West Ham United to winning ways in the Premier League after inflicting a 1-0 defeat on Southampton at St Mary’s.
Manuel Pellegrini has been under intense pressure having presided over just one league win across nine matches since October. A poor result here, many felt, would have sealed his managerial fate in east London.
His opposite number Ralph Hasenhüttl, also with the sword of Damocles hanging over him, managed to turn Southampton’s fortunes around recently before snatching defeat from the jaws of victory at Newcastle last time out.
With the dust beginning to settle, here are five things we learned from this encounter…
1. He’s back
Sébastien Haller arrived to a huge fanfare in the summer when West Ham made him their most expensive acquisition. The 25-year-old French marksman lit up the Bundesliga last season and was expected to make a big move, but few predicted the Hammers would be his next employer, hence why the signing felt like a coup. He started okay, bagging three goals across his opening three Premier League appearances, including a brace away to Watford before enduring a run of one goal in 12 matches.
— Premier League (@premierleague) December 14, 2019
Heading into this showdown at St Mary’s, Haller had gone 600 league minutes since his last strike, raising uncomfortable questions. This run coincided with Manuel Pellegrini’s losing their way, but the Chilean tactician retained faith in his No.9 and Haller repaid that trust by shooting the east Londoners into a half-time lead. By getting this monkey off his back, who knows what it could lead to? If West Ham are to turn their season around, it’s imperative they have a striker regularly finding the net.
2. My kingdom for a home clean sheet
There’s no room for sympathy at this level. It’s a dog-eat-dog world. Southampton are woeful at the back. Unless they manage to write this inadequacy, Championship football awaits them. Haller’s opening goal ensured Southampton’s wait for a home clean sheet goes on — you have to go back to February for their last shutout, 16 games ago. Consequently, Saints have now shipped in 24 goals at St Mary’s this season, three more than second-worst offender Norwich City.
More worrying is 75% of those strikes conceded have come in the opening 45 minutes, which raises even more questions. Ralph Hasenhüttl has, for now, been aware he’s got a fight on his hand — to keep himself in the dugout and maintain Southampton’s top-flight status. It’s no good having a strong attack when those behind are unable to keep the ball out of their goal. Goals win games, but a solid workmanlike defence will go very far to increase the chances of Premier League football on the south coast next season.
3. That’s not home entertainment
Although the presence of Danny Ings and James Ward-Prowse mean Southampton have a scorer and creator in their midst, they’ve been nothing short of disappointing at home this season, no team has scored fewer goals in front of their own supporters (3) after the opening 45 minutes than Hasenhüttl charges.
It’s a poor return that is only eclipsed by Watford and Norwich, both of whom have managed just one strike in first-half football at home. Extending further, they’ve only registered nine goals at St Mary’s, not exactly value for money for their supporters who not long ago witnessed a 9-0 mauling at the hands of Leicester City.
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4. We learned our lesson
You could forgive Manuel Pellegrini for not being ecstatic after Haller had given his side a well-deserved lead just before half-time. Events from earlier in the week must have been playing on his mind. West Ham, who are battling to get out of the recent funk they’ve found themselves in, went ahead against Arsenal at the London Stadium before Freddie Ljungberg’s men stunningly turned it around to win 3-1.
— Premier League (@premierleague) December 14, 2019
It meant they once again squandered points from a winning position. It took the Hammers’ total to 12 points, which leaves them only behind Aston Villa (13), such meek surrendering has no doubt played a pivotal role in them dropping down the table. So, going 1-0 up offered another psychological test, one they passed but whether it’s enough to keep Pellegrini in a job remains to be seen.
We’ve already touched upon Southampton’s paucity in front of goal at home, but that is only the tip of the iceberg, away from home they are just as poor. But you would still fancy them staying up, only in the bottom three due to goal difference, and that’s because having a formidable goalscorer goes a long way in a relegation scrap.
Danny Ings is that man for Southampton, he’s already responsible for half of their Premier League strikes (9/18) and scored in their previous five games before Saturday. Normally these efforts would lead to victories, but their questionable defending has meant a place in the danger zone. Ings was unlucky against West Ham, he’d found the net whilst chasing an equaliser, but it was harshly ruled out as referee Martin Atkison saw a foul in the build-up.
The rest of today’s Premier League results…
Liverpool 2-0 Watford
Burnley 1-0 Newcastle
Chelsea 0-1 Bournemouth
Leicester 1-1 Norwich
Sheffield Utd 2-0 Aston Villa