West Ham Home Lost 1 – 3
There was an increasing fear that a slump is becoming a crisis even before the latest disappointment – defeat at home to West Ham, Jose Fonte and all. It did begin so well, though, with big money signing Gabbiadini converting after breaking the offside trap in the 12th minute – and what a good finish it was with a rasping left foot shot into the roof of the net from an unlikely angle. However, surely the priority during the January transfer window had to be centre back cover: the club must have known from the outset that Fonte was going, and they had over two weeks to brood over Van Dijk’s injury, and consider that it could end up as bad as it has proved to be. It only took another two minutes before Carroll strode between Yoshida and Stephens, the reserve and the rookie, to score the easiest goal imaginable. From then on Saints found decent possession hard to come by and signs were already worrying as half time approached. The mood at the interval had become depression because no Southampton player bothered to close Obiang down after a corner and the defender drilled his shot into the bottom corner, with Forster’s view probably obscured by all those dallying defenders. As noted at Swansea, Southampton’s substitutions are getting earlier and earlier, and Redmond came on for Rodriguez at the break – but it was the visitors who soon established a telling lead. This time it was senior players who must take the blame: Forster for only posting a wall of two players for a left side free kick taken by Noble, and the unlucky Davis who got the touch at the near post. Saints needed a swift reply, and they should really have had one too but Gabbiadini shinned his opportunity, sending the ball over the bar. On a bad day all round, Saints lost the fragile Boufal to what looked to be another serious injury, but it’s the back line that’s causing concern, as are all these dropped points in games we might expect to be winning: we’ve yet to play any of the top six in the second half of the league season, and Diego Costa is already marking 22nd April 2017 as his red letter day.
LSSC Man of the Match: Ryan Bertrand, again – well, go-to guys like Fonte and Van Dijk aren’t available any more.