The FourFourTwo Preview: Cardiff vs Southampton
You put your Malky in, your Malky out, in, out, in, out, you shake it all about. You do the Vincent Tan and then you mope around, that’s what it’s all about.
Oh dear – it seems Cardiff can’t even get club statements right. Before Saturday’s 3-1 defeat it looked like Malky Mackay’s tenure was hanging by a thread, only for chairman Mehmet Dalman to step in with a hastily issued declaration of peace.
- Liverpool 3-1 Cardiff (Prem)
- Cardiff 1-0 WBA (Prem)
- Palace 2-0 Cardiff (Prem)
- Stoke 0-0 Cardiff (Prem)
- Cardiff 0-3 Arsenal (Prem)
- So'ton 2-3 Spurs (Prem)
- Newcastle 1-1 So'ton (Prem)
- So'ton 1-1 Man City (Prem)
- So'ton 2-3 Aston Villa (Prem)
- Chelsea 3-1 So'ton (Prem)
“He is in charge for the foreseeable future and will be until something else happens,” read Dalman’s wonderfully vague statement, with no attempt to second guess the Malaysian madman above him. And so Mackay remains at the helm – for now, at least.
The hard-nosed Scot is keeping a cool head so far, though, and a busy Christmas schedule could be just what he needs to take his mind off the unsavoury shenanigans going on around him.
And it’s games like this one where the Welsh side could really do with coming up trumps. In pre-season they might have taken their spot four points above the drop zone, but with one win in seven matches and a daunting run of away games approaching (Arsenal and both Manchester clubs to kick it off), Cardiff could do with making their home form count.
In Southampton they face a side with problems of their own, albeit on the field rather than off it.
Mauricio Pochettino is enduring his toughest spell in charge of the south coast side yet, as patchy form and injuries have seen his team slide from third to ninth after six winless games. On Sunday they went down to Spurs, despite taking the lead inside 13 minutes.
It didn’t help that they were without three of their usual first choice back four, although benching Jose Fonte wasn’t enforced. Somebody, for the love of tulips, please tell Jos Hooiveld which way he’s supposed to be aiming.
Craig Bellamy is Cardiff’s only absentee, having not featured in the league since defeat at Aston Villa.
Southampton’s woes, meanwhile, appear to be subsiding. Nathaniel Clyne (hamstring) and Luke Shaw (illness) should return to the full-back berths after missing the Spurs defeat. Still in the treatment room are Artur Boruc (hand), Victor Wanyama (calf) and Guly do Prado (knee).
Player to watch: Adam Lallana (Southampton)
More doses of diligence before now and the end of the season may well see the 25-year-old packing his bag for Brazil next summer. Southampton need more displays like Lallana’s brilliant one against Tottenham, in which he netted the opener and then laid on Rickie Lambert’s equaliser with a terrific reverse pass.
The Saints’ creative linchpin is clearly Pochettino’s go-to man. He crafted a game-high 4 opportunities in key areas on the edge of the box, and received 41 passes all over Spurs’ half. That's not to mention the 10 ball recoveries too. Knowing he has the excellent Morgan Schneiderlin certainly helps – the Frenchman himself made 5 interceptions, 4 tackles and a block.
An on-form Lallana might just be the difference as Southampton look to overcome their rough patch.
LAST FIVE MEETINGS
- Spurs 1-0 So'ton (Prem, May 13)
- So'ton 1-2 Spurs (Prem, Oct 12)
- So'ton 1-0 Spurs (Prem, Mar 05)
- Spurs 5-1 So'ton (Prem, Dec 04)
- So'ton 1-0 Spurs (Prem, Mar 04)
"I reiterate 100 per cent that I won't be resigning from the football club," declared a defiant Mackay at Anfield. And why would he? If pride alone isn’t a factor, there’ll be a juicy pay-off waiting for him should Tan push that big red button.
Saints boss Pochettino was livid with his side’s lax handling of Spurs on Sunday, meanwhile. “I am very angry about the result,” he snapped. “We actually dressed up as Santa Claus and gifted them so many chances.” Scrooge.
TIPS & TRENDS
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Facts and figures
- Cardiff have drawn the first half in 5 of their 8 home games and remain the only side not to be leading at half-time this season (D10 L7).
- The Bluebirds have netted a paltry 5 goals in their previous 9 games. However, they have won their last 5 home games with the Saints.
- There have been fewer than 3 goals in 11 of Southampton’s previous 12 Premier League away matches.
- They have failed to keep a clean sheet in their last 8 matches which is the current longest run of any Premier League team.
- More FFT Stats Zone facts • Find the best odds with Bet Butler
Southampton should be more like the stringent side of old with Clyne and Shaw back, and Fonte surely set to return. A clean sheet with a couple of goals to go with it. 0-2.