The FourFourTwo Preview: Swansea vs Southampton
End-of-season tussle with little to play for but pride and self-worth.
May is here, Swansea are safe and Southampton are mathematically immovable from eighth (mathematical in football terms, at least: Newcastle could only overtake them with a 26-goal swing), so will we see a touch of malaise in this 3pm kick-off? It’s possible, though both teams go into the game on the back of a win.
- Swansea 4-1 Aston Villa (Prem)
- Newcastle 1-2 Swansea (Prem)
- Swansea 0-1 Chelsea (Prem)
- Hull 1-0 Swansea (Prem)
- Swansea 3-0 Norwich (Prem)
- So'ton 2-0 Everton (Prem)
- Aston Villa 0-0 So'ton (Prem)
- So'ton 0-1 Cardiff (Prem)
- Man City 4-1 So'ton (Prem)
- So'ton 4-0 Newcastle (Prem)
Garry Monk’s side got their act together at just the right time, pulling themselves to safety with three wins in five – all over badly underperforming teams, but wins nonetheless. Monk is after the job on a permanent basis, and with Wilfried Bony in sparkling pre-World Cup form – 15 goals in a debut Premier League season having arrived from the striker-friendly Eredevisie is not to be sniffed at – he might just get it.
Psychologically, it was important for Southampton to get back on track with three points against Everton after a few disappointing results. It’d be a shame if a soaring opus of a season were to finish on a bum note, even if their position in the league won’t change.
The Saints have reached their highest-ever points tally in the top flight since football was invented in 1992.
More worrying for fans is what the summer might bring: Luke Shaw, Morgan Schneiderlin, Adam Lallana and Jay Rodriguez, plus their galvanising manager Mauricio Pochettino, have all been linked with moves to bigger clubs, and there hasn’t been much in the way of categorical denial from St Mary’s that this may be the case.
Southampton’s academy is good enough to plug a gap – teenagers Sam Gallagher, Harrison Reed, Jake Sinclair (Scott Sinclair’s brother) and Omar Rowe have all been handed competitive first-team debuts this season – but their supporters won’t want the club to lose more than a couple of the men who have taken the Saints to the next level.
Swansea are still missing Michu, who has been struck down with second-season syndrome (or an ankle injury, if you’re being literal).
Other than the ear-waving Spaniard, though, they have a relatively clean bill of health: only Angel Rangel will be unavailable, feeling a pull in his groin. The visitors will travel without Maya Yoshida (knee knock), Gaston Ramirez (fickle foot), Kelvin Davis (old man’s back) and Rodriguez (dashed World Cup dreams). Schneiderlin is a doubt, but could return to stop Swansea from bossing the midfield.
Player to watch: Rickie Lambert (Southampton)
Roy Hodgson has said he won’t be paying attention to players’ form in the last few games of the domestic season, but there’s still time for Lambert to play himself onto the England plane. However, the 32-year-old will need to raise his game during the final stretch.
Hodgson may see Lambert as an alternative to Andy Carroll, being similarly strong in the air, but with the added advantage of his excellent involvement in build-up play. In last weekend’s 2-0 win over Everton, for example, he played in a deeper role, supporting 18-year-old Gallagher up front.
But if Lambert is to grace Brazil it would surely be as a true No.9, something England are arguably lacking. If that’s the case, he needs to show Hodgson now that he can win every battle in the air – Lambert won 6 of 8 aerial duels against Cardiff but only 1 of 4 against Everton – and that he possesses a clinical finish: he was surprisingly wasteful in the home defeat to the Bluebirds, failing to hit the target from good positions.
This is the chance of a lifetime, Rickie: show Hodgson what you can do.
LAST FIVE MEETINGS
- Saints 2-0 Swans (Prem, Oct 13)
- Swans 0-0 Saints (Prem, Apr 13)
- Saints 1-1 Swans (Prem, Nov 12)
- Saints 2-2 Swans (Ch'ship, Jan 09)
- Swans 3-0 Saints (Ch'ship, Oct 08)
Monk is in talks with Swansea chairman Huw Jenkins (now that’s a very Welsh name) about his future. His staying put looks inevitable; less so for Southampton’s Pochettino, who is the subject of admiring glances from Tottenham Hotspur, among others.
Facts and figures
- There have been more goals in the second half than the first in 6 of Swans’ last 8 home games against teams placed 4th-12th.
- Swans have lost 6 of their last 10 home games against teams placed 4th-12th.
- 12 of Saints' last 16 trips to teams placed 8th-16th have had fewer than 3 goals.
- Half of Saints. last 12 away matches against teams placed 8th-16th have been goalless at HT.
- More FFT Stats Zone facts
1-1. Or 2-2. Probably not 3-3, though. Or 4-4. 5-5 seems deeply unlikely.