So with the dreaded international break over, it’s back to business as usual!
Coming off the back of the fantastic away win against Crystal Palace, the Saints will be looking for another positive result in front of the home faithful on Monday night when they host fellow south-coast side Brighton and Hove Albion just three weeks after playing them in the EFL Cup. But how have the seagulls fared so far this season in the Premier League?
The Seagulls currently sit in 14th position in the Premier League table, taking four points from their opening four games, just like the Saints. In this time, they have scored five goals, however all of which have been scored at home. On the other hand, at the other end of the pitch they’ve conceded seven. Veteran striker Glenn Murray is their top scorer with 3 goals scored and will be looking to add to his tally of goals against Southampton come Monday night!
The Saints are unbeaten in their last six Premier League home games when facing south coast opposition. Both meetings between the two teams in the Premier League came last season and both ended with a score line of 1-1. Glenn Murray scored in both of these games for Brighton; Steven Davis scored in the away leg and Jack Stephens in the home game.
Before the season began, many had Brighton down as relegation candidates and when they lost 2-0 on the opening day to Watford, where the scoreline arguably flattered them, it was easy to see why this claim had potential. That said however, when you look at Watford’s start to the season it makes you question how poor that result actually was?
Following this loss, Brighton beat Manchester United in a 3-2 thriller, lost away to Liverpool 1-0 and Drew 2-2 at home to Fulham, recovering a two goal deficit. Discounting the home win vs Mourinho’s men, two things stand out from those three results. Firstly, they only conceded one goal at Anfield. Not many teams are going to do that this season. In that loss they were dominated by a far superior side, as expected, and the deadlock was broken when the fantastic Mo Salah scored a classy finish from the edge of the area in the 23rd minute.
Aside from this, they held strong and thanked Australian goalkeeper Matt Ryan for the seven saves he made to keep the goal count at just one.
Secondly, they came from two goals down to rescue a point against Fulham and could’ve easily won it. Fulham’s Aleksandar Mitrovic went from hero to villain in this game as he gave away a dubious penalty in the 84th minute which was then slotted home by Murray from 12 yards.
It’s clear to see that this Brighton squad most certainly has heart, character and will not go down without a fight. Going off the stats however, they are yet to keep a clean sheet this season which hopefully Southampton can capitalise on.
Pascal Gross, Anthony Knockaert and Glenn Murray seem to be the main men for Brighton. Gross is arguably Brighton’s main playmaker. He usually plays just behind Murray and provides link up play from the midfield to the front man and vice versa. Last season Gross finished up with seven goals and eight assists, very impressive considering the bargain fee Brighton signed him for. He has already begun this season with a goal and this tally could have been doubled if he hadn’t missed his penalty kick in Brighton’s draw with Fulham two weekends ago.
On the right wing, Knockaert also has the potential to cause Southampton some damage. The quick, skilful, French winger already has two assists to his name this season and will be looking to continue his fine form at St. Marys on Monday night.
Finally, the fox in the box, Glenn Murray. Brighton’s no.17 is a proven goal scorer in the Premier League and is a real poacher. Albeit he’s not the fastest man, but his game doesn’t rely on pace, it relies on football intelligence and instinct. He is physical, good in the air and composed in front of goal making him a main threat.
The Team News:
Sky Sports are reporting that Florin Andone could make his debut for the Seagulls on Monday night. Andone is a 25-year-old Romanian striker who was acquired from Deportivo La Coruna for a fee of around £5.25 Million in the summer. Last season in La Liga he accumulated seven goals and three assists in 29 matches.
Several sources are claiming that both Charlie Austin and Shane Long are likely to be absent for Southampton with hamstring and toe injuries despite Mark Hughes stating that he has a fully available squad at his disposal. These sources state that over the international break they have not been training and might not be match fit come Monday. If this is true you would expect either Gabbiadini, Redmond or Elyounoussi to partner Danny Ings up top depending on what formation is played.
Like any match, the midfield battle is going to be crucial. Which ever pairing starts in the centre for Southampton will need to dictate the pace and control the game. If Pascal Gross starts he is (most likely) going to play in the hole in-between Southampton’s midfield and defence so it will be imperative that whoever plays deepest out of Romeu, Hjojberg or Lemina has eyes in the back of their head and knows where he is at all times. We do not want to give him time on the ball to try and thread the needle for Brighton.
Two words. Danny Ings. The guy is a breath of fresh air for this Southampton side and also comes into the match in great form, scoring in two of his last three Premier League starts. Besides his goals however, he is much more than a front man for this team. He is a very intelligent player who does lots of unselfish running to create space for others and also drops in to link up play with the midfield. If he can continue this fantastic start to his Southampton career, he will create goal scoring opportunities.
This is going to be a hard fought game under the lights at St Mary’s on Monday night. Brighton are yet to keep a clean sheet this season to date but have managed to score five goals (two of which were penalties) in their last 3 league games which indicates that they know where the back of the net is. Southampton will be coming off the back of an impressive 2-0 victory over Crystal Palace and most certainly have the potential to cause the Seagulls defence some headaches. The sides have already met once this season in the League Cup which resulted in a 1-0 win in Southampton’s favour and I think it will be the same scoreline on Monday night with Danny Ings getting his first goal in front of the St.Mary’s faithful!