Author Archives: Aidan Small

Preview: Crystal Palace vs Southampton

After a 2-0 home defeat to the Hornet’s last weekend, Mauricio Pellegrino and his squad will be looking to bounce back tomorrow as they prepare to face Crystal Palace. But whilst Palace are sitting rock bottom, having failed to score in a single fixture this season, they have a new boss who will be aiming to give them the morale boost they so desperately need. 

So to gain a better understanding of our upcoming opponents, we decided to speak to The Eagles Beak – an independent fan site that provides opinions on all things Crystal Palace.

TEB: Well, there’s only one place to start really; how was life under Frank De Boer?

Life under FdB wasn’t great. The appointment was always a bold but exciting one but the Premier League is unforgiving and has no mercy for anyone. He has learnt the hard way by trying to get a new ethos and formation implemented across the club needs time and the players to be able to play it. Perhaps he was foolish to think all players are capable and perhaps the club were foolish giving him the opportunity in the first place. Regardless, it was an experiment that has proved not worth taking. We wish FdB all the best for the future though of course.

TEB: What have you made of the Hodgson appointment?

Hodgson will see us okay I think. More of the type of manager we have employed in recent years and one that like Big Sam has a point to prove after being in charge of England. West Brom and Fulham fans talk highly of him and they are similar clubs to Palace so hopefully it will work out for us. He is from Croydon after all and it all began for him at Palace.

TEB: How did you rate your clubs dealings in the summer transfer window?

Not hugely busy but the additions on loan of Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Timothy Fosu-Mensah could both prove to be very valuable indeed. Amazed neither are considered first team players at their respective parent clubs in truth. The signing of Mamadou Sakho was the one all the fans wanted and thankfully that came through in the end. Still short in a few areas though particularly up front with Christian Benteke our only fit striker.

TEB: Who do you expect to be your key man this year?

I said it in the summer and will say it again now, Wilfried Zaha. The fact that we have missed him hugely since he was injured on opening day just supports that fact.

TEB: What would make for a successful season?

A successful season now would most definitely be staying up after the awful start we have had. We really are playing catch up but it is achievable with this bunch of players.

TEB: Which player from this Southampton side strikes the most fear into you, and who would you take to join the Eagles?

Not sure what kind of form he is in at the moment but I would have to say Nathan Redmond. I know Palace were interested in him when he was at Birmingham and he is still a player I’d like to see at the club. Quick talented winger with an eye for goal and one that should be watched carefully on Saturday.

TEB: You’re stuck on an island and the only company you can have is from a Palace player; who’s it going to be?

Great question! If you mean a current player I would have to say Mamadou Sakho. He comes across a cool fun kind of guy.

TEB: Which Palace player would you least want to get in a scrap with?

Damien Delaney or Mamadou Sakho

TEB: And finally, what do you think the score will be this Saturday?

It’s all set up to be a draw, so I will go for 1-1

Variety is the spice of life – looking at the past as a blueprint for the future

A new season, a new manager, and a new beginning; but to the frustration of every Southampton fan, our shortcomings in the final third are still there for all to see.

After a 2-0 home defeat at the hands of Marco Silva’s Watford, Southampton have now mustered up just three goals in their last last nine fixtures at St Mary’s – two of which came from the spot.

This would lead anyone to believe this is the same frontline that saw Claude Puel sacked for uninspiring football at the end of last season, and well, that’s because it is. To my disbelief, the Southampton board failed to recruit a single attacking player this summer, allowing us to march on into the new season in desperate need of reinforcements.  

In recent weeks this has left Southampton fans reminiscing about former squads (specifically Ronald Koeman’s), thinking back to days when our frontline could pose a threat against any Premier League outfit.

Now I’m not going to sit here and act as if everything about that team and frontline was all rosey, because it most certainly wasn’t. They had their troubles, boasted the tendency to underperform, and on occasions, played some awfully turgid and direct football.

But regardless of how that team was playing, you always had a feeling that they could turn it around, or at the very least, continue knocking on the oppositions door. Something that our current squad is guilty of failing to do over the past 12 months…

But what was it about that Koeman side that managed to produce so many miraculous comebacks and upsets? And why is our current squad so short of inspiration to do the same?

