Mike goes musical with his critique of a shambolic Saints performance, which lacked cohesion, passion and fight. While it’s still early in the season the signs of a long, hard year ahead are very evident. Questions loom large, says Mike, as he wonders if Sparky knows his best team and what exactly will it take for Wesley Hoedt to be dropped…
Two song titles come to mind, as I write this match report, Sunday Bloody Sunday and There Are More Questions than Answers: the simple fact is it was a Bloody Sunday for Saints and the game seems to have left Mark Hughes and Saints fans with more questions than answers.
Changes were made in the defence which surprised a few, not that Yoshi was included, nor that Bednarek was given a chance, but for the inclusion of Wesley Hoedt again. Fans have been giving him a hard time, not during the game but on all forms of social media in recent times, the changes to players also meant a change to a back three. For me the problem with this style of play is it sends out the wrong message from the get go, and also do we really have the players to play this system? The answer to that became quite clear from the moment the ref started the game.
It was all Chelsea from the off, and Saints fans could sense this was going to be a long afternoon. Chelsea pressed the Southampton players high inside their own half and the first chance for Chelsea came on eight minutes when Willian had a shot deflected on to the crossbar. Saints we replaying the 3-4-3 system which looked more like a 5-4-1 with Gabbi back defending, and at one point he seemed to be playing at right back instead of Cedric. Now I’m not to moan but when our centre forward is marking one of the best players in the world and our right back is nowhere to be seen it does tend to annoy.
Once Saints managed to cross the halfway line in to Chelsea territory we should have beeb one up. Our first attack of the game saw Bertrand put in a lovely cross for the Danny Ings, only for the in-form Saints striker to sky it in to the stand from very close range.
On 30 minutes the inevitable happened at the other end. Ross Barkley, pressing, forced an error from Wesley Hoedt, who sent a lazy pass to Pierre-Emile Højbjerg and the Dane was too slow to release the ball. Barkley caught PEH out and the ball went to the only man in the whole of Southampton you didn’t want it to—yep, you guessed it, Eden Hazard. He picked up the loose ball and, doing what he does best, slotted it away to give the Blues the advantage.
To be honest Chelsea deserved the lead, their pace and precision were too much for a Southampton team which lacked everything: pace and precision in passing and apart from one or two players no passion for the fight ahead.
Somehow Saints managed to keep the score down to one-nil at half time. Changes to system came in the second half when Hughes switched to a back four by replacing Jan Bednarek with Oriol Romeu, and personally I would have taken Hoedt off as he wasn’t playing well at all. The doom and gloom from Saints fans only got worse when Bertrand squandered an easy chance to equalise.
On 57 minutes Chelsea scored their second. Olivier Giroud was given the freedom of the city and was allowed to get his acrobatic cross in for Barkley to bundle home. At this point, if it wasn’t already, the game was over as a contest—Saints fans knew, Chelsea fans knew and the players certainly knew.
In the dying minutes many Saints fans, like myself, had seen enough and the exodus began. On 87 minutes the need for a cigarette far outweighed the need to listen to Chelsea fans gloating on how poor Saints were, meanng I didn’t see the Morata goal that capped an easy victory for the visitors.
All in all it was a Bloody awful Sunday which left me questioning whether Hughes actually knows his best 11 and what does Wesley Hoedt have on his manager that makes him get selected every week?