In a one-sided evening of football, Southampton smash Norwich City 0-3 at Carrow Road.
The Canaries had a bright opening 15 minutes but the Saints found their rhythm and dominated the rest of the match. What did we learn?
1. Danny Ings refinds his range
Danny Ings had somewhat cooled off prior to the Premier League’s enforced hiatus. The Saints’ sharpshooter had just one goal in his previous seven games in England’s top flight (after a scoring run of 11 in 12) and Saints had lost five of those seven games.
Today against Norwich, in the first-half, Ings looked to be still suffering from that kind of wayward shooting as he, coming onto the ball, struck it off the bar rather than found the target. However he remained undeterred and after half-time he came onto his right-foot once again and sparked the second-half to life with a superb effort from 18 yards guided into the far corner to open the scoring.
Ings scoring consistently is key to Southampton’s prosperity, both this season and making them an attractive club for other players (perhaps even other strikers) to join. Attacking football is beautiful but without a cutting edge, defences get put under too much pressure and crack.
2. Nonsensical Norwich
Then again, sometimes defences just aren’t good enough. Obviously if Norwich managed to score more then their defence would face less pressure, but the given the way in which they defend they’d have to put up numbers equal to Barcelona or Real Madrid.
Norwich’s defence could be charitably described as naive, but more accurately described as nonsensical. They leave far too many gaps when they send men forward without having defenders athletic enough to cover said gaps.
Alright Ings’ goal was just kind of great but the Armstrong and Redmond goals were pitiful defending. Armstrong waltzed inside onto his left with the slightest of feints but by the way the Canaries defended him you’d think he was Leo Messi or Arjen Robben. And then the acres of space Redmond found himself in before his goal, and the acres of space so many Southampton forwards had all game long… this is a terminal problem, a fatal wound that will absolutely lead to Norwich’s relegation.
3. The crowd are still improving
Fake crowd noise is a controversial addition to football in the world of Covid-19. Some like it, but some do not. But one thing everyone can agree on is that it’s not being done well in the Premier League. Looking at La Liga you can see how fake atmosphere can be made semi-realistic, but so far in the Premier League we have run the gamut.
First we had an awful, stilted effort for Aston Villa vs. Sheffield United where the crowd was at times not there and then suddenly appeared at random moments. At the Etihad Stadium the crowd was consistent but subdued, and then here this evening things were better. The ambient noise was still a bit monotonous but the most jarring aspect was the clear delay in the loud cheers for shots and goals. It was like the fake crowd was working on some sort of time delay, coming in a second or two after it should have been.
It’s bizarre that clubs a league as wealthy as the Premier League and clubs as organised as the ones on display have failed to get this right, but let’s hope that just like a real crowd they’re taking their time to warm up.
4. Norwich need more bouncebackability
Obviously Norwich’s defence is very weak, that’s not a surprise to anyone who has watched them this season. However what’s so absurd about them is that when you put the game on their best unit and ask the attack to save the side, they come up short.
When Danny Ings gave Southampton the lead, it was the 17th time that Norwich had conceded first in the Premier League. In each of the previous 16 times they had shipped the first goal, they also lost. Today that became 17 out of 17, an absurd stat for a team which has so much attack prowess. How can the likes of Teemu Pukki, Todd Cantwell and Emi Buendia so consistently fail to dig their side out of a hole? That is almost as much of a problem for Daniel Farke as the defensive issues.
5. The Saints go marching in
Southampton got beaten 0-9 by Leicester at the end of October 2019. Back then, no one gave them a hope of survival, but the club stood by Ralph Hasenhuttl and the Austrian coach has more than delivered.
The turnaround in Southampton’s performances since that loss has been incredible. Norwich are often (rightly) praised for sticking to their philosophy, but Southampton have done the same with much more success. Hasenhuttl has made them into a lean, mean outfit who can defend when they have to but also move the ball with incredible verve and ambition, scoring goals at the end of it all.
Going forward, if the Austrian coach is supported in the transfer market, it’s clear that Southampton are going to be a rising force in the Premier League for the next few years. Hasenhuttl’s team are creative, adventurous and ferocious. How far they go depends on how much the owners want to invest, but Hasenhuttl’s style can scale up all the way to the very top of the game.