18/07/2015: FC Groningen 0-3 Saints
Saints kicked their pre-season preparations up a notch in Groningen, seeing off the green and white's 3-0. Ronald Koeman named a stronger line-up than he had done in Austria and made fewer changes to the team as the game went on. As a result Saints looked sharper and more cohesive as a unit.
The game was played at a higher pace than Saints' previous pre-season fixtures. Groningen may have just edged the first 15, but Saints were in control after that. The home side forced Paulo Gazzaniga into some good saves, following some patient build-up play. Most of Saints' early openings came on the break. On 18 Sadio Mane shot just wide after embarking on a good run through the middle of the pitch. Victor Wanyama powered a header on to the bar from a corner a few moments later. Saints finally got their goal on 23, Jose Fonte heading in from a corner. Saints remained in control of possession going into half-time. Maya Yoshida really should have made it 2-0 when he hooked the ball over from inside the area.
Not long after the interval Gazzaniga stopped the ball going in with his face, before Groningen hit the side netting with the follow up. Sadio Mane gave Saints some breathing room on 52, tapping in following good work from Cedric Soares and Dusan Tadic down the right. Shane Long had a couple of half-chances and Tadic also stung the keepers' gloves. The Serb produced a sublime piece of skill to set up substitute Graziano Pelle for the third on 73. Saints had further chances to add to their lead before full-time. Fonte headed over at the back-post from a James Ward-Prowse free-kick. Pelle was almost played in again, but Ward-Prowse's through ball was just a touch too heavy. At the other end Gazzaniga made yet another good save after Saints were caught slacking at the back. Just before full-time Fonte had a header off the line, with Pelle hitting the bar on the follow-up.
Saints played well as a team, but there were plenty of individual performances that caught the eye too. Gazzaniga made a few minor misjudgements early on, but more than made up for it with a string of stunning saves. Cuco Martina looked much more assured playing at right-back in the first-half than he did on the left in the second. Matt Targett is a week behind the rest of the team, and it kind of showed. He was a bit rusty. Fonte was very good and Yoshida looked comfortable as well. Wanyama dominated the midfield, while Steven Davis put in a few good long passes. Tadic displayed some majestic footwork. His performance was reminiscent of his early Southampton form. Mane was a real handful, making some rapid bursts through the Groningen defence. Juanmi wasn't as involved as the other attacking players, but did display some decent technique. Shane Long did ok. Substitute Soares had another good showing, giving Saints another attacking outlet down the right. New boy Jordy Clasie made a solid start after coming on at half-time. Clasie pressed when required and displayed a decent range of passing. Ward-Prowse did well in his first 45 of the campaign. Pelle looked sharp, but Rodriguez still looks a bit out of sorts. Sam McQueen - who scored against Brighton in a behind closed doors friendly at Staplewood - replaced Tadic for the last 15 minutes. Harrison Reed also got a run out late on.
21/07/2015: Quick '20 0-10 Saints
Koeman rested several of the players who started at Groningen for the match against the Dutch amateurs. A youthful defence was supported by a fairly experienced attack. Quick had neither the physical or tactical capabilities to get near Saints. The visitors absolutely strolled it. The match was nothing more than a glorified training session, with Saints camped in Quick's half for pretty much the entire 90 minutes. Steven Davis tucked the ball away in from close range after Ward-Prowse had headed down from Soares' cross in the first minute. Pelle made it 2-0 on 13, taking down a high ball before shooting on the turn. Pelle had come close on a couple of occasions in the preceding 10 minutes. Rodriguez got the third, latching on to Clasie's ball over the top before slotting into the bottom corner. Rodriguez notched again on 27 after Pelle's initial shot had been pushed out by the keeper. Pelle made it 5-0 within a minute, touching in Soares' low ball across goal. On 40 Davis tapped in from close range, having been played in by Jack Stephens. Pelle got his hatrick not long before half-time, rounding the keeper following some poor defending.
Koeman rang the changes at half-time, switching to three at the back. Jack Stephens stepped up into a deep midfield role. Jason McCarthy, Jordan Turnbull and Josh Debayo made up the defence. It was Turnbull who added the eighth, heading in from Ward-Prowse's cross. Quick had their first shot on goal soon after, but Saints were always in control. The visitors saw all of the ball, but weren't quite as flowing as they were in the first-half. On 62 Juanmi knocked in Rodriguez's cross. Quick's keeper made a couple of great saves before Rodriguez completed the scoring on 87 with his third of the game.
