Wayne Rooney played at St Mary’s for both Everton & Manchester United, now he returns for the first time as a manager, he is already under fire from the fans after only two games, can the Saints heap more misery on him?
Wayne Rooney was brought into St Andrews to change the style that the club were playing, he arrived with the club in 6th place and two games and two defeats later they are now in 12th, however such is the compact nature of this division, if he were to lead the Blues to victory they would jump above Saints in the table on goal difference.
So our job is simple, turn the travelling Blues fans against their manager and ensure that the boos again ring out for Rooney at St Mary’s as they did for his teams’ performances in their defeat to Hull in midweek.
But the question for Southampton supporters is what side will Russell Martin put out?
There are injury issues and they are being kept close to the chest by the manager, after the departure of Che Charles at halftime in the draw at Preston, Martin has spoken of how he and indeed Adams himself are frustrated, but he did not elaborate on the injury sustained or the severity, so the answer to that question may not be answered and then only partially at 11.30 am on Saturday when the team is announced.
Also missing on Wednesday was Taylor Harwood-Bellis, he was doubtful at Hull with a hamstring issue, although he managed the full game he was missing at Deepdale, this was perhaps understanding, hamstrings are funny things and two games in the space of a few games was likely a risk not worth taking in case it aggravated the condition and led to a much longer spell in the treatment room.
If Adams is out then Russell Martin has to consider his options, the first could be recalling Alex McCarthy in goal and playing Gavin Bazunu as a centre forward, don’t laugh I have seen stranger team selections this season!
On a serious note though or at least I hope, the question is who will play in front of Bazunu in defence.
If Harwood-Bellis is fit I expect him back in the centre of defence, if he isn’t then the only change I would expect is the return of Ryan Manning at right back.
That won’t be popular with some, but the truth is we did miss him at Preston, especially in the last 30 minutes when we created far fewer chances than we have done when he was in the side.
Like it or not he is the best option we have there at least until Juan Larios is fit and that is likely to be in January.
If Harwood-Bellis does not pass muster then I would have no problem with Mason Holgate continuing, he has suffered a terrible start to his Saints career and perhaps some won’t let him forget that, but at Preston he was okay and we should remember how little football he has played in the last 18 months or so.
Selecting the defence should be relatively easy compared to the rest of the team and in midfield and up front Martin has some real questions posed.
Ideally, Adam Armstrong should be played as the central striker, but the reality is that he has also been vital as a wideman who works hard to get back and help out the full-backs, we play a narrow game in midfield which means that our wide men up front have to help out, but defensive duties are not high on either Kamaldeen Sulemana or Charly Alcatraz’s skill sets.
Sam Edozie is learning fast about his duties and he chased back Potts for Preston’s second, however, he is still raw and didn’t quite get the goal side of the man, I don’t blame him for this, he was left exposed by those behind and around him.
So first up the midfield trio, does he stick with Downes and Smallbone as a duo and bring in Stuart Armstrong as the third man or does he bring in Shea Charles?
Up front Adam Armstrong is a given, I would like to see him played down the middle, but who plays alongside him, we are spoiled for choice, Sulemana, Alcatraz, Edozie, Fraser, or even Mara, I can’t make up my mind although I would like to see Fraser given a start, he has the experience to attack and defend and that will solve the problem on one side for Martin.
But there is only one thing that matters in this performance and that is getting all three points, as I said in an article yesterday How many points do the Saints Need to get to the play we need around 75 points, that’s an average of about 1.63 per game, we start against Birmingham with 21 points from 13 games, just a shade under that ratio.
This is our task for the next few months, just keep grinding out results and points and keeping above that average, if we do that then the playoffs are our first target, and then we can look at the top two.
If we beat Birmingham and beat them well then that will show that we do mean business, although coming through that 4 game losing streak and turning it into a 5 game-unbeaten run that places us into the playoff positions is perhaps evidence that we are already doing just that.