and they can't hold possession in Midfield against Vic 'n JWP/Davis. Really looks like it'll take something special for the Baggies to get back in this one.
In the 22', some great counter play, Targett hits Long with a great forward pass, plays it back to Victor who immediately gifts it back to West Brom. I'm back to thinking BigVic is just not going to cut the mustard and I wish we could just trick him into thinking we're playing Arsenal every week.
26th minute we see a brilliant buildup between Cédric and Davis lead to a solid half chance. Somehow Mané gets a head on it and earns a corner.
I'm noticing that everytime I see BigVic I'm annoyed that he's not the player he seems like he could be. Maybe this is part of the problem. Maybe Ronald as a world class defender can see what Vic is capable of, but can't see how to get BigVic to utilize his skills. It reminds me of my high school basketball coach who was always exclaiming, "I can see it, why can't you just do it..." it was defeating and I had the impression my coach didn't believe in me and wished he could just replace me with himself... No real justification for this feeling, just curious if maybe that doesn't sometimes come across in moments of frustration from Ronald.
30th minute, West Brom is finally seeing the ball into the Saints third occasionally, as opposed to not even passing the halfway line. Still only up 1-0 I'm slightly nervous given our penchant for a bad defensive miscue or silly mistake costing us.
I like this Gardiner kid for the baggies, he's nasty and energetic. He's the only West Brom player that seems to want to leave everything on the field. And not surprisingly has had the best half chances for West Brom thus far.
THERE'S ONLY ONE MATTY TARGETT! 33rd minute: Long plays a beautiful ball into the box, Matty chases it down and jumps to put his butt and his leg in front of the defender who can't avoid taking him to ground. Almost unbelievably (given how penalties seem to be sparsely called) the Ref points to the spot.
James Ward Prowse steps up and coolly sends Myhill the wrong way, while depositing a low and perfectly placed penalty into the bottom right hand corner. Saints up 2-0 and now I'm feeling more secure. I could see West Brom equalizing off 1-0, but nothing they've done so far this match gives any indication that they're up for it. They have been a step slow and a yard off the whole match. Let's hope it stays that way.
I can see the headlines already. "Saints win!... Liverpool tables an offer for James Ward Prowse."
Long and Mane are developing a beautiful relationship. They're reading each other, leading each other, and it's causing the entire West Brom side nightmares. We look more like afrikanized bees buzzing in the Baggies final third, than Saints come to answer any prayers. Another great buildup from Long and Mane leads to Targett having a great shot on goal. A low screamer from wide right that is destined for the inside side netting but is cleared off the line by a West Brom defender. That's the save of the match and the only thing keeping West Brom from wanting to get to load up their actual bus and head home. I do wish we could've gotten our apparently maligned academy 3 goals in a match though. But there's few things better than seeing JWP and Targett play with confidence. They're both all smiles and have a swagger of invincibility around them.
38th minute: Seems like we're just playing keep away on the playground. Baggies have to be getting frustrated just chasing Saints players as they move up, then push the ball back deep. I'm not sure of the stats, but I believe I heard at one point in the 1st half we were somewhere near 80% of possession. Just glad we didn't pull an Arsenal and have that kind of possession with nothing to show for it.
Arguing with the announcer about how little Fraser has had to do. His mere presence emits calm onto the defense. Clearly there's trust there that is lacking with Stekasaurus (can we send him back to Fulham now, I never liked his fancy jeans he showed up to St. Mary's in when he was signed so I'm ready for the poseur 'has been' to kick rocks).
Saints up 2 nil at the break off two goals from JWP. Not loving seeing Dušan and Pellè sitting next to each other on the bench... Let's hope Pellè isn't getting in his ear about moving. We keep getting shots of Austin in the box, who looks a bit like a metrosexual neo-nazi with that haircut and outfit. But no one's paying me to analyze anything off the pitch so ... well no one's paying me regardless, so I'll just leave it in.
West Brom starts the 2nd half like they probably should've started the match. They earn a corner and get a good ball in, but Fraser calmly punches it out. Long and Mané continue to run circles around the defense. Everyone on the team playing with far more confidence, choosing and acting rather than waiting and panicking. Long/Mané are developing a very nice partnership up front, as they have similar skillsets. I think they naturally know how to move and set each other up. Maybe this is why Pellè and Long never really gelled, as they simply see the gameplay differently and Pellè was regularly on a different page from the other attackers.
62nd minute, Mané makes way for Tadić. No change in formation just Dušan slotting in behind Long and picking up where Mané left off. Almost immediately getting the ball at his feet and continuing to wreak havoc on the West Brom defense.
67th minute. Best chance of the game from West Brom. Anichebe holds up the ball, navigates the defense, turns and takes a half volley solidly, but sadly for Baggies fans, he's a few yards wide of the mark. That said, it's still easily the best chance West Brom have had all game. Key moment here, West Brom seem to be playing with better organization and punch and Saints must keep the backdoor shut and see this one through.