23/07/2015: Feyenoord 0-3 Saints
Feyenoord fans packed out De Kuip for the return of their former boss Koeman (there were about 500 Saints fans high up in the stand behind one of the goals). Pelle and Clasie were introduced individually prior to kick-off, receiving a rapturous reception from their former supporters. Saints made a rapid start to the game in Rotterdam. Pelle shot over from Mane's cross inside the first few minutes. The away side were very effective on the break. Feyenoord did cause a few problems from set pieces. The game later settled down somewhat, with Saints taking a more patient approach to proceedings. Koeman's men took the lead on 41. Targett's long ball forward was taken down by Tadic, who played in Pelle for a simple tap-in.
Feyenoord responded well during the early stages of the second-half. Rick Karsdorp's powerful effort flew just over the bar. At the other end Soares dragged a shot wide. Saints looked slightly more composed on the ball, and on 62 their good play was rewarded with a second goal. Yoshida headed in from Steven Davis's free-kick. The last half-hour was fairly uneventful. Juanmi finished Feyenoord off on 83, placing the ball in the bottom corner after Long had hooked the ball forward.
Nobody really played badly in Rotterdam. The team performed well as a unit, excelling as a counter attacking force and making good use of set pieces. Soares and Clasie looked good once again. Juanmi showed a bit more quality than he had done previously, coming off the bench. Stekelenburg received a rough reception due to his Ajax connections, but never let it affect him. He was steady throughout. Targett looked much better than he did against Groningen, while Fonte and Yoshida were rarely troubled. Steven Davis has stepped up his form. Wanyama was tidy in midfield, with Tadic and Mane sparkling in attack once again. Pelle's appears to have rediscovered his finishing touch. It all bodes well going into the first competitive game against Vitesse on Thursday.
Saints: Fonte (24) Mane (52) Pelle (72)
Groningen: Padt, Botteghin (Kappelhof 46), Burnet (Tamata 74), Kieftenbeld, de Leeuw (Hoesen 74), Rusnak, Mahi (Antonia 61), Lindgren (van der Laan 82), Linssen (Bacuna 74), Hiariej, Hateboe
Subs not used: van der Vlag, Nieff, Paye
Saints: Gazzaniga, Martina, Fonte, Yoshida, Targett (Soares 46), Wanyama (Reed 82), S Davis (Clasie 46), Tadic (McQueen 74), Mane (Rodriguez 67), Juanmi (Ward-Prowse 46), Long (Pelle 67)
Subs not used: Stekelenburg, K Davis, Stephens, Turnbull, Debayo, McCarthy, Isgrove
KVV Quick 1920 Details
Saints: S Davis (1, 39) Pelle (12, 28, 42) Rodriguez (15, 27, 87) Turnbull (51) Juanmni (61)
KVV Quick 1920: Krukkert (Vis 30 (Berkel 60)), Sen (Venterink 46), Swier (Strijland 46), Zwienenberg (Kamp 46), Visser(Demir 46 (Graff 65)), Monninkhof (Lashof 46), Damhuis (Kuiper 46), Koopman (Grashof 46), Niemeijer (Nijhof 46), Somi (Veldhuis 46), Korkis (Schneider 46)
Saints line-up: K Davis, Soares (Turnbull 46), McCarthy, Stephens, Targett (Debayo 46), Ward-Prowse (Tadic 71), Reed, S Davis (Isgrove 46), Clasie (Juanmi 46), Rodriguez, Pelle (McQueen 46)
Subs not used: Gazzaniga, Martina, Long
Saints: Pelle (41) Yoshida (61) Juanmi (83)
Feyenoord: Vermeer, Karsdorp, Dammers, Kongolo, Nelom (Woundenberg 77), Toornstra, Vejinovic, El Ahmadi (Vilhena 70), Kuyt, Kazim-Richards (Manu 66), Basacikoglu
Subs not used: Hahn, Immers, Boetius, Te Vrede, Sleegers, Wilkshire, Verdonk, Nieuwkoop, Gustafson, Achabar, Schuurman
Saints line-up: Stekelenburg, Soares, Fonte, Yoshida, Targett, Clasie (Ward-Prowse 61), Wanyama, S Davis, Tadic (Reed 75), Mane (Juanmi 61), Pelle (82)
Subs not used: K Davis, Martina, Stephens, McCarthy, Debayo, Rodriguez