Southampton: Letting Puncheon & Mayuka Go Was A Big Mistake
After last season, when the Saints built up a reputation of being frail at the back but very dangerous going forward, this year has almost seen a complete shift with the back four looking much more solid, and the frontline so far being wasteful and, at times, lacking the invention required to break a certain style of play down. This will certainly be the case this weekend against the Hammers. As with most Sam Allardyce teams, West Ham do not play a particularly pretty style of football, particularly away from home, but they can be mightily effective. Defensively they won’t give you much space, and you have to earn the chance to score against them. These sorts of matches have proved the hardest for Saints under Pochettino. We really struggle to break down teams who sit back against us, as was seen against Sunderland last time out at St. Mary’s and we need to remain patient, and incisive when the chances do come.
With the transfer window closed, I feel that we are now missing a much needed plan B. Letting Puncheon and Mayuka go has taken a lot of pace out of the team, and unless Lloyd Isgrove makes a surprising step up to be heavily involved in the first team this year, it leaves us without an out and out winger to give us a different option when we are unable to break teams down. This is even more surprising when you look at Rickie Lambert in the centre of attack. A striker who can profit from wing play more than most in the division with his stunning aerial ability, Lambert will surely not get the opportunity to test West Ham in the air and show that strength.
That having been said, when Saints have been good under Pochettino, they have been very good. His style of play is generally very good on the eye, and more importantly, can be highly effective when the players are in-sync. This is very much the sort of game that we should be looking to win, and one that I think we are more than capable of doing. To accomplish this, I think we have to score the first goal. We can’t give West Ham something to hold on to, as this will allow them to pull most of their defence deeper and will present very few spaces for us to exploit in their defence. We saw how difficult that can be against Sunderland and we can’t let it happen again.
Crucial to our hopes of breaking them down will be the creative lynchpins of the team, Lallana, Lambert, and hopefully, Osvaldo. Osvaldo clearly has that something special, and will be desperate to show this in what should be first start at St. Mary’s. If anyone is likely to create a goal from nowhere, it should be him. Lallana has looked like a new player in the first few games of this season after a difficult season last year, and against Norwich looked the player most likely to make something happen before he was taken off at 0-0 with half an hour to go. Finally, Rickie Lambert; what more can be said about the player, superb against Moldova for England, setting up Danny Welbeck with two wonderful assists, and then effective in a difficult game for him against Ukraine where the service was limited at best. Nonetheless he will be brimming with confidence, and I certainly wouldn’t put it past him to score yet another crucial goal on Sunday.
At least I hope he will anyway...