23/08/2014: Saints 0-0 West Brom
Saints came crashing back down to earth following last week's impressive performance at Anfield, with a disappointing 0-0 draw against West Brom. The home side looked reasonably solid in defence, but created precious little at the other end.
Saints spent the first 15 minutes or so passing amongst themselves in their own half. West Brom seemed content to settle for a point early on. They were well organised and resolute at the back. Saints were far too predictable for their opponents, with many attacking moves breaking down. The home side did just about edge it on the balance of play during the first half. Saints looked more likely to break the deadlock and had a few half-chances. Dusan Tadic appeared to have been presented with a glorious opening when he rounded the onrushing Ben Foster on the left. His deep cross was just too high for Graziano Pelle, however. Saints often looked to utilise Pelle's height during the first half with a series of long balls, but to no avail.
Koeman took off Steven Davis for Shane Long at half-time, but it made very little difference to the way Saints played. If anything the home side were less effective going forward than they had been during the opening 45. Pelle nodded past the post from a corner. Tadic appeared to go close from distance, but on second inspection his shot was well wide. James Ward-Prowse saw his free-kick clip the post on 70.
That was about it from Saints. Koeman's men looked visibly frustrated towards the end of the game, with West Brom in contrast growing in confidence. The Baggies looked more assured on the ball during the final 15. Brown Ideye had earlier headed into the side netting. He had the best chance of the game on 73 when he broke free in the area, only to see Fraser Forster block his shot. West Brom spent large portions of the last 10 minutes inside Saints' half, but despite a few nervy moments, they couldn't find a way through.
Hardly the best response to the encouraging display at Liverpool. There were a few good individual performances, but Saints didn't really click as a team, particularly going forward. As Koeman noted in his post-match interview, the tempo was far too slow and there was no inventiveness or imagination in the final third. Saints were in desperate need of a creative spark, which never arrived. The intensity that was a hallmark of Mauricio Pochettino's side wasn't quite there either. Fortunately time is on Koeman's side. There was always a strong possibility that the team would take time to properly gel. With Gaston Ramirez and Jay Rodriguez still to return, things should improve going forward. A new signing or two in that area wouldn't go amiss either. There's no need for major panic at the moment, but Saints obviously do need to get much better.
Forster: 7. Commanding presence once again. Used his height to eat up everything in the air, and one smart save late on
Clyne: 6. Wasn't really able to push on forward to good effect like he usually does, but steady enough in defence
Fonte: 7. Strong in the tackle as usual. Didn't let much get past him
Yoshida: 7. Read the game pretty well. Got the better of his opponent more often than not
Bertrand: 6. Started reasonably well, but overall a level below his Anfield showing. Reasonable defensively, but could have used the ball a bit better
Schneiderlin: 7. Appeared to have shaken off the slight rustiness he had shown the previous week. Covered plenty of ground as you would expect, and passing largely excellent. Vital Saints stick to their word and keep him at the club this season
Wanyama: 7. Stood strong in midfield once again. Passing pretty good too
Ward-Prowse: 6. Some great set-pieces once again
Davis: 5. Pretty ineffective before coming off at half-time
Tadic: 6. Showed flashes of quality here and there without really penetrating West Brom's backline
Pelle: 5. Nothing really came off for him in the first half. Looked a bit out of sync with the rest of the team and not strong enough in the air. A slight improvement after the break with a few good touches
Long: 5. Did very little after coming on at half-time
Cork: Didn't really alter the game
Attendance: 27,598 (1,624 West Brom fans)
Referee: Roger East
Saints: Forster, Clyne, Fonte, Yoshida, Bertrand, Schneiderlin, Wanyama, Ward-Prowse (Cork 77), S Davis (Long 46), Tadic, Pelle
Subs not used: K Davis, Hooiveld, Gardos, Taider, Isgrove
West Brom: Foster, Wisdom, Olsson, Dawson, Pocognoli (Davidson 59), Gardner, Mulumbu, Dorrans, Brunt, Anichebe (Ideye 52), Berahino (Sessegnon 89)
Subs not used: Myhill, McAuley, Baird, Yacob