Slow starts are, ironically, quickly becoming the story of Southampton’s Premier League season. It happened again on Friday, resulting in a 3-1 home defeat to Bournemouth in the Premier League‘s budding south coast rivalry
Through six games, Saints have conceded the first goal four times. In those four games, they have taken just one point. When scoring the game’s first goal, they have two wins and two clean sheets.
It would appear that Ralph Hasenhuttl‘s side is set up to play one way, and one way only. Speaking after Friday’s defeat, Hasenhuttl lamented his side’s slow start, conceding that the game was all but lost when they fell 2-0 behind in the 35 minutes — quotes from the BBC:
“The finish was not important anymore. If you lose 2-1 or 3-1 it does not make too much difference. We lost the game in the first half.
“In the second half, we were sharp. Had about 26 shots to six from Bournemouth but the most important stat is the goals. They scored three, we scored once.
“We weren’t aggressive enough and too easy in the first half. It is not easy to be 1-0 down after 10 minutes. We had a lot of blocked shots and misses near the post. It was a good performance in the second half but without a result.
“For the second goal was had a lot of players in our attacking box so it was not easy to defend.
“We showed a good reaction because we knew we needed to be brave. We changed our shape and were aggressive for the second ball. It gave us 64% possession and we had a lot of shots. Maybe we didn’t deserve to take something because of our first half.”
Southampton’s next chance to start a game quickly will come in an away bout with Tottenham Hotspur next Saturday.
Nathan Ake and Harry Wilson got goals for Eddie Howe‘s side during a wonderfully dominant first-half performance before the roles were reversed in the second half. James Ward-Prowse pulled Southampton back to 2-1 not long after halftime and Saints pressed and pressed for an equalizer but ultimately came up empty. To make matters worse, Callum Wilson put the game away on a late Saints howler.
3 things we learned
Slow starts for Saints — Through six games, Saints have conceded the first goal four times. For a team that’s built around the idea of defensive solidity and limiting chances, Ralph Hasenhuttl‘s side appears especially limited once forced to change its plan of attack and… well, attack. In the two games they didn’t concede first, two clean sheets and two wins.
Halftime adjustments — Hasenhuttl certainly got his tactics wrong from the start, but whatever was said at halftime made a noticeable difference in the second half. Given loads more freedom to push forward in attack and to win back possession, Southampton made it a game from 45:01 onward.
Making few chances count a lot — Bournemouth needed just six shots to get their two goals. On the other hand, they managed just six shots in 90 minutes. Highly efficient, or lacking in overall production? Both, perhaps?
Ake put the Cherries ahead in the 10th minute, rising high above the crowd to get his head to Diego Rico‘s corner kick. It was Bournemouth’s fifth goal (of nine scored) from a set piece this season.
It didn’t take long for Bournemouth to easily cut through Saints’ four-man backline — a tactical change from the three-man operation which secured a victory away to Sheffield United last weekend — and put the ball in the back of the net again. Joshua King finished a devastating counter-attack with a sublime finish, only to have the goal taken off the board for being narrowly offside, via video review.
Once again, Bournemouth met little resistance en route to doubling their lead, only this time the goal stood. Philip Billing got to the endline down the left side of Saints’ penalty area and cut the ball back to the penalty spot where Wilson was waiting to sweep it past a helpless Angus Gunn.
Saints were gifted their way back into the game in the 52nd minute, when Steve Cook went straight through Che Adams as Southampton broke down the left side of the box. Ward-Prowse stepped up to the spot and hammered the ball past Aaron Ramsdale to cut the deficit in half.
Saints’ best chance at drawing level came in the 82nd minute, but Ward-Prowse was denied Ramsdale from close range, and though he spilled the rebound in front of goal, Bournemouth were able to clear the ball away in just the nick of time.
Gunn and center back Jannik Vestergaard ran into one another outside the Saints penalty area in the 95th minute, allowing Wilson to pick the ball up and walk it over the end line for the late exclamation point on Bournemouth’s historic night.
