Southampton: We Miss Jack Cork But Holloway's Attacking Palace Will Play Into Our Hands

The Saints have struggled against bottom half opposition lately but Ian Holloway's attack-mindedness with Palace may prove to be a good thing for us...
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The Saints have struggled against bottom half opposition lately but Ian Holloway's attack-mindedness with Palace may prove to be a good thing for us...

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To most outsiders this weekend’s game between Southampton and Palace should see a routine win for the home side, and most looking on would think that the home fans would feel very confident ahead of a match against Ian Holloway’s side who, with no offence intended, have not looked Premiership quality at the start of the season (I accept that this is true of the Saints this time last year too and so am not writing Palace off yet). However, given the results we have got against these sorts of teams at home since Pochettino came in, many fans will be feeling nervous ahead of the game, knowing that we often find it hard to break teams down when we are heavy favourites to win matches and it's for this reason that I don’t think this match will be the formality some expect it to be.

That having been said, I do think we’ll win. We have a stronger, more settled, team than Palace, we will be brimming with confidence after beating Liverpool last week, and we will come up against a manager who will never send his players out to draw a game 0-0. This last point is, in my opinion, the most significant of these points. Against Sunderland and West Ham, we came up against two managers who were both very happy to send their teams out to defend and take a point. This was particularly the case against West Ham, who only sporadically threatened to attack, and although they did indeed come close towards the end, Sam Allardyce clearly went away happy with his lot. Against Sunderland, we gave them a head start but conceding very early, which gave them something to hang on to and although we ultimately deserved our equaliser, we were almost punished for our slow start. Ian Holloway doesn’t do defence. He will send out his team with attacking purpose and intent, and will attempt to trouble what has been a very strong Saints defence so far this season. All credit must go to Holloway for that but I think that it will play into our hands. It should open up the space to attack their defence and give us opportunities to counter quickly when we win the ball. Often when teams sit back against us, we look devoid of ideas, and we play the ball around far too slowly, making it much easier to defend against us.

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I still feel personnel wise that we are missing Jack Cork; Hollowa Wanyama has come in and done a solid job, he is great in the tackle and covers the defence well, but his distribution is sloppy to say the least, and without Cork, Morgan Schneiderlin isn’t nearly as effective. With Cork in the side, I think Schneiderlin is twice the player he is without him. Similarly, Jay Rodriguez hasn’t had the best start to the season either. He will always work exceptionally hard, and give his all wherever he is asked to play, but he doesn’t look comfortable on the wing. He is much stronger in the centre, playing deep, and running at defenders, but with Osvaldo and Lambert ahead of him in the pecking order in those areas, I wonder if it’s time to bench Rodriguez, and give Gaston Ramirez the chance to really stake his claim. He must surely have realised by now that he has no guarantee of a place unless he bucks his ideas up and shows what he can do, and this motivation may be just the kick up the backside that he needs in order to start showing Saints fans his undoubted potential, and this change could be crucial to unlocking the Palace defence.

I do feel we will beat Palace tomorrow, and would be very disappointed if we didn’t, but I still feel that this issue that we have in home games against teams that we are expected to beat will remain ongoing, as Holloway’s tactics will be different to many that will come to St. Mary’s. Whilst Holloway would be happy to go away with a point from the game, his natural attacking tendencies will mean that he won’t set his team up to defend for a 0-0, and the space generated by this could, and should, lead to a Southampton win, fingers crossed!

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