The struggling Southampton side will host London club West Ham United on Sunday in a crucial encounter in the bottom half of the standings.
The Saints have been one of the league’s unluckier teams this season, as they had a difficult start to the 2022/23 season. In their first five games, they played Tottenham Hotspur, Leeds United, Manchester United, and Chelsea. Despite this, they won two games and drew one, including a home victory against Chelsea and a close loss to Manchester United in a game in which they generated several scoring chances. Their form has not improved subsequently, as they have lost four league games in a row, scoring one goal and conceding eight.
It hasn’t gone well for Ralph Hasenhuttl, who has made good progress with the squad since his hiring in 2018. They were last in action in a 4-0 away loss to Manchester City as the defending champions made light work of the visitors, thoroughly dominating the game and comfortably securing three points. It has given the Austrian coach a lot to think about as he seeks to drag the Saints out of their rut, and a win would be significant for their morale and aspirations of eventually breaking into the top half of the table under Hasenhuttl. Their latest defeat meant Southampton have slumped to 17th in the league, just a point above the relegation zone and now face a rejuvenated West Ham team who have themselves been in that position at one point.
West Ham United did not have the best start to the season, losing their first three games without scoring a goal. They eventually got off to a winning start against Aston Villa, with Pablo Fornals scoring a deflected goal to earn them a 1-0 win and open their season account. Their form has improved since then, as they presently rank 13th in the table, up from 20th after the first three games.
They are in good form coming into Sunday’s match, having won their last four games in all competitions and their last two in the league. On Thursday, they defeated Belgian side Anderlecht in the Europa Conference League at home. The Irons triumphed 2-1 in a game marked by fights between opposing fans, with fireworks and seats hurled between them. West Ham had grabbed a merited 2-0 lead in the first half, and Anderlecht’s late penalty set up a nervous finish, but the Hammers held on to make it four wins in a row in Europe. They qualified for the knockout stages, but need one more point to secure first place in the group. The Irons now return to the league to face a Southampton squad that is on a downward spiral and sorely needs some help.
WHEN AND WHERE?
Date: Sunday, 16th October 2022.
Time: 2.00 pm BST.
Venue: St. Mary’s Stadium, Southampton.
Referee: Peter Bankes.
Assistants: Eddie Smart, Nick Greenhalgh.
Fourth official: Tony Harrington.
VAR: Simon Hooper.
Assistant VAR: Adrian Holme
Southampton defender Valentino Livramento has been ruled out till next year, while Romeo Lavia also remain sidelined for a few more weeks with respective ACL and muscle injuries, although the latter is inching closer to a return. There are no other major injury concerns for the Saints and Hasenhuttl will have a strong squad to choose from.
West Ham United striker Michail Antonio missed Thursday’s Europa League Conference win over Anderlecht with a flu which kept him out of training for the past few days. Manager David Moyes was hopeful of getting the striker back for Sunday and it remains to see if he can recover in time. The manager also confirmed new signing Maxwel Cornet is set to miss out after suffering a calf strain which will keep the Ivorian out till at least next week. Nayef Aguerd has also been ruled out of Sunday’s clash with an ankle injury.
Southampton manager Ralph Hasenhuttl is under a lot of pressure as he approaches his fourth year in charge. He has undoubtedly created a fresh style and instilled some energy into the club, which was headed nowhere before to his arrival. However, Saints have been very inconsistent since his arrival, and they have not been able to embark on a continuous run of strong form. West Ham United’s fortunes, on the other hand, have altered dramatically when David Moyes came over as manager. He has led them from relegation fights to fighting for European slots and going toe-to-toe with the major teams. The Hammers have won their past four games, while the Saints have lost their last four.
The Saints have looked toothless for much of the season, lacking any creativity from midfield, positional cohesion looking disjointed and the strikers not having much to feed off in the attack. This is a game that Hasenhuttl must win, which may need a change in formation or personnel. Players like Joe Aribo have shouldered much of the attacking responsibility, and look like one of the only bright lights in a world of gloom.
West Ham, on the other hand, will be encouraged by their recent improvement in form. After a shaky start, their new arrivals have all settled in, and Moyes’ vision is beginning to take shape. The Hammers have been excellent on the break, with Lucas Paqueta, Jarrod Bowen, Scamacca, and others capable of leaving defenders behind. On paper, West Ham United appear to be on their way to an easy victory, but Southampton are no pushovers and will not go down without a fight. Ralph Hasenhuttl wants to rally his troops before time runs out, and a win at home to snap a losing trend would be the ideal way to start.
The Saints captain has been quiet this season, and while he still offers a threat from midfield, he has yet to get going. If the home club is to avoid being pulled into a relegation struggle, their captain must step up in the next games. His ability from set pieces is unrivalled, and West Ham have frequently looked susceptible in dead ball situations. James Ward-Prowse has a strong chance to add to his record of one goal and one assist on Sunday in a squad that craves creativity and risks in possession.
The 23-year-old has had a strong start to his career in London, scoring six goals in 12 games. He appeared to be more at ease in the Europa League, but he has begun to adjust to the Premier League as well, scoring two goals in his previous two outings. He’s forming a strong bond with fellow newbie Brazilian Lucas Paqueta, and the two are frequently seen teaming up on the field. David Moyes had cautioned West Ham supporters that Scamacca would need some time to acclimatise, but it appears like Scamacca is already settling in beautifully and has begun to solidify his spot as a starter in the West Ham squad.
Southampton lineup vs West Ham: Gavin Bazunu; Kyle Walker-Peters, Armel Bella-Kotchap, Mohammed Salisu, Romain Perraud; Stuart Armstrong, James Ward-Prowse, Ibrahima Diallo, Joe Aribo; Adam Armstrong, Che Adams.
West Ham lineup vs Southampton: Lukasz Fabianski; Tilo Kehrer, Craig Dawson, Kurt Zouma, Aaron Cresswell; Tomas Soucek, Declan Rice; Jarrod Bowen, Lucas Paqueta, Pablo Fornals; Gianluca Scamacca.