Tadić and Long pickup where Mané left off. Lots of give 'n goes and linkup play. Seems like only a matter of time before the net flutters from a ball off a Saint soon. As if on cue, Long plays Davis in, who splits 2 Baggie defenders with a gorgeously weighted through ball for a crossing Tadić. Somewhat surprisingly, he gets in one touch just left of the 6 yard box and from a near impossible angle, pushes the ball across the goal face and into the opposite corner. The kind of goal that confidence and focus are required for. Tadic could've easily taken a heavy touch and gotten himself in an even worse angle, or tried to do too much and lost possession. He makes the right quick decision and puts the ball in a great spot and is rewarded. 3-0 saints in the 72nd minute and I stopped watching. I kid, I kid. But I could've, West Brom was never really up for it today and the scoresheet reflects that. How scary is this team if we have multiple scoring partnerships and we can leave a guy like Tadić on the bench to come in and look like he's got Mané's speed when the defense has been out there for an hour already.
75th minute. Really true what Ronald says about playing with confidence and winning bringing energy. Baggies can barely get the ball past the first presser half the time. Have watched numerous passes deflect off the pressing defender right in front of them. Apparently we can press hard all game, and even after a match less then 3 days prior. Hmm.
77th minute. Romeu comes on and has a brilliant piece of defense as he sneaks past the West Brom midfielder, then sniggles the back pass into his feet. Had we been pressing at that point at all, we could've easily had a fourth. More brilliant play from Alfa and the ability to come on warm, but not too excited I think benefits him. He's the kind of player that has to play within himself and we're starting to see that that's still pretty darn good. I think he has less to prove now, so that should benefit him regardless of how he's used.
80th minute. Li'l give and go with Alfa 'n Tadić and the fake by Tadić is something I can hear Tony Pulis half yelling, half laughing, as he watches his players dive all over the place when the ball hasn't moved. Tadić with confidence like this, against a squad like West Brom is just fun to watch, it's like watching a man amongst boys. Now, if we can see that confidence when a big club comes through on the regular... we'll be reading articles about Dušan getting bought as well.
Long goes down after getting kicked and RK looks to be putting on Pellè, but pulls him back when Long gets up. I wonder if part of this is Pellè's insistence to play hurt last season which hurt both his scoring and his club. Maybe Ronald is being extra careful where he has the space to. Not to mention, I would hope this lights a spark under Pellè. If he wants that big move, he's not going to get it without more production and maybe RK will just keep him on lockdown 'til February and keep him here. I do not believe Austin is a sign that Pellè is out. We needed more coverage at CF... that's what Austin provides. His job will be on the bench and to press the defenders on the training ground. We can't sell our best CF just because we brought in a cheaper one.
83rd minute. Good on West Brom. Still playing and earn a corner. A good ball in by (again) Gardiner (really starting to like this kid), finds it's way right in front of net and somehow between the head of Fonte and the attacking Baggie. Fraser puts a fist to it and clears it cleanly with a punch. Well done Forster.
Martina on as an afterthought. Slightly surprised to not see Pellè get a few minutes in on the end, but maybe there's no need to cater to your first choice (but is that still solid with how well Shlong's been playing?) for a few minutes of game time. I would be surprised if we don't see Pellè against United and not surprised if we see Shlong against Arse.
2nd half play from Big Vic must be addressed how solid and calm he played. He's stopped his poor Schneiderlin impressions. He went to ground to push the ball off Berahino who left just enough of it free. I hope Ronald makes clear to him that he can make those kinds of plays in the second half, if he plays with discipline in the first, rather than getting sent off and having to make social media posts to the fans, that already think you're at least half a sham.
Great match from Saints, we played football, we pressed, we moved, we drove the bus that West Brom tried to park on us. Good play all around, but special nods to Long (amazing movement and delivery all match), Davis (his pressing, positioning, and passing were all on fine display today), and clearly JWP making steps to cement the image he strongly holds for U21s to transitioning to the Premiership. 6 points in 4 days, wish we could just have another match around the corner with these run outs.
02 Soares (Martina - 84' )
17 van Dijk
08 Davis (Romeu - 73' )
10 Mané (Tadic - 63' )
West Bromwich Albion
03 Olsson (Rondón - 45' )
29 Sessegnon (Berahino - 63' )
24 Fletcher (Brunt - 45' )
- Ward-Prowse 5′, 35′ (pen)
- Tadić 72′
West Brom 0
FT 90 +4
Referee : Martin Atkinson
Attendance : 29,622
- Southampton 56%
- West Bromwich Albion 44%
- Southampton 9
- West Bromwich Albion 9
- Southampton 5
- West Bromwich Albion 0
- Southampton 1
- West Bromwich Albion 3
- Southampton 10
- West Bromwich Albion 11