Southampton v Burnley
Saturday, 4th November 2017
IBO Reporter : channonite
This game tested my patience with my fellow Saints fans. I saw a match in which my team changed their tactics and really went for it. If it were not for the Burnley reserve keeper having a blinder of a game, the win would have surely been Saints'. Unfortunately, almost in the dying moments of the game, Sam Vokes scored his customary goal. It was a hammer blow. Enough to snatch the game win. It was a defeat that the team didn't really deserve, but to hear the boos ring out at the final whistle and the moaning on the walk away from the ground, you would be forgiven for thinking Saints had been appalling. They most definitely were not.
Maybe I am being a bit harsh on my fellow fans, as it the reaction was probably a culmination of the frustration towards the whole season, rather than just the one game. The defeat, unjust as it was, seemed inevitable really.
All the talk of changing the manager put me in mind of both Sunderland and Aston Villa changing the manager on a regular basis. On top of which, remember how we changed managers just before Saints went into administration in 2009? That worked out well didn't it? The law of diminishing returns applies.
I left completing the match report to see what happened and to avoid a knee-jerk reaction. I am convinced the club will not fire Mauricio Pellegrino and I am flying in the face of popular opinion by saying that I don't believe they should do. I was one of those who was delighted that the club seemingly put down a marker, by refusing to sell any of the highly sought after players in the summer. All that seemed to achieve was to create a somewhat toxic atmosphere around the club. I have come to accept that this might have not been terribly beneficial in the short term.
We now seem to have talented players on the books, but seem completely bereft of an identity, or a particular style of play. If you have to ask 'where did it all start to go wrong?', I would point to not actually replacing either Mané, or Pellè. Redmond and Austin are most certainly not that. The manager is almost incidental. We are dealing with the end result of Puel's inability to communicate with his players and the resulting malaise crippled the team from February onwards.
This season we do seem to have improved the defence, with Hoedt and the midfield, with the superb Lemina, but we still seem unable to provide any sort of service to Gabbiadini up at the sharp end. It breaks my heart to see him, game after game, dropping deeper and deeper, just to get the ball.
Anyway, to the game itself.
Lemina was missing through injury, although we are told that he will be back for the Liverpool away game, after the international break. The team had a surprise, in that Yoshida was preferred to Hoedt. Davis replaced Lemina in the middle and Boufal seemed initially to be playing in the hole behind Gabbiadini. While I was pleased to see Boufal again, the weak spot had not been addressed, with Tadić and Redmond in the wide positions. Let's just gloss over the goalkeeper issue for now....
After a botched minutes silence for Armistice Day and All Saints Day, the crowd choosing to applaud instead, following the bugler playing the Last Post (Sometimes I despair, modern day Britons seem to have the attention span of a gnat!), Saints kicked of towards the Northam End. Straightaway, it was clear that the players were up for this and started to put Burnley under pressure. The difference this time, was that they started to get behind the defenders and a couple of times made openings that led to decent chances for both Boufal and Redmond, who were denied each time by the excellent Pope in the Burnley goal. Later in the game, as a Yoshida (yes!) 25 yard pile-driver almost crept in, only for Pope to appear from nowhere to tip the shot over, the thought crossed my mind that we might come to regret all these missed chances.
Anyway, half-time arrived and although the game was still 0-0, Saints had been by far the better team and on another day would have been 2-0 up. What is more the team had been playing well.
The second half started as the first ended, with Saints on top, but unable to get that all important first goal. The turning point came midway through the second half when Burnley manager, Sean Dyche hauled off Hendrick and Wood, replacing them with Barnes and ..... Sam Vokes. There was a general muttering from those around me that Vokes was bound to score.
The subs had an immediate effect and the balance of play started to turn in favour of Dyche's men.
Although Austin came on for Gabbiadini, it had little, or no effect, other than to make our forward play even more pedestrian. That was evened up a bit ten minutes later, when Long replaced Tadić.
Saints were already chasing their own tails when in a rare break, Gudmundsson crossed the ball and the canny Vokes had managed to get in front of Yoshida. He headed the ball down, with the ball bouncing past the wrong footed Forster. One chance, one goal, that was all Burnley needed.
It seemed like a punch in the solar-plexus and Saints just didn't have it in them to prise an opening from the redoubled defending of Burnley.
The final whistle came to a chorus of boos. I was gutted, but there was no way the team deserved that. They had clearly given everything. Van Dijk had even played as an auxiliary centre forward in those last few minutes. Don't tell me he is not trying.
There were clear signs of improvement in this match, but unfortunately we have a pretty awful run of fixtures coming up now and they will do very well to get more than a handful of points from the next few games. Fair, or not, Mauricio Pellegrino is definitely under pressure now. He at least has the upcoming international break to try and figure a way to get the team scoring more than the odd goal every now and then.
Man of the Match
Trying to be positive, Oriol Romeu, as he looked back to something approaching the level of performance we know that he is capable of.
A minutes silence ahead of Remembrance Sunday and for All Saints Day turned into just a moments silence when some chose to applaud instead.
17 van Dijk
11 Tadić (Long 76')
19 Boufal (Ward-Prowse 90')
20 Gabbiadini (Austin 65')
17 Berg Gudmundsson
13 Hendrick (Barnes 65')
11 Wood (Vokes 65')
- Vokes 81'
Referee : Lee Probert
- Southampton 63%
- Burnley 37%
- Southampton 13
- Burnley 5
Shots on Target
- Southampton 3
- Burnley 1
- Southampton 9
- Burnley 1
- Southampton 4
- Burnley 4