Southampton and Bournemouth played out a 0-0 draw at St Mary’s Stadium on Saturday, but it was far from boring as both sides had chances.
Although the point keeps the home side in the top ten, this is a match that they should have won and doubts remain about the strikers at the club.
Manolo Gabbiadini has been a revelation since coming to the club, but he was injured this afternoon and the Saints lacked a clinical finisher without him.
Here are three things that we learned on Saturday…
Southampton are reliant on Manolo Gabbiadini
The Italian has been excellent since joining the club and it was always going to be difficult to replace his goal threat in the final third. Shane Long and Jay Rodriguez has been called upon a lot this season in various competitions, but neither has managed to perform to the level expected. They have seven Premier League goals between them this season and that isn’t good enough for players of their ability. They both had chances this afternoon, but they clearly lack confidence and rhythm in front of goal.
Southampton’s problem during the first half of the season was that they are overly reliant on Charlie Austin. The injury to the Englishman forced them into the market and they found a gem of a player in Gabbiadini, but their woes in the final third have returned due to the Italian’s injury. It is unfair to put the blame completely on Long and Rodriguez, as the midfielders should be contributing more often. Dusan Tadic and Nathan Redmond are both good players, but they were wasteful on Saturday. Saints need to fix their attacking woes if they are to secure a top ten finish.
Bournemouth are edging closer to safety
Although they had two huge chances to win this game, Bournemouth should be relatively happy to take a point. They have moved onto 34 points and are only two wins away from the magic 40-point mark that usually confirms a side’s Premier League status. The Cherries have a difficult run ahead of them over the next couple of weeks, but they should have enough to stay up regardless of how they fare in those matches. A point isn’t the worst thing in the world and they need to take the positives of maintaining their unbeaten run.
It would be a magnificent achievement for Bournemouth to stay up in the Premier League for the second season in a row. They looked like they were at risk of being dragged into the relegation battle a couple of months ago, but they have avoided defeat in their last four matches and are now seven points above the bottom three. There are nine teams below them and they should have enough to finish above at least three of those, which would represent an excellent season.
Jack Stephens is growing into his role in the middle of Southampton’s back four
It was a huge blow for Southampton to lose Virgil van Dijk to a serious injury and it could have had a disastrous effect on their season. However, they have called Jack Stephens into the first team and the centre-back is getting better and better with every match. He is another example of a player from the youth academy taking the opportunity that has been given to him and it is clear that he has a future ahead of him at the top level.
He was one of the better players on the pitch this evening, as he was assured in possession and solid at the back. Stephens completed 83% of his passes and it is evident that he is comfortable to play out from the back, something that is required from a modern day centre-half. In the air, he did well and won three of his five aerial duels. Furthermore, he completed three ball retrievals and made three clearances to relieve pressure on his side. He made a couple of crucial defensive contributions to help his side to a clean sheet and it is great to see another young English talent making waves on the South Coast.
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