Bournemouth’s defensive desperation was such that they attempted just the six shots in the game, including zero between the 38th and 85th minutes. Alas, Saints couldn’t find the equalizer and Bournemouth catapulted all the way up to third in the PL, for the time being.
Matchweek 6 of the 2019-20 Premier League season is upon us, and the proceedings are set to kick off on Friday when a pair of south coast clubs, Southampton and Bournemouth, do battle (Watch live, 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN and NBCSports.com).
Both sides enter the clash at St. Mary’s Stadium on the back of a victory last weekend in PL action. It’s Bournemouth whose triumph last time out was wildly impressive, though, as Eddie Howe’s side cruise to a 3-1 win over top-six hopefuls Everton at Vitality Stadium. However, Saints have proven a real nightmare of an away day for the Cherries as they’re in search of their first-ever win away to Southampton (15 previous tries, beginning in 1953 – all competitions).
Southampton secured their most recent victory when they traveled to newly promoted, 10-man Sheffield United. Home form has been a bit worrying for Saints early this season, until you consider they’ve hosted none other than Liverpool and Manchester United at St. Mary’s… until you look back to last season and realize they have won just five of their last 21 at home. On the plus side, Ralph Hasenhuttl‘s side has been much improved since conceding five goals in the first two games of the season. Since then, just one goal which came in a 1-1 draw with Man United.
Bournemouth: Ramsdale – Stacey, Cook, Ake, Rico – Wilson, Billing, Cook, King – Solanke, Wilson
What they’re saying
Ralph Hasenhuttl, on Southampton’s defensive improvement: “This season it’s not the case that we don’t give them any chances, they still have chances because it’s very difficult in the Premier League to not give them a chance. Also the goalkeepers Angus (Gunn) and Alex (McCarthy) make a good development this season and the back five were very concentrated. It is good to see things develop that you have been working on. This can hopefully continue.”
Eddie Howe, on the budding south coast rivalry: “It should be a really feisty game, a really good atmosphere and an entertaining match. Southampton have started very well, too. It’s gaining in everybody’s focus. The more games we have, the more the rivalry will intensify I think. We’ve enjoyed the games against Southampton which have been tight and tough, from both clubs’ perspectives. We’re looking forward to another entertaining match.”
Southampton have been far more convincing in their defending than Bournemouth on the attack. It’ll likely be a game of precious few high-value chances. In the end, neither Saints get the elusive home win nor the Cherries get the first victory at Southampton. Final score: 1-1.
In his first Premier League start the Mali winger, a summer arrival from Standard Liege, danced past several Blades defenders before slotting home the winner in the second half, as Ralph Hasenhuttl‘s Saints completed back-to-back away wins for the first time since March 2017.
Sheffield United had former Saints striker Billy Sharp, who came on as a sub, sent off late on as they huffed and puffed but couldn’t find a way past Angus Gunns and a resolute Saints defense.
With the win Saints now have seven points on the board and they are unbeaten in four games in all competitions, while Sheffield United are without a win since the second week of the season.
3 things we learned
1. Djenepo the difference: It is too early to say that Djenepo is finally Saints’ replacement for Sadio Mane, but it is not too early to say he will be a very important play for Southampton this season. He danced past several tackles after showing his strength to score a brilliant solo goal and that is his second stunning strike in as many games. Djenepo was the difference and for a Saints side looking to shore things up defensively, they have to make the most of their chances at the other end.
2. Saints still haven’t found correct formation: This wasn’t a great display from Southampton though. they looked disjointed as Hasenhuttl tinkered with the formation once again, with Djenepo, Cedric and Hojbjerg all looking like they played at left wing-back at times. Defensively Bednarek and Vestergaard have improved and one goal conceded in the last four games in all competitions points to that. But Saints don’t quite know their best formation yet, even though they are proving tough to beat.
3. Blades not sharp enough: David McGoldrick had some great chances and Ollie McBurnie had a goal disallowed as the Blades were blunted for the first time this season. Chris Wilder‘s side fly forward at every opportunity and gave it their all, but they just looked a little sluggish as Saints snapped into tackles in midfield and cleared crosses into the box. Sheffield United are a dangerous side to play against, but they didn’t have their shooting boots with them on Saturday.
