Southampton welcome Hull to St Mary’s this weekend, as one of the 3pm kickoffs on Saturday. The Saints have been one of the surprise packages of the season, and would have in fact been 2nd after 10 games had they won away at Stoke last week (all other results remaining the same). As new members to the Premier League, Hull City will also be happy with their league position at this stage in the season.
Southampton come into this match boasting a superb defensive record; the best in the league. They have conceded only four goals so far, and that number would have been three were it not for the freak goal conceded last weekend after Begovic’s clearance was caught by the wind. That was only 13 seconds into the game, and Southampton were unable to make a full recovery from that; a draw the most they could muster on the day.
It will be seen only as a slight set back though in a season that has been otherwise mightily impressive. A draw at Old Trafford and a victory at Anfield have been a couple of the highlights, but if we are to rain on the Saints’ parade at all, it would be to say that all of the rest of their Premier League points have come against sides in the bottom half of the Premier League. Having played just over half of the teams in the league, the second quarter of the season will be far tougher and a draw or victory against Hull will be only the third (current) top half team that they will have taken points from.
As I say, Hull are sitting pretty in tenth, something they would have certainly been happy about after ten games played at the start of the season. Now they will be looking to equal their season high winning streak (2), after last weekends win against the self-defeating Sunderland. Two first half red cards following an own goal is about the most suicidal performance a Premier League side can put in, and Hull will not be counting on getting any such luck for this fixture.
Unlike Southampton, Hull have already gotten many of their harder fixtures out of the way, having played all of Chelsea, Manchester City, Tottenham and Everton. They may not have managed to take any points from those teams, but they are in fact the only teams that they have lost to, and so have managed to take something away from every other game. That bodes well for Hull as they prepare to face Southampton, although they must be wary of a side that are perhaps only one level below those challenging for the title.
Southampton have won 4 of their last 5 league matches against Hull.
Only four sides promoted from the Championship to the Premier League have ever conceded as few goals (10) as Hull have by this point of the season.
We are all aware of the strengths of Southampton’s defence, and so it could well be down to their goal scoring ability on the day that decides whether they may emerge as winners. As arguably the Saints’ most direct threat, I have selected Adam Lallana as their key man. With 2 goals he is the clubs third top goalscorer in the league, just 1 behind joint leaders Rickie Lambert and Jay Rodriguez on 3 each. Indeed Lallana has in fact been more clinical in front of goal than the club’s leading striker, and boasts a chance conversion of 20% from 10 unblocked shots, superior to Lambert’s 12%.
He is not just a good source of goals for Southampton though, he is also a very creative figure. Only Ward-Prowse has created more chances (20) than Lallana who has made 19. He is the best set piece taker though and has produced the most goal scoring chances (6) from those positions in the team. With 31 he has also attempted the most dribbles in the squad at a completion rate of 52%, which has helped him a great deal in laying on these goal chances for his team mates. Southampton aren’t conceding much – that box is ticked – now they just need to score more, and this man is vital to that.
Tom Huddlestone may not hold any kind of outstanding pace or agility, but he is the engine that drives Hull in both a defensive and offensive sense. He was completed more successful (21) tackles than anyone else in the team, which will Hull will be glad to see of their deep-lying midfielder. He is also the teams best passer, and has attempted a total of 508 passes and completed 396 of them. This gives him a pass success of 78% which is by itself not outstanding, but given that 37% of his passes are going forwards it is a pretty positive statistic.
It is this instinct to move the ball forwards that has made him the most creative player in the team, and he has produced a team high total of 21 goal opportunities. 10 of these have come from set plays, and his 31% crossing accuracy really demonstrates how effective he is at swinging a ball into the box. If he could just add goals to his game, and so get that haircut that he has desperately been waiting for, then he represent a footballer that is a complete all-rounder.
Osvaldo is the biggest name to be missing this game due to a nerve problem, although there is a small chance he could make it. Do Prado remains absent.
Aluko is most prominent figure missing for Hull, while Bruce, McGregor and Chester will all miss this one too.
Southampton will be too much at home; expect them to take the points along with a clean sheet.
Southampton win: 2 – 0