On Saturday afternoon, Southampton face the short trip down the south coast to face high-flying Bournemouth at the Vitality Stadium in a game where expectations are relatively low for the away supporters.
Mark Hughes’ side come into the game following three consecutive league defeats with zero goals scored (in fairness the games were an away trip to high-flying Wolves and two tests against title-challengers) and so, after having an extra week of preparation given the international break, fans will be hoping that the Saints are ready to kick on ahead of some winnable fixtures.
However, the game doesn’t come at a very good time for the Saints as Bournemouth are sitting very comfortably in sixth with sixteen points from just eight games; six of those points coming from their previous two outings.
The Cherries have had an exceptional start to the campaign, one in which some wrote them off completely! Bar the 4-0 defeat at Burnley, Eddie Howe’s side have, and I hate to say it, superb to watch. They’re scoring plenty of goals and they seem relatively solid (for the most part) at the back.
Following an impressive 4-0 win away at Watford and a late victory at home to Crystal Palace, Bournemouth will see this as a great opportunity to get one over the side that most fans believe is a ‘derby’ when it really isn’t (I don’t know why we’re still having this conversation after four seasons with them in the Premier League)!
Bournemouth have actually only beaten Southampton once in their six games against us in the top-flight, that being a 2-0 defeat at the Vitality under Ronald Koeman, and have a pretty poor record against us, picking up just two points in our last four meetings, whereas Southampton have won three of the six Premier League games against them.
Unfortunately though, however much we want to deny it, this is probably the best time for Bournemouth to be playing us. Confidence is low amongst the side as results still haven’t turned in our favour since last season which is a major worry. Southampton are still in a predicament and with three defeats on the bounce and losing a two-goal lead at home to Brighton before-hand we seem incredibly vulnerable.
That being said, I personally feel the performances have been better than they were last season but the results still aren’t going in our favour and individual errors continue to cost us. Furthermore, we are coming up against a side who are the league’s best at getting results after going behind whilst we’re one of if not the best at giving away points from winning positions.
Having been in the Premier League with Bournemouth now for over three seasons, we’ve come to know what to expect from King. The Norwegian has four goals and an assist had has also started all eight of Bournemouth’s Premier League games. Having scored at St.Mary’s in April, he’s also experienced scoring past Southampton so the defence will have to be wary of his presence.
Wilson has also been in great goal-scoring form this season with three goals to his name, however, the striker has picked up four assists as well alongside. The striker is known to be clinical and some ask why he still hasn’t been called up for England so the Saints will have to be wary as if he’s given a chance he’s likely to take it.
The Scotland international has been pulling the strings yet again for Bournemouth this season, with the midfielder bagging three goals and assists respectively. Despite being a ‘wee lad’ the midfielder has played a vital role in Bournemouth’s major goal threat, breaking up play and setting players off to start attacking. Keep him quiet and the rest of the Bournemouth side may have a quiet afternoon.
Southampton have no injury concerns after several first-team players played for their respective nations during the international break. Alex McCarthy was a concern after withdrawing from the England squad but Mark Hughes has confirmed that the goalkeeper is available for selection which is good news.
As for the hosts, they too seem to have no injury concerns after just four first-team players left for international duty. Ryan Fraser did withdraw from the Scotland squad but is expected to play on Saturday.
This game isn’t a must win in my eyes, however, three points would do the side a whole load of good! Given that our problem right now is seeing games out and the mentality within the side, I’d say that getting something from the game is essential, avoid defeat at all costs because four on the bounce is a run we’d expect to have seen last season and we really don’t want to be facing that again.
We also have winnable home fixtures either side of the away trip to Manchester City after the weekend so taking something from the Vitality would surely put the side in high spirits ahead of the must-win game against Newcastle next Saturday.
Bournemouth know their set team pretty much but may tinker given the international break, however, fans aren’t sure how Hughes will approach the game. We could see the back-five system continue to be used, will Gabbiadini keep is place up front alongside Ings?
I do feel we have to go for it though, really take the game to Bournemouth. A strong performance rewarded with a result is exactly what we need right now, and I’m going to back us to get something.
Bournemouth 2-2 Southampton