After surrendering the lead on two occasions, it’s easy to see why some fans have been left frustrated to see us coming away with a point from Southampton yesterday, however there were plenty positives to take from our performance once again:
Hayden back with a bang
Hayden’s last start came at Brighton – a very ordinary display where he offered so little. It was a pedestrian performance which saw him dropped against Liverpool, but he took his chance in the team superbly yesterday. I was a little disappointed to see Merino left out (even if he was only being rested), but you couldn’t fault Hayden’s display.
He was strong in the air and in the tackle, took his goal well and offered us some much needed steel alongside Jonjo Shelvey. Merino and Shelvey looks like it could be our go-to partnership in the middle, but Hayden’s display gives Rafa a nice selection headache to have ahead of Palace on Saturday.
Lejeune looks class – even if he cost us two points
Lejeune will inevitably face criticism following his reckless challenge that ultimately cost us the win yesterday, but we must see beyond that. If he doesn’t make that challenge and we win 2-1 he’s a definite contender for man of the match. He looks comfortable on the ball, strong in the air, seems to read the game well and appears to know when to play out from the back or put it in row Z.
It was his first full game in the Premier League and despite his error (which he’ll have learnt a lot from), I still believe we have a very good player here.
A much needed moment for Perez
Prior to his goal it was typical Perez. Constant running and pressure, but cheap in possession and flattering deceive more times than not when he got the ball in good areas.
His goal was a big moment for him however. He showed great persistence to follow up his initial shot and got his reward for yet more hard work with a tidy finish. I want to see more consistent contributions from us offensively, but it’s good to see him off the mark after taking some criticism from fans in recent weeks.
Hard working and hard to beat
‘We don’t demand a team that wins, we demand a team that tries’. The famous quote. In fairness, this is a team that probably deserved to win yesterday and it is certainly is one that tries. We may have conceded two goals, but they were largely down to two uncharacteristic individual errors. Aside from that we rarely looked like conceding, with us limiting them to just two shots on target all game.
Joselu and Perez work tirelessly up top and behind them we have two disciplined banks of four, making us so hard to break down and beat. We had lost our last four games at Southampton by an aggregate score of 13-1, yet there was only ever one team who looked like winning it yesterday.
It was disappointing not to win in the circumstances, but a point at Southampton is one we’d have definitely taken before a ball was kicked this season!
Improvements offensively away from home
In our three away games prior to Southampton we’d scored just one goal, losing 1-0 on both occasions to newly promoted pair Huddersfield and Brighton, whilst nicking an away win at Swansea in another 1-0 affair.
Rafa won’t have been happy with a high scoring nature of yesterday’s game – that’s not his style – but it was good to see us have a bit more about us offensively. We put pressure on the Southampton defence and had 19 shots.
It’s not our style to bomb forward and we hardly peppered Fraser Forster’s goal, but it was a step in the right direction after some pretty toothless attacking play in previous away games.