One of the main reasons Southampton decided to sack Claude Puel in June was because the team scored just 17 goals in 19 Premier League matches at St Mary’s last season, and the fans weren’t happy with what they were seeing.
The Frenchman certainly wasn’t helped by the fact that they his former team failed to score at all in their last five home games of the campaign, and he was duly sacked the following month.
Saints supporters would certainly have been hoping to see a new manager appointed that would bring a more attacking style of football, given they had netted 59 times in 38 fixtures under Ronald Koeman in 2016/17.
The loss of Graziano Pelle and Sadio Mane in the same summer Puel was brought in certainly didn’t help, given they had 22 of those 59 goals between them, and 29 in total in all competitions the previous year.
The arrival of Mauricio Pellegrino from Alaves was underwhelming for many, given the La Liga outfit had scored just 41 goals in 38 Spanish top flight games last term.
While his opening Premier League match in charge was certainly promising despite it ending in a goalless draw against Swansea – their sixth straight top flight match at St Mary’s without scoring.
The fact that they had 29 efforts on goal was certainly impressive, but the fact that only two of those were on target was certainly less so.
The home fans were entertained though, and they would have been hopeful that it was a positive sign of what was to come in the future.
It hasn’t turned out like that though, and Southampton have also failed to score at home in defeats against Watford, Manchester United and Burnley already this season, and there appears to be no identity or particular style to their play under Pellegrino.
More often than not the players aren’t quick enough on the ball, the midfielders look for a sideways pass rather than a forward one and the attack-minded individuals have struggled to be incisive.
At home against a struggling West Bromwich Albion, Saints struggled to break down a resolute Baggies backline before a moment of magic from Sofiane Boufal saw them secure a late 1-0 victory.
The 4-1 success against Everton last month was something of an anomaly in terms of results and performances during the current campaign, as the south coast outfit took advantage of a team that was low on confidence.
With nine Premier League home matches left this season, Saints need six goals to beat last term’s dismal tally of 17, but the fact that seven of those 12 arrived in two games is certainly an interesting statistic.
The bored and frustrated St Mary’s faithful would have been fearful ahead of Arsenal’s visit last weekend, even though the Gunners have struggled on the road this term.
However, Pellegrino’s side made a strong start to the match and took the lead in the third minute through Charlie Austin, and they perhaps should have got a second in that first 15 or 20 minutes when they were dominating.
Following that initial burst, Arsene Wenger’s men quickly took charge of the game and started to dominate possession, and Saints began to drop deeper and deeper and remained tight and compact to try and prevent the north London outfit creating any chances.
It worked quite well, and it also meant that the hosts had to try and play on the counter-attack to try and find that second goal.
While defensively it was certainly uncomfortable for the home support at times such was the pressure, it is naturally exciting for a fan when your side is breaking away in a three-on-three situation for example, and Southampton certainly had their moments.
Ryan Bertrand should have scored from one counter, while they made bad decisions on other occasions when they had the opportunity to set up a goalscoring opportunity.
Players like Bertrand, Boufal, Cedric Soares, Nathan Redmond and Mario Lemina are made for the counter-attack, but they need more quick, attacking players in and around them and an upgrade on Redmond during the January transfer window if they want to use that tactic going forward.
It is something that has worked for Leicester City in the past and present, and there is no doubt that it would prove to be more entertaining for the St Mary’s faithful than seeing another sideways pass from Steven Davis, James Ward-Prowse and Oriol Romeu in the middle of the park.
If you get it right, going direct can be exciting and I’m sure the majority of Southampton supporters would rather see their team play that way than what they are seeing right now.
The 4-1 defeat at home to Leicester on Wednesday was a new low in the campaign, and while Saints may not be able to play a counter-attacking style in every home game, they could use a direct style and pace to cause teams that come to St Mary’s for a point more problems.
All they need to help them do that is a few additions in the New Year.
Over to you, Les Reed and Ralph Kreuger.
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