In my eyes, the answer lies with the departures of Sadio Mane and Graziano Pelle. And more specifically, our failure to replace the two outstanding qualities that this duo brought to the table.  

Every team will have their off days; those predictable and infuriating games when the countless hours of work put in on the training ground, fails to transpire onto the field. The manager know’s how he wants his side to break the opposition down, but it just won’t click.

It’s in these moments that you need a versatile squad that are capable of adapting, and turning to a plan B – even if that means going back to the absolute basics.

In the form of Pelle, Southampton had a strong centre forward that could act as the spearhead of their attack. When our neat and intricate build up play was proving unsuccessful, the defence and midfield used Pelle as an easy outlet for taking the pressure off the side.

With a quick sharp pass into Pelle’s feet, Southampton suddenly had the ball around the opposition’s backline in a matter of seconds. This gives you an opening to get in behind the defence, having bypassed the crowded midfield, and here’s when Mane comes into the picture.

The Senegalese international offered a spark in our frontline unlike any other player in our current squad; blistering pace and the bravery to get beyond and directly attack the opposition’s defence.

This outstanding quality of Mane’s gave Southampton the flexibility to sit deep and look to break, knowing full well that Mane would be capable of either carrying the ball the length of the field, or providing an option for Pelle in the final third.

We currently have a number of players who are capable of beating their man, but not without slowing down the attack and allowing the oppositions defence to regroup; Mane’s ability to attack the defence with such urgency and directness was outstanding, as he seemingly picked up pace with each stride he made towards goal.

Some may point to Sofiane Boufal and Nathan Redmond as being his replacement, but in my eyes, both are completely different players. Boufal is a more creative and technical focused player who doesn’t find his edge through speed, whilst Redmond is quick over short distances and sharp in tight areas – not a direct and powerful runner.

Different styles of players with different qualities help to ask different questions of the oppositions defence; this leads me to believe that the loss of Pelle’s brute strength and Mane’s blistering pace, has left Southampton asking too many of the same questions.

When you look at the attacking options available to Ronald Koeman, and then take a look at our current squad, it’s really no surprise to me that we’ve struggled so much in front of goal.

We don’t have the pace to counter, and we don’t have that physicality to play a direct and rough style. We have a number of extremely technical and aesthetically pleasing players, who generally flourish in a high-intensity possession based system.

The issue here however is that when that possession based football isn’t quite clicking (as we’ve seen on countless occasions over the past 12 months) we’re left looking embarrassingly one dimensional in attack – continually challenging the opposition defence in the same manner, but suddenly expecting a different result.

In reality, the only type of goals that our squad are typically capable of producing, is a fine piece of passing play that’s finished inside the box. But just how many of those are we actually creating and converting? And given that so many PL sides play two DM’s and sit deep against us, it’s certainly plausible to suggest that our approach to games needs adjusting.

Quite simply, Southampton need another method to break teams down and deal that killer blow. And be that through the transfer market (as I claimed so often this summer) or through the coaching of Mauricio Pellegrino, we need to find it fast.

Preview: Southampton vs Watford

With the international break finally over, Premier League football returns to St Mary’s this weekend, as Southampton prepare to face Watford.

Embed from Getty Images

The two sides drew their first game of the season and went on to win their second, before both were held to a goalless draw by a newly promoted outfit. The similarities don’t stop there either, as both Southampton and Watford have made managerial changes since they last met in the 2016/17 season. Mauricio Pellegrino is of course in charge of the Saints, whilst Marco Silva – once reportedly wanted on the South Coast – is the boss of the Hornets.

During the pre-Watford press conference, Mauricio Pellegrino confirmed that Virgil Van Dijk has returned to training with the first team, whilst Matt Targett has also recovered from his injury troubles. This means that the entire Southampton squad currently boasts a clean bill of health.

But in order to find out more about our upcoming opponents, I spoke to The Golden Pages – a Watford FC fanzine produced by the fans, for the fans.

