01/03/2016: Bournemouth 2-0 Saints
Saints were deservedly beaten by Bournemouth after the team put in one of their worst performances of the season. Ronald Koeman made several changes during the game, but no matter what he tried Saints just couldn't get going.
Saints were set up in a positive manner, with three up front and the full-backs playing a lot further forward than in previous games. Bournemouth made an aggressive start to the game and had several chances early on. Fraser Forster made a good low save on 2. The Cherries had another shot deflect wide of the near post a minute later. At the other end Charlie Austin shot wide after Cedric had crossed low from the byline.
The first 20 minutes or so were fairly even in terms of possession, but Bournemouth moved it about with more verve and purpose. Saints passed it along the back, without any real idea of what to do with it. The gap between defence, midfield and attack was too big to build any real cohesion. On 17 Sadio Mane lifted the ball over the bar from a difficult angle. Shane Long almost nipped in with a header from Austin's cross, only for Artur Boruc to beat him to it.
On 31 Bournemouth took the lead. Forster parried Matt Ritchie's free-kick straight out to Steve Cook, who acrobatically smashed the ball into the back of the net. Saints looked rattled in the immediate aftermath, with Max Gradel going close on 34. Steven Davis was sent on in place of Maya Yoshida, as Saints switched to a 4-2-3-1 formation for the remainder of the first-half. The team look a tad more balanced as a result, but still struggled for fluency.
At the start of the 2nd half James Ward-Prowse moved further up the pitch, but Saints still struggled to string more than a couple of passes together. Bournemouth had the game under control, without overly pressurising the Saints defence. It was a poor spectacle. Saints struggled to create anything worthwhile. Graziano Pelle made a small difference when he came on. Out of nowhere the Italian hit a low drive just wide on 73.
Bournemouth put the game to bed on 79. Ritchie's deep free-kick was floated into the centre of the area for Benik Afobe, who beat Forster to the punch before heading in. Saints showed very little during the final 10 minutes. Mane had one final chance on 87, but couldn't get enough power on his shot as he attempted to lift the ball over the keeper.
A night to forget for Koeman and his team. Bournemouth don't have a great deal of quality within their ranks, but they were better drilled and more aggressive, and thoroughly deserved to come away with the points. There were no real positives from a Southampton perspective. The team was poor on both an individual and collective basis. The resilience that Saints had shown during the previous unbeaten run was non-existent on this occasion. Our already faint hopes of reaching the Europa League have surely been extinguished now. Saints won't play that badly every week from now until the end of the season, but we don't have enough quality to maintain the consistency needed for a place in the top seven.
Forster: 4. Didn't cover himself in glory for either goal
van Dijk: 5. A passable defensive display. Distribution fairly predictable
Fonte: 5. At fault in the build-up to the first goal, and looked uneasy with the ball at his feet for most of the night
Yoshida: 6. Was doing fine, but needed to be sacrificed for the good of the team
Cedric: 5. Showed nothing going forward and average at the back
Ward-Prowse: 5. Almost certainly his worst display of the season. Got outfought in the middle and didn't use the ball that well
Romeu: 5. Made a couple of good tackles, but generally didn't assert himself on the game as much as he should have. Passing only average
Bertrand: 5. A fairly non-descript performance really. Didn't get on the ball enough and when he did he failed to offer much in an attacking sense
Mane: 5. Completely ineffective. Showed no inventiveness. Everything he did was easy for Bournemouth to read
Long: 5. Didn't look himself all evening. Completely anonymous.
Austin: 6. Chased the ball down fairly well, and involved in a few of the half-chances Saints had
Davis: 6. Made a slight difference initially, regularly showing for the ball and linking play, but not much cutting edge
Pelle: 6. A reasonable cameo. Didn't give the ball away and took up some good positions, but had very little support
Tadic: 5. A few decent touches, but was never likely to turn the tide in Saints' favour
Chelsea: Cook (31) Afobe (80)
Referee: Mike Dean
Bournemouth line-up: Boruc, Smith, Francis, Cook, Daniels, Ritchie, Surman, Arter (Gosling 66), Gradel (Pugh 85), King (Grabban 70), Afobe
Subs not used: Federici, Distin, Elphick, Murray
Saints line-up: Forster, van Dijk, Fonte, Yoshida (S Davis 34), Cedric, Ward-Prowse, Romeu, Bertrand, Mane, Long (Tadic 70), Austin (Pelle 60)
Subs not used: Stekelenburg, Yoshida, Martina, Tadic