Good morning to one and all. Playing Southampton the other day was a strange one. We were very much like a diabolical sandwich. Bear with me. So, the one slice of bread was outstanding (the opening 10/15 minutes) and as the story goes, so was the other slice of bread (the last 10/15 minutes). The problem with this particular sandwich was the awful filling in between. I’d imagine it to be a tuna & mayonnaise sandwich and that is making my stomach queasy just thinking about it. If, for some reason unknown to man, you are a fan of a tuna & mayonnaise sandwich, can you please stop reading? We don’t need your kind of people on this site. I’m joking, of course (I’m not).
Apologies to those of you that are eating while envisaging that sandwich, but that’s the way this article is going to go, so buckle up. Much like a number of our home victories early last season, Millwall and Barnsley to name two, it was real ‘champion-esque’ performance, you know the type, don’t you? One where you have to really dig in and on the whole, you probably don’t deserve to win. I say that very much in the knowledge that Rui didn’t really have a lot to do as he was relatively comfortable throughout the game. The same can’t be said about his opposite number, Alex McCarthy. With us at 1-0, he pulled off a sub-human save to keep Jimenez’ header out, I’m still trying to figure it out.
Nuno Is All We Need!
Since being told about a Nuno song to the tune of One Kiss, it’s been firmly lodged in my head. Nuno is all we need, To get Europa League, Possibilities, We’ll soon be Champions League. Now, the problem with repeating something over and over again is that you may well start to actually believe it and that’s the stage I’m at now. I think we finish in the European places. Naturally, if a key player, ie Neves gets injured, it will be a different story, however, it’s nice to dream. Anyway, to the game itself.
For the seventh consecutive game, we named the same starting XI. There was, one ever so slight change made to the eighteen. Cavaleiro was back! I’m not going to harp on too much about Cavaleiro’s cameo as Sylvie has covered it here, you should read it, it’s pretty damn good. As I mentioned in the preview for this, I wasn’t sure which way Hughes was going to go, whether he was going to try and pack the midfield OR go with two up tp. He chose the latter. As you can see from their average positions below, it sort of ended up as 4-2-4 at times.
The Wing Backs Win It
Despite Redmond, Ings, Austin & Elyounoussi (22, 9, 10 & 11) all being rather advanced, they’re all pretty much playing in the same area, down the middle. That’s made all the more bizarre when you consider we are at our weakest in the wide areas due to Doherty’s (2) and Jonny’s (19) tendency to bomb forward. In fact, the average positions suggest that Southampton should have had a number of 4 vs 3 situations, but the sheer work rate of Doherty and Jonny prevented this from happening.
In the end, after biding our time, we finally made the breakthrough. Traore’s pace off the bench was once again the difference and he actually made the right decision with the ball! Maybe Nuno is finally getting through to him. He had to wait before putting the ball into Jimenez, who laid it off for Cavaleiro and that was 1-0. It was incredibly similar to Moutinho’s goal at Old Trafford, let’s keep doing it, it’s clearly working.
It Can’t Be All Positive…
Jonny and Doherty combined for goal number two with a goal that defines Nuno’s tenure perfectly. Doherty, the right wing-back, played the ball into the box, where the left-wing back, Jonny finished through McCarthy’s legs after taking what seemed to be a heavy first touch. McCarthy had thwarted him earlier in the game, so maybe he wanted to get closer so the keeper didn’t have a chance.
The one from just inside the area is the one from the first half, the goal is just inside the six-yard box. Smashing stuff. With all this positivity, I feel it’s only fair to bring some negativity to the fold as I feel like I would be doing you a disservice otherwise. At the moment, we are very lopsided in the way we attack. Don’t get me wrong, while it’s working, it’s not an issue. Nevertheless, what about when it doesn’t?
Pass The Ball To The Left Hand Side
Our last five goals in the Premier League have all come from the right side. It’s evident that we favour attacking that side because Doherty is naturally right-footed as is Costa who normally plays in front of him. On the opposite flank, Jonny is right-footed and Jota has a tendency to cut inside. Potentially, it would be different if Cavaleiro started on the left and maybe we will see that sooner than we think. As I said, it’s not a problem yet. Yet being the operative word. You do have to wonder what would’ve happened if we’d signed Zinchenko. To be fair, he’d probably find himself in the same situation as Dendoncker where he can’t get a look in. It’s all ifs, buts and maybes, isn’t it? Moving on…
Young Guns Still Flying High
Another game, another win for the U23s as they remain top of the league with a win over Middlesbrough, Max Kilman and Pedro Goncalves getting the goals. This was preceded by a demolition job of Sunderland, 7-0 to be exact. To say things are looking up for the U23s would be a massive understatement. Funny isn’t it, the U23 side implement Nuno’s way of thinking and they fly! Who would’ve thought it?
Palace away next. It’s all about keeping Zaha quiet and I’ll be back later in the week to preview that. In summary, we’ve kept Aguero, Lukaku, Sterling, Sanchez, so on and so forth quiet. How difficult can it be? We’ll see.
Until the next time.