Southampton 0 Wolves 2

The times, they are a changing.

Not the fact we play our reserves in the cup – that’s exactly the same. More that those reserves are just so much better.

Cavaleiro, Dicko, Graham, these aren’t the calibre of second string picks we’ve come to expect.

Nuno’s teams always feature pace to supplement the rigid defensive shape and tippy tappy approach, which makes for a pleasing balance.

Then you’ve also got youngsters likes Vinagre, Norris, Deslandes, Ronan and Wilson who all look ready and capable.

Sprinkle in the battle hardened old school like Batth, Price and Edwards and you’ve got a formidable group.

What connects the three camps is that they’re all hungry and motivated to try and force their way into the side.

The head coach said after this win that there’s no first eleven. His team selections in the four league matches to date beg to differ.

But after the Cardiff defeat where a few deficiencies were exposed, who might now enter the equation at Brentford?

Ruben Vinagre has impressed in both his Carabao cameos and looks like a more effective attacking option at left wing back than Barry Douglas.

His compatriot Cavaleiro was already first in line having come on at the weekend and made a few things happen.

He twice setup Nouha Dicko last night and swung over the corner for Batth to score. Enobakhare and Jota have been good but one could find themselves sitting it out at Griffin Park.

With a hat-trick of first half chances spurned it’s difficult to say Dicko warrants selection over Bonatini, but he’s certainly an option.

Donovan Wilson took his only chance with aplomb so maybe he could even jump the queue? He’s consistently done it for the under 23s so why not?

I personally wouldn’t tinker with the back three, despite Miranda’s weekend struggles, but Batth, Bennett and even Deslandes might feel they’ve got a claim.

Will Norris in goal was so ridiculously assured, even John Ruddy might be pushed harder than he’d anticipated.

Whatever Nuno decides to do, it’s a pleasing situation to be in and fantastic to progress.

With a home tie against the lowest placed side left in the competition, we should go even further too.

Yes, times are changing and definitely for the better.

Southampton Vs Wolves Preview

If recent League Cup form is anything to go by, this will be the end.

Embed from Getty Images

The pattern is traditionally either lose to lower league opposition or progress narrowly against lower league opposition and then lose to first semi-decent opposition.

We managed to scrape by against Yeovil so logic dictates that last season’s finalists will almost certainly end our hopes, particularly on their own soil.

Or maybe, just maybe, we’ll break the cycle.

Southampton

I thought the Saints were unlucky to lose to Man Utd in that final back in February. They were the better team for much of the game.

A cup victory would have been the least the club deserved having had to contend with the top brass poaching their players and coaching staff for years on end.

They’ve stood firm this summer with the Virgil Van Dijk saga, but you sense he too will get his move at some point.

Mauricio Pellegrino is the latest manager brought in from abroad to carry on their good Premier League form and he’s had a solid start with four points from his two games.

They’ll play a second string tonight, but that’s still likely to include people like Shane Long, Charlie Austin and James Ward-Prowse, so ample quality they will feel to get the job done.

Wolves

I can’t imagine Nuno will play his strongest side, even against Premier League opposition. I’d like to progress so I’m hoping for a decent XI though.

This is a good opportunity for fringe players to make their claim though, following our first defeat at the weekend.

A solid outing in this one and they could find themselves in the team for Brentford. I expect Dicko and Cavaleiro to be at the front of the queue.

The above team still has some really good talent involved, so maybe I shouldn’t be quite so down?

Predictions

As you can probably tell, I’m not confident about our prospects, but that’s purely on the basis we’ll ring the changes and be more disjointed.

If we were heading down to play Southampton reserves with our first eleven that would be a very different proposition.

Maybe we will? But more likely a weakened team and a predictable exit.

3-1 loss I’m afraid.

Up The Wolves!

Southampton 2 Wolves 0

With just a few thousand supporters spattered around the St.Mary’s stadium,  this final warm up game had an almost eerie atmosphere.

Wolves Southampton

Johnson impressive again

The few hundred die-hard traveling supporters, however, at least did their best to make a noise.

Wolves started with the eleven who finished the Shrewsbury game, with the exception of Sigurdason, who replaced the injured Doyle up front.

And it was a very promising start as Wolves continued with their new possession based style, dominating long periods of play. Indeed, they should have taken the lead early on when Blake, who was put clean through from a good ball by Ward, allowed his weak effort to be smothered by the keeper.

With the wide men, Forde and Davis tucked in, most of the threat out wide came from the marauding full backs. Zubar, in particular, found himself in dangerous positions but was unable to supply much in the way of a telling cross.

Gradually, Southampton got an increasing grip on the game and their possession play had a more direct and dangerous character. Not unusually, their wide men were allowed plenty of space and seemed to be able to deliver crosses at will. One such from the right caused confusion in the defence and was returned from the left for Sharp to sweep home. Another cheap goal and all too familiar.

The second half continued in much the same fashion. Wolves playing in a more patient controlled fashion but not offering much as an attacking threat. Occasionally, Blake and Sigurdason worked an opening, the best of which ended with Blake firing across the area only for Davies to shoot wide when it looked easier to score.

The game was finished as a contest in the 69th minute when Puncheon fired crisply into the bottom right hand corner.

After that, the game petered out as Southampton produced an endless series of substitutions, two by two; Noah might have filled the Ark more quickly.

Individually, there were some plus points. Ikeme showed  that we have a few keepers who could do the job. Johnson again looked full of purpose and dealt with most of the aerial threat. The ubiquitous Henry was full of energy and intent.

Doumbia, Tuesday’s man of the match, had a much quieter game. Asked to play deep alongside Henry, he played the minor role. Late on, when Jonnson replaced Blake, he played to some effect in the ‘hole’ behind the striker as part of a 5 man midfield. We may see more of this.

On the down side, we never really got out of second gear and our attacks looked familiarly ponderous. Forde and Davis offered little as an attacking threat. Forde looks a little light- weight and it’s hard to see that someone with more pace like Kightly would not be a better option. Possibly Ward with a nice quick full back in his stead? We can only dream!

Watching the team trying to adapt to this very new style of possession play is a little uncomfortable at times. It looks like it is a new difficult skill that they can perform but only very slowly and with deep concentration. It doesn’t come naturally and they are finding it hard.

It’s a skill that has been neglected for too long and it’s going to take time. It has to be done though and it will be worth the wait.