Southampton were well beaten 0-2 at home by Watford this weekend. Here are my thoughts on the defeat.
Dismal, shocking, atrocious. I could go on. This was by far the worst performance of the season and despite it still being early doors, it’s hard to imagine there being another one of such a low standard. Straight from the off, Watford looked more dangerous. Marco Silva’s side showed far more desire than Saints did.
Mauricio Pellegrino handed a first league start of the season to Sofiane Boufal and brought in James Ward-Prowse for Mario Lemina, thus meaning Steven Davis dropped back and sat alongside Oriol Romeu. I was pleased to see Boufal start as I feel he deserved it. Not so much because of his brilliance in former matches, but because of the woeful performances from our other attacking midfielders. Wesley Hoedt also made his debut, starting alongside Jack Stephens in defence.
Tactically, Pellegrino didn’t get it right. All game, balls were lumped up to the strikers in an attempt to create something. This was never going to work when you take into consideration the build of the Southampton strikers and the Watford defenders. Manolo Gabbiadini, who started up top for Saints, stands at 6’1, the same height as Christian Kabasele, but when battling in the air, there was no contest as the strength of the Watford man overruled that of Gabbiadini. Kabasele’s defensive partner, Younes Kaboul, has a height of 6’4, so again no competition there.
Saints were also dwarfed in midfield, with Doucouré and Chalobah towering over Steven Davis and James Ward-Prowse. The only hope of winning anything in the middle of the park was through Oriol Romeu, but he can’t be there every time. Watford controlled the midfield all throughout the game. Marco Silva got his tactics spot on. The Hornets’ midfield was superb, winning almost every first and second ball. So with the midfield battle lost, the only way to get through would be to miss out the midfield. Go route one. This was stopped by the excellent Kabasele and Kaboul. Mauricio Pellegrino was totally outclassed tactics-wise.
It looks to be the same old problems for Southampton – a lack of attacking threat. When they did get the chance to attack the Watford goal, there was no real plan. The ball would get into the final third and no one in a red and white shirt would have a clue what they were doing. You knew it was bad when fans ironically cheered and clapped as Cedric pulled the trigger from range to give Saints their only shot on target of the game. This was even enough to get some fans on their feet; if they were still inside the ground, that is. No Saints played seemed to know what to do when the ball got forward. This was extremely obvious. Nobody made the right run, players got in each other’s way and none of our crosses came close to the men in the box. This is the same issue as under Claude Puel. The same problem for different managers makes you think whether it is really a problem with the players.
Manolo Gabbiadini seems to spend all game making runs in behind the defense, but is constantly ignored by his colleagues. Charlie Austin scored 18 goals in the Premier League for QPR once upon a time, so we know he can score. Both are good strikers but neither seem to fit the system being played. What is missing is a bit of height up front; someone who can win balls in the air and use their strength. We have always played with a target man. Graziano Pellè and Rickie Lambert before him, were great assets to the team. I feel we miss someone like that.
As for our attacking players, Tadić has lost his mojo since losing his Graziano, Nathan Redmond hasn’t got enough end product and the same can be said for Sofiane Boufal, who constantly underperforms. A bit of raw pace wouldn’t go amiss.
The two Watford goals were well taken. Both of them struck low into the corner, but you can’t help but feel that Forster could do better. The brilliant goalkeeper we once had under Koeman, has now become a liability in the eyes of many.
It was a real shame to hear and see so many people booing at the end of each half. There is no point turning up to the match if you are going to sit there and not support the players. I understand it is frustrating to watch, but booing your own team 5 games into the season isn’t acceptable at all.
There was no passion from anyone in a Saints shirt. No one wanted it nearly as much as the Watford players did. This is a game to forget about hastily. Judging by this performance, Mauricio Pellegrino still has quite a bit of work to do ahead of Crystal Palace next Saturday.