Southampton have once again failed to hold onto a lead under Mauricio Pellegrino, following the most basic of tactical adjustments from the opposition. The Saints have now dropped 11 points from winning positions against Brighton, Arsenal, Huddersfield, Crystal Palace and Watford. That’s simply unacceptable from a team who are no doubt top ten quality and finished 6th only two seasons ago.
So where has this inability to dominate and control come from? In my eyes, you need to look no further than Mauricio Pellegrino’s in-game management. Each and every time the opposition have made clear adjustments in a bid to disrupt the flow of the game, the Argentine has failed to react in just about any way – be that tactically or through substitutions.
From the outside looking in he doesn’t appear to be installing any confidence into our players, and from the evidence presented to us so far, he’s way out of his depth.
The difference between the two managers yesterday was that one utilised the subs and tools around them when the going got tough, while the other simply hoped and clung on. There was no evidence to suggest that he wished to bring the game to Watford again, or that we were going to attempt to grab the game by the scruff of its neck. Instead, we simply panicked at the thought of over-committing while going forward, and opted to sit back and soak for the remainder of the second half.
Marco Silva threw Troy Deeney on and changed his formation to be more rigid and harder to break down, as well as giving him an easier route into Southampton’s box. With a simple long ball into our area, one of their 6ft plus central midfielders or Deeney would win the initial ball (or at least attempt to) and give the Southampton defence something to think about it. But rather than pushing higher to restrict the danger of their long back knock-downs, we continued to retreat until the very end.
Pellegrino waited until the 92nd minute to make the final two of his three subs, and once again it was too little too late.
On a brighter note, however, the main positive that we can take away from yesterday’s game was the performance of James Ward-Prowse. He seems to be one of few players at the moment that are willing to take responsibility on the ball, and it’s incredibly encouraging to see that he’s finally adding goals to his game – an area that’s been much criticised over the past two seasons.
What makes yesterday’s result all the more frustrating is that Saints’ first-half performance was actually incredibly promising – we were composed on the ball, organised at the back and played some delightful fluid football. But the hard work that went into the first 45 was dismantled by the usual dismal display in the second 45.
It’s certainly worth noting that Watford’s equaliser was a handball – it should have never counted. But regardless of that fact, I can’t help but feel that this is only a small factor as to why we didn’t come away with three points. If it wasn’t for our shambolic in-game management, we would have never allowed them to receive that opportunity in the first place.
Following yesterdays result, the Saints have now matched their winless run from the 2004/05 season, and we all know how that story ended…
This is simply not good enough, and the most worrying thing is that the patterns in our games keep repeating themselves, with few suggestions of change or improvement. As we slide towards the Championship, the board must act now both in the transfer market and with the manager, in the hope that any star signings aren’t limited by Pellegrino’s tactical incompetence.
We can’t allow the board to gamble our Premier League safety on their pride any longer.