31/08/2013: Norwich 1-0 Saints
Saints went down to their first defeat of the season, following a disappointing display at Norwich. Our lack of creativity was exposed once again. Saints have so far failed to find the net from open play in the Premier League.
Dani Osvaldo started his first game up front in a Saints shirt alongside Rickie Lambert, while Danny Fox came in for Luke Shaw, who was only fit enough to appear on the bench. Norwich were a bit more adventurous than they had been during the corresponding fixture last season. Saints lacked any real rhythm during the opening quarter. The Canaries had the first major chance on 4 minutes. Jose Fonte sold James Ward-Prowse short with a slack pass, allowing Nathan Redmond to nip in and blast just wide of Artur Boruc's near post. The Pole had to be alert again on 16 minutes, when Norwich peppered his goal with a series of quick-fire efforts. Saints improved slightly midway through the half. The visitors were denied a blatant penalty when Bradley Johnson handled in the area. Norwich regained control before the break. On 35 the home side whipped a dangerous ball across the box, with Saints eventually clearing for a corner. Moments later Lallana volleyed against the post from a Ward-Prowse free-kick. It was the closest Saints came all afternoon.
Saints started the second-half well, enjoying some good early pressure. On 49 minutes Osvaldo had a shot on the turn which was saved. The same player tested the excellent John Ruddy on the counter a few minutes later. Saints were soon made to pay for their lack of ruthlessness going forward, with Norwich stepping up their game once more. The most dangerous player on the pitch settled matters on 68 minutes. Redmond stepped inside before driving forward and firing past Boruc from outside of the area. Norwich defended their lead brilliantly during the final 20 minutes. Chris Hughton's side looked very organised, and did well to cut off the supply. The away side huffed and puffed but didn't really create anything worthwhile. On 80 minutes Rodriguez was played in by Lambert, but the ball was smothered by Ruddy before the substitute could reach it. Norwich had a few half decent efforts towards the end, hitting Saints on the counter.
A poor game settled by one moment of excellence, and a performance that will leave Mauricio Pochettino with much to ponder. Things might well have turned out differently had we been awarded that first half penalty. That doesn't change the fact we were well below par for most of the match, however. The partnership of Lambert and Osvaldo may flourish in time, but they just didn't click on this occasion. Saints aren't creating enough chances at the moment. We were a bit too one dimensional. Defensively we were fairly strong as a collective unit, however. Fans shouldn't get too downhearted. We have no divine right to win these games, and the overall outlook still looks very positive. At the same time people are entitled to ask for better given the amount of money that has been invested recently. Pochettino has a vast array of options at his disposal and needs to find the right balance soon. Calum Chambers has done very well so far, but Nathaniel Clyne is a class above and needs to be put back into the starting line-up. Jack Cork must also be wondering what more he has to do to get back into the side.
Boruc: 6. Had been playing well, making some good first half saves, but could have arguably done a bit better for the goal
Chambers: 6. Solid link-up play in the first half. Given the run-around by Redmond a few times after the break, but overall fairly steady
Fonte: 6. Distribution not the best. Reasonably comfortable defensively
Lovren: 7. Made a few brilliant solo runs into the final third. Positioning and tackling decent too
Fox: 6. Left a bit exposed at times, but coped fairly well with the threat of Snodgrass
Wanyama: 5. Held the ball up well, but passing very poor. Long range shooting needs some work too
Schneiderlin: 6. Influence severely diminished by a disciplined Norwich midfield
Ward-Prowse: 7. One of Saints' better players. Always looking for the ball and effective from set pieces
Lallana: 7. Saints' only real creative outlet. Looked the most likely to make something happen. Decision to take him off was puzzling
Lambert: 5. Fairly ineffective. Struggled to get involved in the game
Osvaldo: 5. Got himself in some decent positions, but still doesn't look quite up to speed.
Ramirez: 5. Won a free-kick in a dangerous position, but otherwise pretty disappointing. Continues the frustrating habit of running straight into defenders and giving the ball away
Davis: 5. Briefly added a bit more dynamism, but not too influential
Rodriguez: Not involved too much
Norwich - Redmond (68)
Referee: Howard Webb
Norwich: Ruddy, Whittaker, Bassong, Turner, Garrido, Snodgrass, Fer, Johnson, Redmond, Elmander (Howson 76), van Wolfswinkel
Subs not used: Bunn, Martin, Tettey, Pilkington, Hoolahan, Becchio
Saints: Boruc, Chambers, Fonte, Lovren, Fox, Wanyama, Schneiderlin (S Davis 72), Ward-Prowse, Lallana (Ramirez 60), Osvaldo (Rodriguez 78), Lambert
Subs not used: K Davis, Clyne, Yoshida, Shaw