12/08/2017: Saints 0-0 Swansea
A fixture which often promises a lot more than it delivers. For all the plaudits both sides have drawn for the way they operate both on and off the pitch in recent years, it never quite clicks when they come together. There have been few memorable clashes between the two in the Premier League era. With that in mind the final score in this particular outing didn't come as much of a shock. This was far from a dull, uneventful 0-0 however. Both sides played their part in what was a very entertaining game.
Saints were boosted by an energised St Mary's crowd. The team were on the front foot early on, with quick, sharp passing in the final third. Saints worked the ball well in wide areas with the full-backs linking up effectively with the more advanced players. Mauricio Pellegrino's men spurned a number of really good openings in the first-half. Dusan Tadic shot just wide from Ryan Bertrand's cross. Manolo Gabbiadini nodded against the bar from a corner, and James Ward-Prowse had another effort blocked.
Swansea were generally content to pass the ball around their own half without taking too many risks. They had a few extended spells of possession, and created a couple of good chances. The visitors possessed a lot more physical strength than previous Swansea sides. Tammy Abraham had two excellent opportunities either side of half-time. Saints really should have had a penalty when Tadic was hacked down just inside the box.
Swansea were even more compact than they had been in the first-half during the second period. Saints were expertly drilled at the back too, easily snuffing out any of the rare attacks made by the away side. A lot of the chances during the second 45 came from set pieces or from range. Maya Yoshida really should have buried a header, and also came close from a free-kick right at the death. Tadic forced Lukasz Fabianski into a really good save, and substitute Charlie Austin smashed the ball into the side netting in stoppage time. Kyle Bartley was fortunate not to give away a penalty, putting his hands up to block a Jack Stephens shot. Saints were unable to maintain the attacking momentum throughout, but when they did break forward they generally looked good. The hosts upped the tempo late in the game, but it wasn't enough.
Not the result he would have wanted, but overall an encouraging start for Pellegrino. Every man in red and white appeared to know what they were doing, and there was noticeable cohesion throughout the whole team. Aside from a few minor individual errors, there were no real defensive issues. Scoring remains a problem, but although the finishing touch was still missing, the fluidity with which the team played in the final third was impressive. On another day Saints could have won that game 3-0. There's more work to do and it's incredibly early days, but it looks as if Pellegrino could be on the right track.
Forster: 6. Made one big claim early on, but otherwise had very little to do
Cedric: 7. Gave Saints a good attacking outlet down the right, particularly during the first half
Stephens: 7. Another commanding display. Read the game well and strong in the tackle
Yoshida: 7. Should have scored, but positional sense and general defensive play very good
Bertrand: 7. Linked up really well with Redmond, and provided some good crosses
Romeu: 7. Typically robust and energetic in the middle of the park, with a solid passing range
Davis: 7. Just kind of kept things ticking along
Ward-Prowse: 7. Really put himself about and delivery reasonably decent
Tadic: 7. Looked sharp throughout. Created a few openings out of very little
Redmond: 7. Lively throughout, with positive forward running and good link-up play
Gabbiadini: 6. Movement generally good, just missing that finishing touch
Austin: 5. Looked sluggish for the most part, but did have one decent effort at the very end of the game
Boufal: 5. Involved in a few good moves late on
McQueen: Not really on long enough to make any sort of impact
Referee: Mike Jones
Saints line-up: Forster, Cedric, Stephens, Yoshida, Bertrand (McQueen 86), Romeu, Davis, Ward-Prowse (Boufal 71), Tadic, Redmond, Gabbiadini (Austin 69)
Subs not used: Taylor, Bednarek, Lemina, Long
Bookings: Redmond (16) Romeu (33)
Shots: 29 - On Target: 2
Swansea line-up: Fabianski, Naughton, Fernandez, Mawson, Olsson, Britton (Fulton 74) Carroll, Abraham (Bartley 81), Routledge (McBurnie 86), Ayew
Subs not used: Nordfeldt, Rangel, Mesa, Narsingh
Bookings: Fulton (90)
Shots: 4 - On Target: 0