West Bromwich Albion 0-1 Saints
Southampton finished the 2012/13 season with a first team squad that was large enough, and with no real concerns over quality. The problem was, and remains, that so many seem to play in the same position, leaving others a bit light on cover.
With the acquisition of Wanyama, we have nine men who could best be described as midfielders, seven of whom you could rely upon to do a job at any time (well, we all share a few doubts about Guly and Ramirez, don’t we?). On the other hand, the only specialist cover for Clyne is the untried Chambers while the only confident cover for Shaw is Clyne – and Saints entered the week before the season’s opener with both injured.
As it turned out, Shaw made it to line up at West Brom, Chambers made his Premier League debut at right back and Ward-Prowse, Schneiderlin, Wanyama and Lallana were the lucky ones selected in the middle.
It soon looked a safe selection, as Albion struggled to gain much possession, let alone make any impact, and Saints would not have been flattered had they taken a 34th minute lead when Lallana put the ball in the net following Lambert’s knock down. It looked offside at the time, but TV has revealed that only Rodriguez was in an illegal position, and it’s highly debateable whether he was active in the play – the linesman’s raised flag does not reveal his reasoning.
Saints attacked the visiting fans’ end in the second period and soon threatened to break the deadlock, but Rodriguez hit the bar, with the whistle having sounded in any case. Although Wanyama caught the eye with his solid tackling, getting a goal to reward the amount of possession the side enjoyed was a familiar failing from the previous campaign.
Most of us were probably happy enough with a solid but scoreless point before Shaw broke into the box on the stroke of normal time, only to be upended by a clumsy challenge from Mulumbu: although Foster guessed right, Lambert, now the nation’s favourite, found the bottom corner from the spot. Surviving three minutes of added time should have been straightforward, given what had gone before, but a desperate and more direct approach from the home side forced a fine save from Boruc to preserve a rare opening day win.
LSSC Man of the Match: Victor Wanyama, in a close vote. Shame on those who didn’t have the romance to reward Chambers after an excellent first game!