I really wish I could begin a preview with a sentence something along the lines of “I’m well confident we’ll take the three points here”.
But you just can’t, can you?
While we apparently looked better against Watford (I didn’t see the game and had no wish to after seeing the result, news highlights apart), we have to admit that Watford are really no great shakes and will probably struggle overall this season. Hence we really should have expected to beat them at home.
But we didn’t, purely down to yet more schoolboy defending, a problem that has been ongoing for far too long.
We’ve had a very good history over the last 40 years or more of having a very good central defensive pairing and this is probably the saddest part for me, when it comes to our demise over recent years.
I’m tempted to say we have on paper, decent defenders, in Micah Richards and Ciaran Clark (although I accept he’s marmite), but they aren’t decent are they?
Certainly the facts say so anyway, as we’ve conceded 27 in 14 games.
My opinion is that the midfield generally don’t have the steel to stop the opposition and our full backs are just not good enough to be expected to do the attacking/defending blend that’s being asked of them.
And what that boils down to, is that if you face an onslaught, you’re going to concede.
Add that to a goalie out of form and a massive lack of confidence, where we’re making such simple mistakes and you’re going to concede even more.
You can easily argue that we don’t score enough either, but Stoke have scored a goal less than us, yet sit 14 points higher than we do. So that’s not the real problem, although missing Benteke obviously doesn’t help.
Hence why it’s all about the defence.
And what do we see in the squad news?
Well Clark is suspended and Richards is looking doubtful with a knee injury.
Okore is fit and will probably come in and as much as I like him this isn’t an ideal game for him to start as he isn’t going to be up to speed.
And Lescott will also be available, where I’ll just say that’s not ideal, given what we’ve seen so far this season.
So it isn’t looking good is it?
In other squad news, Jack Grealish is still training with the kids so won’t be available.
To be honest, that’s no loss for me, as he doesn’t do enough work in a relegation destined team.
We need fighters and he simply isn’t one, although he does have a big future in a better performing, more confident team.
My money says he’ll be re-instated to the squad next week, but it doesn’t matter.
Perhaps more interesting is that Gabby is available.
Has he really been injured or has he just taken a break after all the criticism he’s faced?
Or is that second point just a figment of my imagination?
Who knows? But either way, if he’s back in a better frame of mind and fired up, I’m willing to see him start.
But surely it has to be last chance saloon for him?
Unfortunately, I suspect that his ridiculously high wages will mean that he’ll figure in the squad more often than not, regardless of what us fans think.
As for Southampton, Jose Fonte is a doubt, while Jay Rodriguez, Fraser Forster and Florin Gardos are still out.
I’d probably normally say that’s decent for us, but when you look at the way we’ve played, combined with what’s been some pretty poor luck up to now, I don’t see our losing streak coming to a halt.
I’m expecting us to concede at least one, given the defence, although I’d expect us to score too.
It’ll be interesting to see how the manager approaches this one.
Surely any sensible manager will try and play with the thought of not conceding being the priority?
But we tried that against Everton and it proved a disaster, because as soon as we concede, we don’t have the balls to fight back, especially against a better, more cohesive team, which Southampton definitely are.
My opinion says we should go at Southampton from the off with the hope of getting an early goal, which would put the home side on the back foot.
But then we have the problem where we don’t create enough chances.
We’re in trouble aren’t we?
I’ll go for a 3-1 loss.
And that’s if Southampton cruise their way through the game.