Perhaps inspired by recent events in popular culture, there was an ensemble cast of points-scoring heroes in Southampton’s 3-3 draw with Bournemouth on Saturday.
A whole host of popular assets got themselves either goals or assists at St. Mary’s Stadium in a game that taught us plenty about the two sides involved.
With just two matches left of the season, we examine whether the Saints or Cherries have anything left to offer.
Southampton 3-3 Bournemouth
Goals: Shane Long (£4.6m), James Ward-Prowse (£5.1m), Matt Targett (£4.2m) | Dan Gosling (£4.7m), Callum Wilson x2 (£6.7m)
Assists: Nathan Redmond (£5.4m), Pierre-Emile Højbjerg (£4.4m), Yan Valery (£4.1m) | Wilson, David Brooks (£5.1m), Ryan Fraser (£6.3m)
Callum Wilson (£6.7m) continues to frustrate his owners with the unpredictability of his attacking returns, although a trend is starting to emerge. After blanking against Fulham in Double Gameweek 35, roughly 40,000 managers opted to move him on for the trip to Southampton but watched on as he scored 16 points from two goals and an assist. That haul was his third of double-figures in his last four away matches with Bournemouth, in a period that featured three successive blanks at home.
It would certainly seem that Wilson has recently preferred playing on his travels than in front of his won supporters. In the last four away matches, no player in the league has a higher expected goals (xG) than the Bournemouth forward, his score in such fixtures roughly double that of his last four at home. Therefore, perhaps we should expect little from Wilson in Gameweek 37 when Spurs come the Vitality Stadium, before predicting big things from him for Bournemouth’s Gameweek 38 trip to Crystal Palace.
It feels strange to expect something from the Cherries on their travels after a season characterised by poor form on the road. However, in recent trips, they have made some improvements, earning seven points from their last four away games (won two, drawn one) after taking none from the previous nine. Central to that has been Bournemouth’s enhanced threat on the counter-attacking, which has had Wilson at its heart. In similar circumstances to the 5-0 win at Brighton, it was the forward’s pass that set-up Dan Gosling (£4.7m) for Bournemouth’s opening goal of the game, which was also their first shot after going 1-0 down. The central midfielder now has two goals in his last three Premier League outings, which is as many as he registered in the previous 67, although he did go off injured in the second half.
Ryan Fraser (£6.3m) has been of similar frustration to his owners in recent weeks, but like Wilson, it looks as if he has finally produced a trend for us to follow. Again, it’s based around the venue, as the Scottish international has blanked in the last seven home matches, but has attacking returns in three of his last four on the road.
However, Fraser’s credentials for the final two games of the season don’t look quite as strong as Wilson’s, given that he was actually named on the bench for the trip to Southampton. Eddie Howe opted to experiment with a 5-3-2 formation with Jack Simpson (£3.9m) and Nathaniel Clyne (£4.4m) providing the width from the wing-back positions with a three-man midfield of Jefferson Lerma (£4.5m), David Brooks (£5.1m) and Gosling behind Wilson and Josh King (£6.4m).
Fraser did take to the pitch after just 23 minutes though, as Howe opted to make a tactical substitution with Southampton largely dominating the early proceedings. He switched his 5-3-2 into a 4-3-3, to match Southampton’s formation, by bringing Fraser on for Chris Mepham (£4.5m) and deploying him on the right of the front three. Simpson dropped back into the middle to play centre-back alongside Steve Cook (£4.3m) while Nathan Aké (£5.1m) moved out to play left-back.
“Tactically we weren’t where we needed to be. Chris [Mepham, substituted for Ryan Fraser after 23 minutes] unfortunately was sacrificed for the team. We were much better for the change.” – Eddie Howe
“It was difficult as we suffered two injuries in the game, players were playing slightly out of position and it was a little bit of a disjointed shape. We had to dig deep and we made an early tactical switch as we found it difficult to control the ball. The change enabled us to do that and we were excellent until half time, there was a constant ebb and flow with each team taking the momentum. It wasn’t one for the defensive coaches to take too much from, but both teams really went for it. Both managers had to constantly reshuffle their tactics and from that perspective, it was an interesting one to be involved in.” – Eddie Howe
Fantasy managers were treated to the best and worst of Shane Long (£4.6m) as he opened the scoring for a second successive match. Some managers have been put off the Southampton forward because of his uncertainty of starts, but he has featured from the beginning in each of the last two Gameweeks
The return of Jan Valery (£4.1m) at right-back was good news both for his owners and those in possession of James Ward-Prowse (£5.1m). The defender got himself an assist for a trademark cross to substitute Matt Targett (£4.2m), but his place in the side freed Ward-Prowse from having to play right wing-back, a role he took on in the previous two matches and failed to impress in against Newcastle particularly. His return to the midfield saw him grab his first attacking return since Gameweek 30. That was his seventh league goal of the season, which means he now has as many to his name in 2018/19 as he did in his previous two campaigns with Southampton.
“It’s a great feeling to score my first goal for the club. It took me long enough but I finally got there! It was a great cross from Yan Valery and I just thought to head it back across goal and get good contact, thankfully I did. I’ve been working on that in training!” – Matt Targett
However, despite some of their defensive assets getting attacking returns, the Saints’ options at the back continue to disappoint when it comes to their primary function. The three goals conceded against Bournemouth means Hasenhüttl’s men still have just one clean sheet since Gameweek 29. In fact, despite the improvements that the Austrian has undoubtedly made at St Mary’s, Southampton have still lost more points from leading positions in the Premier League this season than any other side (27).
“We lost two points which is a pity but today it was more important to be safe. We know we still have a few weaknesses in our game, we have to develop a few things that aren’t perfect at the moment. But that’s the Premier League and today it was a tactical and very intensive game.” – Ralph Hasenhüttl
Southampton XI (4-3-3): Gunn; Bertrand, J Stephens, Bednarek, Valery; Højbjerg, Romeu (Targett 45′), Ward-Prowse; Redmond, Ings (Armstrong 51′), S Long (Austin 88′).
Bournemouth XI (5-3-2): Boruc; Simpson, Aké, S Cook, Mepham (Fraser 23′), Clyne (Solanke 72′); Gosling (Hyndman 53′), Lerma, Brooks; Wilson, King.