Embed from Getty Images

It’s very much early days, but what have you made of the season so far?

It’s been a positive start. The opening day draw against Liverpool was an unexpected point and I don’t think many had us down to win at Bournemouth. The draw to Brighton was disappointing, but we can put that down to Britos being sent off because of an idiotic challenge.

How did you rate Watford’s dealings in the summer transfer window?

Fantastic. I’d go as far to say we had one of the best windows of all clubs in the Premier League. Nathaniel Chalobah at £5m may well be the bargain of the summer, while Will Hughes and our new winger Richarlison also look like excellent acquisitions at very reasonable prices. The only criticism may be that we didn’t strengthen our defence enough, but hopefully the late arrivals of Molla Wague and Marvin Zeegelaar are up to the job.

Once upon a time Southampton also had Marco Silva on their watch-list; what have you made of the boss so far?

It is early days, but he’s showing good signs. We seem to know exactly how we want to set up our team, and we have signed many of the players we need to play this way. Silva’s rapport with our fans has already surpassed what Walter Mazzarri managed in a year, helped hugely by the fact he speaks the English language.

Who do you expect to be your key man this year?

Abdoulaye Doucoure in the centre of midfield has been a beast so far, and I would put my money on him to be our player of the season. However, Richarlison’s flair coupled with his ability to get stuck in will almost certainly make him a key player for us going forward.

Where is the weak point in your side? and how do opposition teams typically find joy against your defence?

Our defence has struggled for some time. We have a lot of capable defenders, but very few great ones, and for this reason we often get caught out. We pick up plenty of injuries too, meaning we rarely have the same back four play together for an extended duration, and our full-backs seem to enjoy going forward more than actually defending.

What would make for a successful season? 

This year we will be hoping to avoid relegation again, and that has to be viewed as an acceptable season. But with the squad we now have, and Silva in charge, we will be looking towards mid table rather than a relegation dog fight.

Which player from this Southampton side would you take to join the Hornets? 

Virgil van Dijk would be more than welcome. Some top clubs were in for him this summer and we could really use a top defender at the back.

And finally, what do you think the score will be this Saturday? 

I think we could get a result if we set up the right way. We’ve got goals in us but we still can’t defend. I’ll say 2-2.

Loan report: Olufela Olomola

A number of Southampton’s academy graduates have been sent out on loan this season in desperate need of vital first team experience, but one youngster in particular has made their mark at their new club quicker than anybody else.

Whilst many academy graduates initially struggle to handle the physicality and competitive nature of the Football League, Olufela Olomola has appeared unfazed, kicking off his loan move with Yeovil Town in the finest of fashions.

After five League Two appearances, Olomola has already found the back of the net on four separate occasions, averaging a goal for every 93 minutes that he’s played. What’s even more impressive about this however, is that he’s managed to do this with just six attempts at goal – missing the target with just one attempt in green and white colours so far.

But believe it or not, I haven’t spent my last few Saturday’s keeping a close eye over Olomola and Yeovil Town. So rather than sitting here and rambling away about his fine form whilst out on loan, I decided to speak to Stephen D’Albiac – a sports writer at the Western Gazette and the Somerset Live.

How have the Yeovil fans taken to Olufela Olomola so far?

SD: So far, very well. Fela has made a great start and provided a constant attacking threat. He’s clearly a determined young player and his attitude has certainly endeared him to the supporters, along with the goals that he has added.

What does he bring to the side that you didn’t have before?

SD: He has helped Yeovil become an attacking threat, which is something that was lacking last season. He’s strong, direct and not afraid to run at defenders, and his pace and the way in which he has linked up with fellow attackers Francois Zoko and Otis Khan has been a real threat to the opposition.

What strengths has he shown?

SD: As before, he’s strong and direct, able to run past defenders and his finishing has been very good. He never stops running either which is a quality that any supporter likes.

What areas of his game still need work?

SD: There have been a couple of times during games this season where he has decided to go it alone when he should have picked passes out, but that is only a very minor criticism given what he has brought to the team so far.

