Southampton vs West Brom match report: All square at St Mary's as both sides are left frustrated
Southampton 0 West Brom 0
The stripes are back at Southampton but the stars were badly missed. Ronald Koeman, the new Saints manager, has reinvested about half of the £90 million the club banked from the summer sales of Adam Lallana, Rickie Lambert, Luke Shaw and the rest, but their reshaped team looked less impressive here than they had in the 2-1 defeat away to Liverpool a week ago.
West Bromwich Albion, who have abandoned their traditional striped shirts even as Southampton have brought theirs back, had the clearest chance when Brown Ideye, their £9m record signing from Dynamo Kiev, drew the best save of the match from Fraser Forster. But generally, England’s number two and three goalkeepers had easy afternoons and it was hard to escape the impression of two teams who have yet to adjust to the demands of new managers.
Southampton, in particular, looked more predictable at the front than last season, with the Italian forward Graziano Pelle initially deployed as a lone striker in contrast to the three-pronged, high-pressing strikeforce they had employed under Mauricio Pochettino. Pelle, signed by Koeman for £8m from Feyenoord, his former club, although probably more mobile than Lambert, struggled to find his touch on his home debut.
The £10.9m Serbian playmaker Dusan Tadic showed some of the intelligence and trickery that made him the Dutch Eredivisie’s leading provider of assists last season, but while Lallana popped up everywhere, Tadic stuck to wide positions.
Saints’ best effort came from one of the players who stayed, James Ward-Prowse, who revealed on the eve of the match that he had studied Koeman’s legendary dead ball-striking capabilities on YouTube, and bent a second-half free-kick against an upright. Koeman wants to buy a winger, and more width variety would certainly have helped.
“The result was better than last week,” Koeman said. “Last week we deserved more than we got but today it was difficult. We didn’t have the tempo to create more, to surprise them. Maybe we need to work (on understanding) but being too slow gives the opponent time to have good organisation. We need more players as it will be a long season in England.”
Alan Irvine, the Albion manager, is also hoping to sign two attacking players, including at least one wide man, by the end of the transfer window but he was the more contented of the two managers. “I’m delighted where the team is at the moment,” he said. “It’s a team that has only been together in the last two weeks, doing meaningful work. Southampton looked a real threat at Anfield but they weren’t able to cut us open so I was very pleased.”
West Brom, in fact, showed first, Victor Anichebe flicking a shot wide and Graham Dorrans having a shot blocked by Jose Fonte after a low cross from Andre Wisdom. Southampton’s attacks foundered on a deep-defending visiting team, with Pelle sometimes slow to anticipate promising situations.
When he got a shot on target after 28 minutes, his effort lacked pace and was blocked by Jonas Olsson. “Sometimes [Pelle] can be a little more aggressive to understand what position the ball will fall to him but he also needed the help of players around him,” Koeman said.
Even a mix-up between Ben Foster and Wisdom did not produce an attempt at goal from Southampton, and Foster’s only real save of note came when Steven Davis’s header allowed Tadic to hit an angled shot that the goalkeeper turned aside at full stretch. Koeman sent on £12.5m signing Shane Long but Ideye, introduced minutes later, had the greater impact. First he nodded nodded Sebastien Pocognoli’s cross into the side netting, then, after Ward-Prowse’s curling effort had smacked the outside of an upright, turned imperiously past Fonte only for Forster to rush out to block.
“[Brown] has done very little training and hasn’t had a pre-season and I was delighted,” Irvine said, also agreeing that defensive midfield player Youssuf Mulumbu had been a key performer.
“I don’t like to pick anyone out but he broke up play really well. I expected this to be a really difficult game, but we were very solid.”
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