Southampton lost their first league game of the season on Saturday, with a very a lacklustre performance against Watford.
The Saints lost the game 2-0 and failed to register an attempt on target until added time of the second half.
Mauricio Pellegrino and Southampton have really lacked a high, attacking press since the victory over West Ham, despite it being one of the factors of play promised to Saints fans upon Pellegrino’s arrival.
Watford, on the other hand, were disciplined, organised, competitive, motivated and dominant throughout the game and fully deserved their win as they were the better team.
In a game which, in all honesty, wasn’t a great spectacle for neutrals, Watford struck gold with two long range, low strikes that beat Fraser Forster. The first came from Abdoulaye Doucoure after Saints were sloppy defending a Watford throw.
The second came in similar fashion, as poor defending from another Watford throw ended up at the feet of Daryl Janmaat, who scored from a similar distance to Doucoure. It was a strike that Forster was slow to get down to and should have done a lot better with.
Below, we have a review on Mauricio Pellegrino’s managerial performance following the result against Watford.
The Starting XI
The game against Watford saw Pellegrino make three changes to the side that drew 0-0 away at Huddersfield before the international break.
Sofiane Boufal came in for Dusan Tadic for his first start of the season, James Ward-Prowse replaced Mario Lemina for his first start since the opening day of the season and Wesley Hoedt made his debut for the Saints, replacing Maya Yoshida.
It was to many Saints fans’ delight to see Dusan Tadic, who has had a poor start to the season, replaced. There was also a sense of excitement to see Wesley Hoedt’s first start for the Saints. As for James Ward-Prowse’s inclusion, it was a bit of a surprise as both he and Pellegrino still don’t seem to know his best position in the Saints side as he fails to offer much out on the right and was completely woeful in the number 10 role.
The changes that were made were to give some of the players away on international duty an extra rest period from all the travelling that they had done over the international break.
Not Southampton’s strongest starting XI on paper, but definitely not a weak one by any means.
Were there any tactics in place against Watford? It certainly didn’t look like it.
Since being brought into the position of Southampton manager, Saints fans were promised a high press as I alluded to earlier. However, Southampton are yet to see an attacking press sense since the win at home against West Ham.
The football hasn’t been exciting, and it’s left a lot to be desired. There are plenty of unanswered questions asked of Pellegrino at this stage.
Pellegrino made his first substitution at half time, replacing James Ward-Prowse with Dusan Tadic. This was a very understandable substitution as Ward-Prowse simply looked lost in the first half. However, I would personally have taken him off for Mario Lemina and pushed Steven Davis into the number ten role.
The next two substitutions came within two minutes of each other when Southampton were 2-0 down. Gabbiadini was replaced by Shane Long in the 69th minute and then Sofiane Boufal was replaced by Charlie Austin.
Seeing Gabbiadini getting replaced every game around this mark is growing increasingly frustrated to see, as he does everything he can to be involved in play, including dropping deep, because he is getting no service whatsoever.
The same was happening to Charlie Austin when he came on, whereas balls were just played in behind for Shane Long to chase and receive no support if he got there. There was no plan.
Post-match comments and reaction
So far I have constantly praised Pellegrino for his post-match honesty. But against Watford, Pellegrino just looked and sounded defeated.
The only real note of sense he spoke was that his side were slow to second balls and didn’t improve what soever throughout the game.
Overall assessment and mark out of 10
I am going to have to give Pellegrino a 3/10 for the defeat to Watford.
His side didn’t look interested, he made frustrating substitutions, and sounded defeated and uninterested when reflecting on the game. Overall, an abysmal day for Pellegrino and his side.
Saints travel to Crystal Palace next weekend and something has to change, drastically, ahead of the fixture based on the performance against Watford.