Yes, I know, this isn’t a NJ Travel Soccer story, but the tagline for the blog is Everything New Jersey Soccer and more… I am the self-proclaimed #1 American-Born Southampton FC fan, birthed from the Pochettino era. I tried to prove this in February when I traveled all the way to London specifically for the EFL Cup Final at Wembley and wrote tales of my experience. Now I am out to back my title by following the Saints all year long!
Therefore I must begin by reviewing the first game of the pre-season against St. Gallen in Switzerland which is amazingly being aired on ESPN3.com to stateside fans. Many would say this game means nothing, but that is so far from the truth for the following reasons:
- We have a new coach – Mauricio Pellegrino (love his frizzante) who will want to instill his style and tactics immediately. He stated in his pre match interview that the result does not matter, but more importantly the team instills what they have learned right away and play together. The latter is what is important for me, I thought with Puel, the team never truly gelled and believed in the system. The fact that Pellegrino noticed this from Day 1 and is emphasizing the importance of team unity is making me a believer already, hopefully the players too.
- Youth will be on display – This is one of the main attractions of Southampton for me. I am a youth soccer coach and I love that the team consistently brings youth through the farm (i.e. 2017 McQueen and Sims), and gives them a shot. These kids all have something to prove to their new coach, which means they will play hard, and could make for an entertaining watch.
- Will van Dijk Play? This is what all the media outlets will write about. Pellegrino has said we will bring him in slow… that sounds like an excuse for not playing him, but I am sure it will fuel the fire of many looking for the next article with the now 80 million price tag on our stud center back. (Thanks Kyle Walker)
The First Half Southampton in a 4-2-3-1 Formation
Lineup: Foster (GK) Flannigan (RB) O’Driscoll (RCB) Yoshida (LCB) McQueen (LB) Clasie (DCM) Romeu (DCM) Tadic (ACM) Teller (RW) Boufal (LW) Austin (ST) Subs: Tyreke Johnson came on for Tella
- The Youth – They all played up the right side… Aaron O’Driscoll looked completely out of place, Flannigan looked stocky and spry with a good first step to the ball (he has a chance), and Tella just isn’t strong enough yet, although he did force a lot of fouls as he got knocked down.
- Sofiane Boufal – Had all his tricks, and actually delivered timely crosses instead of over-dribbling. He had 2 crosses that a more clinical finisher (Manolo) would have put away. He is a true hot head though, he got in a shoving match 17 minutes in with a guy who held him from advancing.
- Charlie Austin – Looked as stiff and rigid as ever, did nothing, and looked clumsy trying to defend in our own third. Maybe he should have left the beard on.
- Romeu and Clasie – Both looked good and wanted to play, held the midfield down.
- McQueen – was used as a left back again, not sure if that can stick unless Betrand is shipped out as Targett will be back and healthy.
- Tadic – Wanted to do a lot, but offered little while floating across the field. Honestly I have lost faith in this guy because I just don’t believe he wants to be here.
- Yoshida – Was himself, very good step to stop attacks at midfield. Defends in a different kind of way, but gets the job done and you can always count on him. 2 years ago when he was starting, fans wanted him OUT, after last year, I hope their lips are sealed.
- Foster – Looks svelt – not as muscly as he used to be. Which I believe will only be a good thing. Was forced to make a big save 25 seconds in and made 2 more that asked a lot of him. Solid game other than every time it is passed back to him I cringe.
The Second Half Southampton in a 4-2-3-1 Formation Again
Lineup: McCarthy (GK) Pied (RB) Jones (RCB) Gardos (LCB) Little (LB) Hojberg (DCM) Davis (DCM) Long (RW) Johnson (LW) Gallagher (ACM) Gabbiadini (ST) Subs: Slattery on For Johnson
- The Youth – Alfie Jones didn’t show anything special, but played safe… Armani Little looks the size and the strength, but lacks decision-making… Johnson didn’t see much of the ball, but he is 18 and is a big boy, looks at the right development level for his age… Slattery showed quickness and confidence in his short time on the pitch… Sam Gallagher (if you can call him youth) looks like an upgrade to Jay Rodriguez with 5 times more athleticism.
- Florin Gardos – Honestly shocked he is still around, he just doesn’t have it and young Alife Jones looked better than him at his side.
- Hojberg – Gets Kudos for most motivated player on the pitch. He brought it today, played pretty well, stood out consistently in the 2nd half. Played a driven ball 40 yards on a tee to Slattery. Still lacks decision-making though and will have to limit the bone-headed plays that he often brings.
- Stephen Davis – Took this like a preseason game, was his workman self, but could tell it was just maintenance.
- Shane Long – I could not figure out where he was playing half the time as he, Sam, and Manolo constantly shifted. Little impact though from limited space, which he needs to run.
- Gabbiadini – Had the best Southampton chance, but seemed like he was finding his legs out there. His goal-scoring opp was a good 1-2 and a great kick save by the keeper. He buries that in week 1 BPL play.
- Mccarthy- Played well, and will be a serviceable backup keeper. Better with his feet than Foster.
Game Play Notes:
- The ref got hurt in the second half…. that about sums up the 0-0 game
- St. Gallen created way more goal scoring chances than the Saints, we probably deserved a 0-1 result, but goal keeping was strong.
- I saw glimpses of Pellegrino’s pressing… when St. Gallen played out of the back in the first 10 minutes, we actually forced them to pass it over the touch line inside the 20 yard line. Not enough turnovers forced overall though.
It was just really great to see the boys out in the new red and white kits. In under a month it will count against Swansea City, so the first tune up is a step in the right direction. Now on to France!