Olomola’s loan deal ends in January; do you think the club should look to extend his stay?

SD: Absolutely, and I would go so far as to say it should be the club’s number one priority between now and January. I’m sure the club will try to extend his deal. They were stung in the loan market last season when they lost Ryan Hedges – who was equally impressive – to Barnsley in January and they will want to do everything they can to avoid a repeat of that. As long as Fela keeps scoring goals and continuing his development, I don’t see any reason why Southampton would not be happy to agree an extension.

And finally, have the fans conjured up a song for him yet?

SD: Not yet, but there’s still plenty of time! If he keeps banging in the goals then I’m sure he’ll get one.

 

Review: The Ins and outs of Southampton’s summer transfer window

The 2017 summer transfer window has had all the drama and rumours of recent seasons, except there’s just one little difference; no key departures.

So, with that being said, there’s only one place to start as I begin my review of Southampton’s summer transfer window.

There’s been social media stalking, airplane tracking, and even hunts for a certain Mercedes people carrier, but with August now behind us, the future of Virgil Van Dijk has finally been decided.

The Dutchman will remain on the South Coast until at least the January transfer window, after not a single bid was filed for the center back throughout the entire summer.

Liverpool, Chelsea, Arsenal, Juventus and even Barcelona reportedly held an interest in Van Dijk, but with thanks to Les Reed and co, the club have been able to retain their finest asset.

Being able to have a player of Van Dijk’s quality in the side is obviously a huge boost for the club, but most importantly, we’ve now set a precedent for future transfer windows. The pressure that the club have been under with Van Dijk has been like no other saga before, so to stand strong against the players wishes will send a message to any players in the future who wish to follow in Virgil’s footsteps.  

Van Dijk now has to get his head down, apologise and give his all to Southampton Football Club. If he decides not to do this and therefore not play, then he misses the opportunity to play for his country in the World Cup (if Holland even qualify, of course).

Regardless of if they do however, he will still wish to be firing on all cylinders when the time of his inevitable transfer does come around. He simply has no other choice but to find any last professionalism he has left in him, and right his wrongs of the summer.

From here Van Dijk can get back to showing his incredible talent on the field, Southampton get an extra years service from a world class defender, and he gets his dream move at the end of it all. Everyone’s a winner.

Incomings

Jan Bednarek – signed from Lech Poznan for a reported £5M, the Polish U21 International appears to be one for the future. With Hoedt, Van Dijk, Stephens and Yoshida above him in the pecking order, it looks likely that the 21-year-old will spend his first season at the club working with the U23’s. I’ve seen little so far to leave me excited about this signing, but developing players is what Southampton do best, so give this one some time.

Mario Lemina – pinched from Juventus for a club record fee of £18.1M, this is yet another example of Southampton’s latest transfer strategy; snatching the fringe players from Europe’s elite. Lemina is an athletic, powerful, box to box midfielder, who boasts the defensive mindset to help Oriol in the middle of the park. Early showings suggest that he will be used as Southampton’s midfield outlet for turning defence into attack. He adds much needed energy into a Southampton midfield that was previously lacking legs.

Wesley Hoedt – The arrival of Hoedt for £15M is one that truly met the needs of the fans. Whilst Yoshida has stepped up massively and Stephens is an incredible prospect, the two have their weaknesses as a partnership; they are prone to being dragged out of position, have often crumbled under pressure and are painfully weak in the air. With the addition of Hoedt however, these issues have certainly been addressed (particularly the latter). Of those to contest 50+ aerial duels in Serie A this term, only Bruno Alves (79.3%) came close to Hoedt in the air, who recorded a staggering 84.1%. Standing at 6ft 4 it would be easy to label him as this battering ram of a defender, but in truth, he’s built up quite the reputation as a ball playing center back (watch out for some delightful 40-yard diagonals with his left foot). It’s brilliant to see that this signing is an addition to the squad, rather than a replacement.

