Press Box: Blackmore on Saints' form

By SFC Media Wed 15 Mar First team
Photo by Getty Images

With Southampton currently experiencing a pause in their schedule, we caught up with BBC Radio Solent sports editor Adam Blackmore to get his latest assessment of the team.

What have you made of the team's form in recent weeks?

 I think in the last three games they've played the best football they've played all season, bar the performance at Bournemouth before Christmas, where at times they really sparkled. The fact they've scored 11 goals in the last three games, all away from St Mary's, is mighty impressive.

There is a renewed freedom about the way they are playing going forward. They're playing, as Dave Merrington would say, with a chuckle in their boots again, and I think that's a phrase that really tells you everything about a team. They're on the up.

Saints celebrate in their 4-3 win at Watford

Whether they can continue that through what is going to be a busy April and May is a different matter, but, at the moment, I would say that, despite the cup final defeat, they're playing the best football of the season, and the way they responded to that disappointment at Watford was magnificent."

What have you made of the switch to 4-2-3-1 in the past few weeks?

I think what's made the difference and what I like about it is that it's something the players are obviously happy with. You've got players who suddenly have a bit more belief in what they're doing, simply because they're comfortable with working in the groups they're working in. You can see the full-backs are happy working in that formation and so on.

gabbiadini has added an extra dimension. he's half a step ahead.

adam blackmore
on manolo gabbiadini


What have you made of Manolo Gabbiadini since he joined?

I'm very impressed. He already looks a snip at the money the club have paid for him. What's stood out for me is his speed of thought and speed of movement. His head goes up and he looks around as the ball's coming to him – it's a bit like a snooker player being one shot ahead of the one he's playing and knowing where he wants the white ball to go. He has that about him – he's a move ahead.

He seems to have added an extra dimension to the vision they have in the final third, he's half-a-step ahead, and because he hasn't had that baggage of a heavy season he's fairly fresh.

He holds the ball up well, brings players into the game well and he's making runs that international players make, and I think that's the biggest difference – he's hitting areas of the pitch in the penalty area that Saints were putting crosses into and not benefiting from all season and now they are. He's making runs to the near post we haven't seen others make, he's getting away from defenders – he's just really sharp.

Who else has caught your eye recently?

For me, the improvement in James Ward-Prowse's game, particularly since the new year, has been marked. He is finding a level of consistency that he hasn't been able to find before – one, because he hasn't been picked every week, and two because he's added an extra layer to his game.

James Ward-Prowse
Distribution stats
Passes completed
968
Crosses
60
Assists
5
Chances created
43
See all stats

Whereas before I always thought he was a terrific footballer, he has added a level of competitiveness and aggression the last few months. We know he's always had a good delivery, but I think there's an extra yard of speed in his game as well. If he can then find another one in the summer, especially if he's looking to make that position on the right his own, that would be terrific and could take him on. Aside from that, Ryan Bertrand has also been terrific.

If the team can get a win at Spurs this weekend, what do you think it would do for the season?

Given the way West Brom have blown up the last couple of games, if they can win at Spurs then they start firing and looking at eighth place again, and

I think that should be the target. Yes, they're going to have some fixture congestion to deal with again, but if they show real intent, go to Spurs and get even a point I'd say that's a great day's work.

If they go to Spurs and win then the camp will be really buoyant going into the international break, and then they come back with a home game against Bournemouth and I think the players would be licking their lips in that situation.

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