Man of the Match: Moussa Djenepo – The winger has pace, power and trickery and looks like being a bargain buy at $18 million. Djenepo is 21 years old and has the potential to be Saints’ main goalscoring threat this season. Of course, he will be linked with plenty of big clubs if he keeps this form up, but right now it seems like Southampton have unearthed another gem.
Saints started well and Vestergaard got a header on goal which was saved comfortably by Dean Henderson.
A wild few seconds then saw former Sheffield United striker Adams smash a beautiful effort against the post and moments later David McGoldrick was put clean through but Angus Gunn stood his ground to make a superb stop.
The Blades finally got going before half time as John Fleck nodded over and they were causing plenty of problems down their right flank. However, Saints almost caught them on the break as Cedric somehow slotted wide from a great position.
In a lively first half Adams went close again as his header was saved by Henderson, then the Blades caused Saints all kinds of issues with their crosses into the box. Southampton continued to look dangerous on the break as Sofiane Boufal was set up perflectly by Moussa Djenepo but his tame effort was a huge let-off for the home side.
Green: New season-high ranking Red: New season-low
20. Watford — A better class of performance in drawing at St. James’ Park, but it’s not like Newcastle didn’t have more of the danger. Also, the opponent was Newcastle. Last week: 20 Season high: 19 Season low: 20 Last match: Drew 1-1 at Newcastle United Up next: 11:30 a.m. ET Sept. 15 v. Arsenal
19. Newcastle United — Probably deserved all three points from Watford, but most Magpies supporters would’ve signed up for four points through four matches Last week: 19 Season high: 19 Season low: 20 Last match: Drew 1-1 v. Watford Up next: 7:30 a.m. ET Sept. 14 at Liverpool
18. Norwich City — Injuries, injuries, injuries (and VAR?). Someone send Daniel Farke some elixirs and potions over the international break, and encase Teemu Pukki in something special. Last week: 15 Season high: 12 Season low: 17 Last match: Lost 2-0 at West Ham United Up next: 12:30 p.m. ET Sept. 14 v. Man City
17. Bournemouth — In last year’s hot start, Bournemouth handled itself well against most teams outside the Power Six. This year, well, the Cherries aren’t doing that (though Leicester’s been in our Top Three for a couple of weeks now). Last week: 17 Season high: 14 Season low: 17 Last match: Lost 3-1 at Leicester City Up next: 9 a.m. Sept. 15 v. Everton
16. Brighton and Hove Albion — No shame in getting pumped 4-0 at the Etihad Stadium, but the Gulls were punchless. Rough two weeks after a solid first two matches. Last week: 14 Season high: 6 Season low: 16 Last match: Lost 4-0 at Man City Up next: 10 a.m. ET Sept. 14 v. Burnley
15. Manchester United — What’s going on here? Well, the absence of Anthony Martial for one. But United’s subs bench was as uninspiring as ever: Romero, Rojo, Tuanzebe, Chong, Matic, Lingard, Greenwood. A lot of blind hope there. Last week: 6 Season high: 2 Season low: 15 Last match: Drew 1-1 at Southampton Up next: 10 a.m. ET Sept. 14 v. Leicester City
14. Crystal Palace — Improving, but it’s difficult to bump them up too much when their three points earned come almost exclusively through a terrible refereeing decision. However, we reserve the right to move them way up the rankings via a strong performance against Spurs (even if it doesn’t lead to a result). Last week: 18 Season high: 14 Season low: 18 Last match: Won 1-0 v. Aston Villa Up next: 10 a.m. ET Sept. 14 at Spurs
13. Southampton — Saints are… pretty good. If the season-opening blowout loss at Turf Moor was a blip, Ralph Hasenhuttl‘s men way well be mid-table this season. The performances have been that good in a narrow defeat to Liverpool and a draw with Manchester United. Last week: 13 Season high: 13 Season low: 19 Last match: Drew 1-1 at Manchester United Up next: 10 a.m. ET Sept. 14 at Sheffield United
