Southampton played out an entertaining pre-season friendly against Jiangsu Suning this afternoon as they finished off their tour of China with a win.
Mark Hughes continued to rotate his side but stuck with a similar system to the one which drew 3-3 with Schalke last week. A 5-3-2 shape was prominent in defensive transitions, while a 3-4-1-2 system was employed while Saints were either in possession or on the break.
Manolo Gabbiadini headed in Stuart Armstrong’s well-executed cross into the box before Zhang Lingfeng found space in the box to level for Jiangsu.
The Chinese Super League side took the lead shortly after, too, as Richmond Boakye was able to strike the ball beyond Alex McCarthy after some poor Southampton defending. Nathan Redmond levelled just before half-time with a drive high into the net. Why the Jiangsu goalkeeper was 15 yards off his line, however, is anyone’s guess.
Twitter: GOAL: Jiangsu Suning 2-2 #SaintsFC (@NathanRedmond22 43)
Redmond finishes smartly from the edge of the box after t… https://t.co/xzC0PDxzZJ (@SouthamptonFC)
Sam Gallagher netted in the final stretch of the game after making a good run in behind the Jiangsu defence, making it 3-2 to Saints. Steven Davis’ through ball was perfectly-weighted and Gallagher scored with an accurate right-footed finish.
Pre-season is made for developing fitness and familiarising the players with the manager’s tactical concepts, but it’s always good to draw some conclusions as the season edges ever closer.
So, here are some takeaways from Saints’ interesting win against Jiangsu Suning.
- Stuart Armstrong has made some decent first impressions as a Southampton player. He was hit and miss against Schalke but had a good first half against Jiangsu and set Gabbiadini’s goal up really well. Armstrong worked hard and looked to fashion chances when he could.
- It’s not necessarily a finding, but more a reiteration of what we already knew – Southampton are still woeful defensively. Pre-season or not, the displays from Jack Stephens and, particularly, Wesley Hoedt epitomised just why Saints are so desperate to get a deal for a centre-back over the line.
- Nathan Redmond looked sharp again. He was probably Saints’ best player against Schalke and he was dangerous against Jiangsu again. His end product was largely lacking but he was quick on the turn, ran with the ball and drove at goal. He took Saints’ second well despite the goalkeeping mishap. It feels as though he could figure at the forefront of Hughes’ plans for next season.
- The experiment regarding James Ward-Prowse at right wing-back didn’t work. He looked shaky, positionally unaware and uncomfortable. He’s certainly a midfielder, and one who shouldn’t be tasked with a primarily defensive role.
- Saints’ defending at set-pieces was pretty poor. They were often beaten to the first ball and unresponsive when trying to clear their lines. There appeared to be a lack of organisation, but Jiangsu couldn’t take advantage of it.
- Oriol Romeu didn’t look particularly good in the first-half. It seemed he was flat-footed when facing the play and he switched off for both goals. Hopefully, he can iron out the silly errors as pre-season progresses.
- Southampton may not actually need to go out and sign a backup right-back, in my opinion. Harrison Reed has looked at home on the right when he’s been called upon by Hughes and was equally impressive there for Norwich last season.
- Sam Gallagher looked good when he came on. He took his goal really well but his run in behind the defence to create the space for himself was purposeful and intelligent. He was always on the move and turned in a decent second-half display.