Departures

Jay Rodriguez – Jay had a wonderful five years at the club and left us fans with nothing but good memories, but this transfer was best for all parties involved. The club had moved on and no longer saw a space for him in the side, whilst Rodriguez needed a new challenge to rediscover his love for the game – with that considered, accepting a £12 fee from West Brom is just common sense. Rodriguez is (was) a fantastic system based player, so given how organised a Tony Pulis side tends to be, this move could certainly work out. Back when Rodriguez was working under Pochettino, he would persistently make runs from the wide left into the edge of the box; this is a typical feature of a Pulis wide man, so I wouldn’t mind betting he can notch a fair few this season. All the best Jay, just don’t go scoring against us.

Jordy Clasie – once linked with a move to Manchester United to work under Louis Van Gaal, it’s fair to say that this transfer never quite worked out, and it’s all rather sad really. Having dropped behind Lemina, Romeu, Ward-Prowse, Davis and even Hojbjerg in the pecking order, Clasie’s loan move to Club Brugge was needed simply for the players own development. He never really put a foot wrong when he stepped out onto the pitch, but at the same time, it never really clicked either. Whether it was the Premier League’s physicality, pace, or maybe just a lack of trust from managers, I know that Southampton fans will now be sure to keep a close eye on the Belgian First Division title race…

This brings about an end to my review for the summer transfer window, but I’ve got to admit, I find myself a tad frustrated that I’m not writing about an addition to our front line –  we’ve been crying out for a goal-scoring winger for over 12 months now.

All too often Southampton have worked so effectively in the first two-thirds of the pitch, only to lack that final touch of quality when it really matters. I can’t help but feel this is one hell of a gamble to take, and for that, I can’t particularly label this window a true success. We could easily be left looking red faced two months down the line when we continue to lack that missing piece in attack. 

From here on I can only pray that with the fine management of Mauricio Pellegrino, we can put an end to our misery in front of goal, and return to our fluid and free-scoring ways.

Les Reed himself stated at the end of the season that this summer would be a quiet one – in terms of both ins and outs – so for that Les, I take my hat off to you. He’d have been the first and main figure to take criticism and abuse if he wasn’t true to his word word, so when a job is well done, credit is certainly due. 

The same old story

Mauricio Pellegrino remains undefeated in the Premier League, yet the cracks of last season are still there to be seen.

After once again failing to deliver the thrilling and fluid attacking football that so many fans desire, some initial worries and fears appear to be settling in. My answer to this is that whilst they are indeed justified, it’s important to remember that Pellegrino is no magician.

We can see that the Argentine is looking to implement a controlled style of play coupled with a high intensity in pressing and defending. This has seen Southampton record two clean sheets from three Premier League fixtures without the services of both Virgil Van Dijk, and our new boy Wesley Hoedt.

This limited defence has shown fantastic maturity at times, displaying a fine understanding of Pellegrino’s defensive demands, whilst the midfield pairing of Mario Lemina and Oriol Romeu hold fantastic promise looking forward. Romeu offers defensive security and physicality, whilst Lemina is an outlet to turn defence into attack with his athleticism.

Unsurprisingly however, we’ve continued to crumble in the final third, with inexcusable mistakes letting both us (the fans) and the manager down. Poor touches, wayward passing and out-right embarrassing composure in front of goal; you name it and we’ve done it.

It’s clear to see just how well Pellegrino has already organised both his backline and those protecting it, so with that and our poor form in front of goal last season considered, I cannot help but conclude that this issue runs far deeper than the manager.

This is an issue within the personnel of our squad, and regardless of who we could ever possibly have in charge, the issue would still remain.

Southampton are a club famed for their tendency to coach and develop players rather than run to the cheque book, but in our current situation this is something that we simply can’t afford to do.

We’re crying out for a pacey and unpredictable goal threat from wide areas – someone that’s in the same mould of Sadio Mane, a player who I personally believe, sparked the beginning of Southampton’s poor form in front of goal.

No, I’m not slipping into meltdown, and no, I’m not even fearing relegation. I’ve seen plenty that’s left me positive for the season ahead, but we are a club that boasts ambitions to once again fly our flag in European competitions and challenge the status quo.

