Southampton lost in the second round of the Carabao Cup against Championship opposition, Wolverhampton Wanderers.
Not much to excite. At all. A very lacklustre performance by Saints and one that deserved to see us lose. Watching this match was a little throw back to the Southampton of Claude Puel. Boring, slow and no penetration.
The first talking point was the formation. Mauricio Pellegrino had set his men up with three central defenders; Stephens and Yoshida started as usual and a competative debut was handed to young Pole, Jan Bednarek. We were yet to see a 3 at the back formation under Pellegrino and I expect tonight is the last time we will see it for a while. This was a stronger team than I and I’m sure many others were expecting. Charlie Austin, James Ward-Prowse, Oriol Romeu and Dušan Tadić all started tonight’s game.
Wolves were the better team from the off, with striker Nouha Dicko having a couple of good chances to score early on. Fortunately for Saints, he failed to keep his composure on both attempts. The feeling early on was that this could turn out to be a very stressful match to watch.
This was certainly not a half to remember. Time and time again, Saints would find themselves around the edge of the Wolves box not being able to find a clear path through to goal. Wolves got their midfield back quickly, shutting off all chance of finding a way through, down the middle. Saints had more luck down the flanks, with Sofiane Boufal and Sam McQueen linking up well to work the cross, but no delivery could find the head of Charlie Austin; a tough task when taking his and the height of the two Wolves centre backs into account.
Much like under Claude Puel, the Saints defence were slow to clear their lines, trying to play out from the back when a hoofed clearance would be far more appropriate. This almost cost Saints, as Jérémy Pied was muscled off the ball far too easily, but Nouha Dicko couldn’t keep his balance as the cross hit his standing foot and rolled out for a goal kick.
The best piece of pressure came late in the half. James Ward-Prowse’s free kick found the head of Jan Bednarek, whose header forced a save from Wolves goalkeeper Norris. The move ended with Jérémy Pied shooting on the volley but blazing his shot wide of the far post. Moments later, the ball fell to an unmarked Dušan Tadić in the box, only for him to fluff his lines and miss the target. Two good chances missed for Saints.
The second half was no better for Southampton. The build up play was far too slow and there was no end product to at all. When players finally got forward, the ball was given away far too easily on countless occasions and you always felt that Wolves were capable of nicking a goal on a counter attack.
It was Wolves who got the opening goal of the game. Danny Batth got on the end of a corner, beating Jack Stephens far too easily, to see his ball bounce over the line for 1-0 to the away side, 67 minutes into the game.
There were only a few noteworthy chances for Saints in the second half. Dušan Tadić was played in behind, but failed to get the ball under control, so couldn’t take advantage. Sam McQueen’s cross from the byline was deflected onto the top of the crossbar. Finally, Nathan Redmond shot low into the side netting from the edge of the box.
Wolves then punished Southampton on the counter, three minutes from the 90. David Edwards was allowed to run straight down the middle of the pitch with no real pressure and play a ball through to Donovan Wilson who finished low past Fraser Forster to seal the win.
What Saints missed tonight was some real attacking flair. Sofiane Boufal showed glimpses of brilliance in the first half, but was far from outstanding on the whole, given his second half performance. Before the match, I would’ve said I’d like to see him start on Saturday, but now my mind has been completely changed. This problem about attacking flair hasn’t just been present for this game. It’s been there for the two league games as well. I still think someone needs to be brought in, who brings something else. Someone who will guarantee to create multiple good chances every game and cause the defence problems. That’s why I would’ve loved to have Gylfi Sigurðsson, but we wouldn’t have been willing to pay his fee. The front line was too static to cause any problems so Saints were forced to use the wings, but that was never going to work as the two Wolves centre backs were both giants. Saints’ downfall was more so their own doing than anything else, but a good defensive set up from Wolves made it difficult. Had chances been taken, this could’ve been a very different scoreline.