12. Aston Villa — Deserved a point from Crystal Palace, but got de-Friended. Woof. Last week: 10 Season high: 8 Season low: 15 Last match: “Lost” 1-0 at Crystal Palace Up next: 3 p.m. Sept. 16 v. West Ham United
11. Sheffield United — I want to go out on the town with Chris Wilder‘s crew, who are scrappy, not taking anything for granted, and loving life in the top flight. Or maybe just go out with Chris Wilder. Not sure I could hang. Last week: 16 Season high: 11 Season low: 17 Last match: Drew 2-2 at Chelsea Up next: 10 a.m. ET Sept. 14 v. Saints
10. Wolves — Nuno Espirito Santo‘s men have points in three of four matches, but all have been draws. Europa League congestion can be blamed for that, but will it also short-circuit Wolves’ charge for another berth in European competition? Big first match after the break. Last week: 8 Season high: 7 Season low: 10 Last match: Lost 3-2 at Everton Up next: 10 a.m. ET Sept. 14 v. Chelsea
9. Chelsea —Frank Lampard showed his inexperience with the subs in a come-from-ahead 2-2 draw against the Blades. You can’t simply forget your experienced players down the homestretch of games simply because the kids are flying. Last week: 9 Season high: 9 Season low: 12 Last match: Drew 2-2 v. Sheffield United Up next: 10 a.m. ET Sept. 14 at Wolves
8. Burnley — Just obliterated by Liverpool. That happens, but the Clarets rarely look as easy to beat as they did at the weekend. Last week: 5 Season high: 5 Season low: 9 Last match: Lost 3-0 v. Liverpool Up next: 10 a.m. ET Sept. 14 at Brighton
7. Tottenham Hotspur — Christian Eriksen is staying, and that’s great, but if Spurs’ last two matches taught us anything, it’s that Tanguy (pronounced Ton-guy) Ndombele is as indispensable as any Spur not named Harry Kane. Last week: 7 Season high: 2 Season low: 7 Last match: Drew 2-2 at Arsenal Up next: 10 a.m. ET Sept. 14 v. Crystal Palace
6. West Ham United — Has allowed two goals in three matches since getting sand-blasted by Manchester City on opening day. A tough test with Villa awaits before a visit from Manchester United. Last week: 12 Season high: 6 Season low: 18 Last match: Won 2-0 v. Norwich City Up next: 3 p.m. Sept. 16 at Aston Villa
5. Everton — The wobble at Villa. The red card draw with Palace. Everton failed to get what should’ve been a minimum 10 points from its first four matches, but will be happy to be within a point of the Top Four. Last week: 11 Season high: 8 Season low: 11 Last match: Won 3-2 v. Wolves Up next: 9 a.m. Sept. 15 at Bournemouth
4. Arsenal — That the Gunners were down 2-0 at home to Spurs was an issue, but only because they had been so dominant. The comeback delivered a richly deserved point to Unai Emery‘s men, who have two matches before a trip to wobbly Manchester United. Last week: 4 Season high: 4 Season low: 7 Last match: Drew 2-2 v. Spurs Up next: 11:30 a.m. ET Sept. 15 at Watford
3. Leicester City — It felt like the visit from Bournemouth had speed bump written all over it, but Brendan Rodgers‘ men limited the tumult to a Callum Wilson first half equalizer in a fairly comfortable win. Last week: 3 Season high: 3 Season low: 10 Last match: Won 3-1 v. Bournemouth Up next: 10 a.m. ET Sept. 14 at Manchester United
2. Manchester City — The Laporte injury is a big set back to their title hopes; One more injury could really sting the reigning champs. Last week: 1 Season high: 1 Season low: 2 Last match: Won 4-0 v. Brighton Up next: 12:30 p.m. ET Sept. 14 at Norwich City
1. Liverpool — Jurgen Klopp wasn’t wrong: The demolition of Burnley was complete, and included a much-sought clean sheet. With Laporte out for a while, the Reds’ runway to the title looks clearer today. Last week: 2 Season high: 1 Season low: 3 Last match: Won 3-0 at Burnley Up next: 7:30 a.m. ET Sept. 14 v. Newcastle United