Such ambitions will be hard to obtain (and quite frankly ridiculous to expect) without investment before the window closes. So let’s act now in the market and as a club truly get behind our manager, Mauricio Pellegrino – something both the board and fans arguably failed to do last season.

Hoedt’s transfer to Southampton confirmed as imminent

The wishes of Southampton fans will soon come true, with Wesley Hoedt’s transfer from Lazio to Southampton all but complete.

For weeks now the rumours have been circulating regarding the future of the Dutch centre-back, but yesterdays quotes from Lazio boss Simone Inzaghi have brushed aside any remaining doubts.

“The boy wants to play with more continuity. He just doesn’t have the opportunity here. A dissatisfied player can not stay. By tomorrow he will go to Southampton. He and (Balde) Keita will have to be replaced.”

This follows on from comments made by Lazio’s sporting director Igili Tare, who stated that Hoedt “requested to be transferred.

“He wants to be a starter in England and will be transferred to Southampton in the near future.

“He has had a positive experience here in Rome. I wish him all the best.”

The original fee offered to Lazio was believed to be in the region of £15.5M, but Sky in Italy have since stated that the final deal is nearing £17M. This would mean that Southampton have now twice beaten their club-record transfer fee prior to this window – £16M paid for Sofiane Boufal last summer.

What appears to be most encouraging about this deal however, is the numerous reliable sources claiming that this transfer bears no implications on Virgil Van Dijk’s future. Hoedt is being signed to strengthen our defensive options and hopefully form a double Dutch partnership within our back line – only time will tell with the latter however.

Will Hoedt make an instant impact for the Saints this season? See for yourself as tickets for Southampton games this season are available from Footballticketpad.comWhilst the club may be looking for more goals this season, adding Hoedt’s quality to the defence can only help the teams performance.

With Hoedt’s arrival on the South coast imminent and Southampton standing strong over Van Dijk, it’s not long now until we can see a Mauricio Pellegrino team firing on all cylinders.

Preview: Southampton vs West Ham

Life under Mauricio Pellegrino got off to an encouraging start last weekend, but once again we were left ruing our chances as the final whistle blew.

Southampton were held to a scoreless draw at the hands of Paul Clement’s Swansea City, which means that the Saints have now failed to score in their last nine hours of competitive football at St Mary’s.

Can we break the deadlock this weekend? I spoke with West Ham fan, Liam Spencer, to get the low-down on our upcoming opponents.

What have you made of West Ham’s transfer window so far?

You’ll struggle to find many West Ham fans who would argue we haven’t significantly strengthened the squad this summer. Zabaleta, Hart, Arnautovic and Hernandez have all been signed for the first team, and with William Carvalho still to come it’s looking like a very good few months indeed.

It’s only early days of course, but what did you take away from last weekend’s result?

Although I’m backing Man United for the title, it was still disappointing that West Ham didn’t put up any kind of opposition on the day. Saying that, we were without Lanzini, Antonio and Kouyate, and once they’re back I think we’ll be a much stronger force.

From the outside looking in it seems that Slaven Bilic has a lot to prove this year; what are your thoughts on the Croatian boss?

I love Slaven, but anything less than top 10 this year and he’ll be in trouble. We all know he’s a passionate man and ‘gets it’ from a West Ham point of view, but we’ve spent big this summer and progress needs to be made.

Who do you expect to be your key man this year?

Javier Hernandez. It’s been far too long since West Ham have owned a consistent striker. I’m backing Chicharito to hit 15 Premier League goals.

What would make for a successful season?

Top 10 and a cup run

There was no way I couldn’t ask this one; how has Jose Fonte been?

To be honest, right now it looks like a waste of money. He’s not going to get in the team ahead of Reid or Ogbonna and when he has been called upon it’s been mediocre at best.

Which player from this Southampton side strikes the most fear into you, and who would you take to join the Hammers?

I’ve always liked Nathan Redmond. If I could pick one it would have to be VVD though.

And finally, what do you think the score will be this Saturday?

2-0 to West Ham. COYI!

Southampton bid €17M for Lazio’s Wesley Hoedt

According to the latest reports by Sky Italia journalist Gianluca Di Marzio, Southampton have made a €17M offer for Lazio’s Wesley Hoedt.

