Watford Home Drew 1 – 1
Saints were without the injured Bertrand for the season’s opener against Watford, but other significant names were also missing: Wanyama, Pellè and Mané (all sold) plus Fonte (sitting on the bench, more likely pending contract conclusions than as a result of Euro 2016 over-exertion). Joining Jose on the sidelines were Clasie and Højbjerg, kept out of a new midfield formation by Ward-Prowse; it didn’t look a starting XI to scare the likely big players in the Europa League. Saints have made significant signings close to deadline day in the past, so it may be too early to predict a period of consolidation rather than progress, but should that be Katharina’s chosen path, then it may be a dangerous one in the Premier League rat race. Saints came close to taking an early lead when Gomes fumbled Tadić’s free kick into the path of his colleague Britos, but the keeper atoned with his reactions to make a second save. Instead it was Saints who fell behind in the first ten minutes when Watford succeeded in their plans to match Soarez against one of their tall forwards (Deeney) and Capoue was noticeably quicker than Romeu to react, so getting his team off to a flyer. Manager Puel’s ‘diamond’ midfield is supposed to make us more flexible, but it’s no substitution for the qualities of Pellè and Mané so we relied on tricky skills from Tadić (Ronald Koeman never let him do that sort of thing on the wing) and the potential of Redmond’s shooting. That option was to prove significant after the break with Gomes saving well from the newcomer before Redmond was given space to convert the loose ball after a corner. Saints finished the game stronger, but this was most likely a result of Watson’s straight red card for holding back Long just as the forward was breaking clear. In fact they found the net through Redmond for a second time but an offside flag kept the scores level, which is a reasonable reflection of the game. Højbjerg and Pied both came on for debuts but neither lit up an ordinary match that sat well with the new manager’s ‘what am I doing here?’ impressions in the technical area. I for one don’t want to judge Claude on his touchline attitude, but I predict from the Dave Jones experience the fans will expect more animation should things ever be going wrong.
LSSC Man of the Match: Nathan Redmond for an encouraging debut.