I’ve been writing this piece for a few weeks now, waiting for the opportune time to launch it, but there hasn’t been one. Performances have been mundane and we’re struggling to find attacking quality that got us into Europe just a few seasons ago. I find myself frustrated each time I visit St. Mary’s this season. I always joke about sitting in Itchen (next to the away fans), as the banter between fans will keep me entertained when the football doesn’t; the football regularly doesn’t entertain. The 1-2 loss to Leicester in the final minute was an unfortunate nail in the coffin that we’re already aware exists. Saints cannot see a game out or hold onto a lead. Leicester’s winner was a dribbling shot from about 25 yards that rolled across the ground, through Vestergaard’s legs (who was a good 10 yards from the ball), then past McCarthy. He’s tall and aerially solid yet lacks the quick feet that would have allowed him to control Maguire’s shot.
The other slice of bread sandwiching our win (only win) at Palace was the 2-0 lead thrown away at home to Brighton. A penalty awarded to Brighton – like the game against Leicester – in the last minute. Since that hammer blow in the dying minutes, we’ve since lost 3-0 to both Liverpool and Chelsea and 2-0 to newly promoted Wolves. I couldn’t launch this article in that period because there’d be absolutely nothing positive to talk about. I was at the Chelsea game and had Eden Hazard as my fantasy captain, y’know… to cover all basis. If we won, we just beat one of the best teams in the league. If we didn’t, I might climb some in the overall FPL rankings. The game as a whole was quite poor; we appear to be a team that doesn’t know our strongest formation or strongest XI of players. The away win at Palace was a very welcomed surprise and without it, we’d be in the relegation zone. We’re sitting 16th after nine games with a goal difference of negative eight (6 GF | 14 GA).
On a more positive note, we didn’t lose to local(ish) rivals Brighton, and recently held South Coast rivals, Bournemouth, to a 0-0 draw at the Vitality. There have been some players worth noting as we move forward into the rest of the season and as fantasy assets, they’re not too costly, so you don’t mind benching them and hoping they return if you ever need their auto-sub. I backed Redmond at the start of the season and when he started, he’s looked forward-thinking, aggressive and hard-working. Unfortunately, those traits don’t generate FPL points and I have egg on my face after that recommendation. So, as we delve deeper into the season, my picks from each position are:
GK: McCarthy [£4.5m, 3.7% TSB, 3.8 PPM] – obviously. He’s got the number 1 shirt and has kept three clean sheets. He seems to be controlling the defensive elements and commands the box very well. He makes a lot of saves too, which generate into FPL points. He’s a budget option at a mere £4.5 option and rotates well with similarly priced keepers.
DEF: Cedric [£4.4m, 4.7% TSB]. An old FPL favourite for his crossing ability and Saints (historic) solidity at the back. He’s very cheap and can take a 4th or 5th defender slot with ease. It’ll help further as he’s just come off a crucial clean sheet and he claimed maximum bonus points in that match too. He’s a fan favourite and an FPL bargain.
MID: Hojbjerg [£4.5m, 5.6% TSB]. Two goals in two matches back in GW 4/5 saw his ownership sky rocket. This is with good reason because he’s fantastic value at just £4.5m. He is a work horse and puts a real shift in for his team mates. He’s confident on the ball and tracks back well. Hojbjerg also has a Xhaka like shot on him and occasionally, he might return some points as an auto-sub.
FWD: Ings [£5.6m, 5.6% TSB, 3 goals scored]. Danny Ings transfer in the summer was a warm-welcomed one as the Saints have lacked support for Charlie Austin after Gabbiadini’s fire was put out last season. Danny’s control is superb and he has a keen eye for goal and has been unfortunate to not have added more to his tally. In the loss to Leicester, on another day he’d have had a brace with the service Redmond was providing. I expect more to come from Ings when the best XI is found and we are showing some confidence as a unit.
In summary, we do pose some value in each position. I own McCarthy myself and was very pleased as he made my fantasy XI against Bournemouth and rewarded my bravery (stupidity?). The players are not highly selected at all and make fantastic differentials and bench fillers as they all start and either assist or score on occasion. Personally, I’d rather my bench have players that get minutes each week, opposing to a non-starter because you never know when you need them. Several times already this season, we’ve seen rotation from lots of teams and we’ve needed the returns of Wan-Bissaka to come off the bench. There will be occasion where two or three of your players are rotated and you’ll need a strong bench to manage that well.
My expectations for the season are as they were at GW 38, last season. Meh. I think we’ll avoid relegation this season but that will be the success of the campaign. We don’t have the squad depth to challenge for the top half or even mid-table. I think that Mark Hughes did a fantastic job of keeping us up and I am looking forward to seeing what he can do in the January and next summer transfer windows. If the movements aren’t good enough on those occasions then he may see his tenure short lived. We March On.