The report states that the bid was submitted last night, and whilst it’s still yet to be accepted, the €17M on the table does match Lazio’s initial valuation of the player at the start of this window.

To many looking in from the outside this will be considered an attempt to secure Virgil Van Dijk’s replacement, but given the clubs consistently strong stance on the situation, this could still be the Fonte funds being reimbursed.  Reports from the ever reliable Simon Peach have also reinforced that.

This report will no doubt be encouraging news for fans, who despite feeling optimistic about life under Mauricio Pellegrino, can see that our current defence doesn’t match up to that of previous seasons.

Whilst Maya Yoshida greatly improved last season and Jack Stephens is proving himself to be a promising talent, fans are hoping for a little more ambition as teams around us continue to strengthen in the transfer market.

As a pair the two have put in some fantastic performances, but they still hold the tendency to get bullied in the air, drawn out of position and left exposed. In a dream scenario Yoshida can act as reliable back-up, whilst we allow Stephens to progress alongside a player of Hoedt’s quality.

The Dutchman has proven himself to be a strong and dependable centre-back in the top flight of Italian football for the past two seasons, helping Lazio to finish eighth and fifth respectively.

Of those to contest 50+ aerial duels in Serie A this term, only Bruno Alves (79.3%) came close to Hoedt in the air, who recorded a staggering 84.1%. Given Southampton’s evident shortcomings in the air at the minute, this interest certainly doesn’t surprise me. Especially when his ability to build from the back has also been praised during his time at Lazio – something that’s to be expected if you wish to be a Southampton centre-back.

Review: Southampton 0 Swansea City 0

Southampton showed attacking intent and played with a high intensity from the very first whistle, but ultimately the narrative was all too familiar. 28 shots on goal, two on target and just one point to show for it.

This was Mauricio Pellegrino’s very first competitive game as Southampton boss, and had it not been for our poor form in front of goal, it would have been a dream start to life on the South Coast for the Argentinian.

It’s very much early days, but based upon this first showing, there’s plenty to look forward to in the Pellegrino era. Since his appointment Pellegrino has stated numerous times that he wants to entertain the fans – something that was clearly discussed during his sit down with Les Reed and co.  The players had a sense of urgency about the situation and were brave enough to take risks. We had a nice mixture of some neat triangles, defence splitting passes and even direct play (an option we very rarely turned to last season).

Both full backs were heavily involved in each phase of play, looking to bomb on down the line and ask questions of the defence. But this wasn’t at the cost of defensive stability, as both Cedric and Bertrand continually turned to check the positioning of their man.

I still maintain the stance that Southampton must invest in another centre-back this summer, but for all the talk about Virgil Van Dijk, Southampton didn’t allow Swansea even so much as a sniff at goal. Stephens and Yoshida were commanding in the air, quick to intercept and even brave in their distribution of the ball.

It wasn’t just our work on the ball that impressed me either. Our physicality, defensive positioning and alertness also stood out. We were rarely outnumbered, reacted first to almost every second ball, and looked to impose a greater physical edge over the opposition (not entirely dissimilar from a certain Pochettino).

The jury is obviously still out on whether this will be maintained consistently, but it certainly isn’t a bad place to start. As mentioned earlier however, there’s something that definitely doesn’t need debating; our ability to throw away golden chances.

Minus Gabbiadini and Austin (who never start together), we don’t have a player that can cleanly strike the ball inside the box, and boy has it harmed us. Mishit efforts and a lack of composure in front of goal has cost us too many times, leading me to conclude that we simply have to act in the transfer market.

There’s been whispers of Southampton holding an interest in Atletico Madrid’s Luciano Vietto, and given his ability to play off the forward as a second striker, this certainly wouldn’t surprise me. Perhaps Pellegrino has already recognised his sides need for a clinical late arriver in the box?

Pep guardiola once stated “My job is to take you to the final third, and your job is to finish it” and with this considered, it’s been an incredibly encouraging start to life under Mauricio Pellegrino.