Southampton (H) | Pre Match Review
Sheffield United vs Southampton 14/09/2019
English Premier League
After the heroics at Stamford Bridge a fortnight ago, the Blades will be hoping to take all 3 points before tough fixtures against the Merseyside clubs.
Last Time Out
Sheffield United 1 (McNulty 63) - 0 Southampton 16/12/2014
Capital One Cup Quarter Final
The Sheffield United side that evening featured the likes of Florent Cuvelier, Jamal Campbell-Ryce and Jay McEveley. Southampton’s, on the other hand, featured Victor Wanyama and Sadio Mane, the former being an unused substitute and the latter starting the Champions League final in June of this year.
Toby Alderweireld also started the worlds showpiece fixture at the Estadio Wanda Metropolitano, he came on as a second-half substitute at Bramall Lane, replacing Wanyama.
The Blades allowed the away side to have the ball and played on the break, utilising the pace of JCR in the 1st half and Adams in the 2nd. United had 15 shots, and 6 of those were on target. With United players fluffing their lines from close range on multiple occasions. Southampton dominated possession, having over 60% of the ball but not making any of their 9 shots count, with only 1 of them being on target.
A 2nd half strike from the enigmatic Marc McNulty after Fraser Forster failed to hold onto a Bob Harris free kick put the home side 1-0 up, he could have doubled his tally not long after, but it proved to be the difference between the two sides.
It was a fiery affair that saw 9 cards shown, one of those being a straight red for the Romanian international Florin Gardos in the 90th minute.
It was a game which featured some memorable moments. Che Adams made his senior debut for a professional club against a club he would join for £15m some years later. Forster’s incredible save from Jamie Murphy. And there was a bit of needle between United’s then manager Nigel Clough and Saints’ then-manager Ronald Koeman, who wouldn’t shake Clough’s hand at the end of the game.
What it will be remembered for most by Blades fans, is the moment that the only player from that evening still playing for the club was given the nickname ‘Bashambauer’.
Sheffield United would go on to play Tottenham in the semi-finals, losing 1-0 at White Hart Lane. In the second leg, Che Adams came off the bench to score two goals in as many minutes for United to go 2-1 up and to level the tie on aggregate, before Christian Eriksen broke Blades hearts 9 minutes later to equalise and to win the tie 3-2.
Summer at Southampton
Notable Ins: Moussa Djenepo (£14m, Standard Liege), Che Adams (£15m, Birmingham City), Danny Ings (£18m, Liverpool), Kevin Danso (Loan, Augsburg)
Notable Outs: Steven Davis (Free, Rangers), Matt Targett (£14m, Aston Villa), Sam Gallagher (£5m, Blackburn), Jordy Clasie (Free, AZ Alkmaar), Charlie Austin (£4m, West Brom), Harrison Reed (Loan, Fulham), Fraser Forster (Loan, Celtic), Jonathan Afolabi (Free, Celtic), Mohamed Elyounoussi (Loan, Celtic), Guido Carillo (Loan, Leganes), Wesley Hoedt (Loan, Royal Antwerp), Mario Lemina (Loan, Galatasaray)
It looked to be a case of clearing the decks at St. Mary’s. With Steven Davis, who had been there since Nigel Adkins’ time at the club, went back to Rangers.
The relationship with their crosstown rivals, Celtic, appears to be as strong as ever with Forster going back to Parkhead. Two more in Afolabi and Elyounoussi also moved to the Bhoys. (A gentle reminder that Wanyama and Virgil Van Dijk both moved to Southampton from Celtic.)
Jordy Clasie arrived from Feyenoord with much fanfare when signed by Koeman in 2015, but was never really able to nail down a place once Claude Puel left the club in 2017 and was shipped out on loan by the managers that followed. Mario Lemina, who was linked with Manchester United over the summer had to settle for a loan move to Galatasaray.
In terms of incomings. Che Adams signed from Birmingham City (pocketing a few quid for United in the process). Danny Ings’ loan move was made permanent, and winger Moussa Djenepo joined the club after an impressive season at Standard Liege which saw him score 11 and assist 6 in 39 games.
With Southampton the joint-sixth-lowest scorers in the league last year, Ralph Hasenhüttl has spent this summer looking for players who can bring more goals to the team. There has been less focus on the backline. He’ll be hoping that time on the training pitch and not being Mark Hughes can improve the defence, Milton Keynes born Austria Under-21 Defender Kevin Danso being the only reinforcement in that area.
How Have Southampton Started the Season?
It started with a 3-0 defeat to Burnley, a mistake from Vestergaard opened the scoring, but the Saints could have had an early goal through Adams. Whilst it wasn’t a ‘3-0 game’ Southampton were mistake-ridden. You’d imagine those things wouldn’t happen every week, but they appeared to struggle with Burnley ‘being Burnley’.
A narrow defeat to Liverpool and an impressive draw with Manchester United (in which they played the final 20 minutes with 10-men) was sandwiched by a 2-0 away win over Brighton & Hove Albion (who were down to 10 men after 30 minutes). It appears that the opening day defeat could be an outlier.
“A couple of the Irish boys came back early but I believe Mick [McCarthy, Ireland boss] was going to change the team around on Tuesday anyway.
That gave Callum and Dave the chance to come back and have treatment with us. We’ll give them every chance of being fit for Saturday.” - On the fitness of Callum Robinson and David McGoldrick
"For a club to really move forward it has to be united on the pitch, which it obviously is, but as well off the pitch. It is something that needs to be settled and hopefully it will be on Monday." - On the situation regarding the clubs ownership.
“Everybody is back from their international games without injuries, so that’s good news. The bad news is that Nathan [Redmond] is still not available, but he is making progress.” - On the fitness of Nathan Redmond
“They have interesting tactics, good habits and good optimism I think. They have a good mentality in their team and the atmosphere in the stadium will be hard to play against.
We are also prepared, and we want to go there and, like in Brighton, be brave. We want to press them early and try to win the balls earlier.” - On facing Sheffield United
Opposition Line Up
Hasenhüttl’s side has already played two different formations this season, in their opening two fixtures they played a 3-5-2 with Adams and Ings together. Notably, they didn’t pick up a point in their opening fixtures.
In the games that have followed, they picked up 4 points in a 4-2-2-2 formation. A formation which Hasenhüttl was successful with as manager of RB Leipzig when they finished 2nd in the Bundesliga.
That they haven’t picked up points when playing a 3-5-2 means very little. Hasenhüttl is a tactically flexible coach who will pick the best formation, depending on the opposition. It wouldn’t be a huge shock if Southampton reverted to a back 3 again as a lot of teams like to match-up oppositions who also play 3 at the back. Something I’m sure Wilder and Knill will be aware of.
Redmond won’t make the trip to the Lane. So if it is a back 3, I’d guess that it’d be a midfield of Hojbjerg, Romeu and Ward-Prowse, with the latter being in a more advanced role.
If they decide to play with a back 4, I’d expect Boufal and Ward-Prowse to be the attacking midfielders, with Romeu and Hojbjerg in deeper roles.
Just because I can’t see us getting a win in our two following fixtures, I’ll go 2-1 to Sheffield United.
Oliver McBurnie and Che Adams Both to Score at 9/1 (SkyBet); Sheffield United to Win & Both Teams to Score at 9/2 (Bet365)
I can see Wilder picking the same team which picked up a result against Chelsea, but John Fleck could make an appearance after recovering from the injury he picked up against Crystal Palace.