Mark Middleton gives us the lowdown on Saints preseason visit to Derby. The result may be disappointing, but there were positives, he says…
Mark Hughes set up with a strong looking side in the first half with what seemed to be a 5-2-2-1 formation.
ALEX MCCARTHY 5 – Alex made couple of good saves in the first half including a very good 1 on 1 attempt by derby, but seemed nervous in the second half. This was probably due to lack of a strong defence in front of him letting him down.
JAMES WARD-PROWSE 4.5 – James seemed to play out of position as a RB and didn’t cover the role well. Played some good balls in and troubled Derby at points but pulled the defence too thin
JACK STEPHENS 3 – Jack was constantly out of position leaving gaping spaces for Derby to take advantage of, he seemed nervous and not the player we know he can be. In my opinion he needs a strong partner beside him to rein him in. He also nearly lost his temper towards the end of the match and needs to be careful of that going forward.
WESLEY HOEDT 3 – At fault for two goals. Out of position and out of his depth. Like Stephens he needs a strong partner to guide him and keep him in position. HOEDT/STEPHENS is not a partnership that works well together at this point in time
RYAN BERTRAND 5 – Bertrand looked uncomfortable in the CB role as part of a 3 at the back. With Matt Targett taking the LB role Ryan looked lost and wanting to get out wide. As captain he did not seem to lead the line or try to settle the team. Worrying back passes to McCarthy on several occasions.
MATT TARGETT 7 – Targett looked very comfortable in the left back role. Clearly showing his calm composure on the ball and looked keen to impress. Poorly supported at times but got some very good crosses in. From his performance you can easily see why Fulham want him back but if we sell we need to be getting a good price. Surprised he didn’t play CB role as he played well there at Fulham.
MARIO LEMINA 4 – Lemina was a difficult player to judge today… he was constantly falling back to cover the glaring gaps left by the centre backs. He made errors in distribution, but was that due to frustration with having to cover; only time will tell.
STUART ARMSTRONG 7 – Armstrong was good to watch today. Comfortable on the ball and gave a confident performance throughout his time on the pitch… creative and good awareness. He looks to be a steal at 7m on first impressions and definitely a good buy. He had a very good first half creating some good chances and narrowly missed scoring from what looked more like a cross than a shot on goal. We missed his presence in the 2nd half.
NATHAN REDMOND 5 – Nathan was in a floating role behind Austin and looked better for it. Good runs and created play but decision making in and around the box left no end product. He seemed to link up and switch with Elyounoussi really well. Still clearly a player with so much potential let’s hope he finds it now under new leadership and with new partnerships
CHARLIE AUSTIN 5 – Ran well and tried to create although didn’t get great service and support. He took a little while to get back in it but tried hard to open up the defence.
MOHAMED ELYOUNOUSSI 6 – Moi started slowly getting a feel for things but upped his tempo throughout his first 45 minutes. He has a good pace and a good footballing mind picking out passes and making good runs. He was strong on the ball making some good attacks into the box and his link up play with Redmond was good to watch. In my opinion an exciting prospect going forward and definitely one to watch.
JANNIK VESTERGAARD 6 – Jannik started well looking comfortable and at ease on the ball with a laid back swagger that oozed confidence. He didn’t really have a lot to do in his first few minutes but made a critical timing error with a sweeping tackle allowing Derby through to score the first goal. After this he settled down a bit and looked more solid. It’s going to be very interesting watching him going forward.
STEVEN DAVIS 5 – Davis was his usual quiet, composed and professional self. There’s not really much more than can be said of his performance as usual he goes under the radar.
HARRISON REED 6 – Always been a fan of Harry Reed and good to see him putting in a shift. Running at players and winning the ball and trying to create chances. I would love to see him getting more opportunities with The Saints.
In the first half we looked fairly good up front albeit with no end product, but, in my opinion, definitely looking like we have made improvements. Armstrong, Elyounoussi and Redmond (Yes REDMOND) looked very good on the attack and created good chances. We looked to be working much better as a unit up front with just that solid striker position lacking. Is it a role Charlie Austin can retake? He certainly has done it before and now with better support (and fitness) he may well prosper.
Matt Targett was showing why Fulham want him back so bad with a strong performance throughout. We were let down with an experimental back three of Stephens Hoedt and Bertrand who all struggled with positioning and made too many basic errors. Ward Prowse struggled as Rb and just wanted to get forward with Stephens following and Hoedt also drifting up at the right Leaving Bertrand lost and vulnerable. Lemina was missing from midfield as he was covering for the defence constantly. For me it was difficult watching Bertrand out of position. I do wonder if he was pushed centrally to enable him to lead as Captain, but sadly he showed little leadership skills and was unable to stop a wayward defence from capitulating to a well-motivated and strong Derby side.
Am I worried? Not at all, this was a first day out for three of our newest players and some experimenting with formations and positions. It’s now down to Mark Hughes and his team to review everything we did both good and bad and take the learnings.
There were some very good individual performances from Targett, Armstrong, Elyounoussi, Reed and Redmond, with Vestergaard showing promise.
In summary it was a good day out for me, a long way to go but worth it to see the lads on the pitch again. Derby is a very easy ground to access and it was good to see Mark Hughes come straight over to the fans when he got off of the team coach for signatures and photos. Some of the other players did the same although the majority went straight in as is usual for them at an away ground.
Bring on Dijon on July 28
WE MARCH ON!!!!! COYR!!!!