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.