Two sides who finished in the top eight last season but have taken just a single point from the last six available will be keen to return winning ways on Saturday as Southampton face Swansea City in what promises to be a game full of attractive football.
It was fine margins that cost the Saints last time out at home to Manchester United, as the width of a post and the brilliance of David De Gea combined to frustrate them at one end, while an incorrect offside call and a defensive lapse in concentration from Maya Yoshida resulted in them being picked off at the other. Either side of those incidents, Graziano Pelle scored twice to continue what has been a fine start to his second season in English football.
After a purposeful start which arguably deserved more than just the one goal, Ronald Koeman will have frustrated by the way his side responded to being pegged back, and it leaves them fifth from bottom with just one win, and so needing to emerge with the three points here. Especially after scoring six in the League Cup at Milton Keynes Dons, the signs are that they are not far from finding their groove, and in this one a lot will depend on whether Pelle can win his intriguing physical battle with visiting captain Ashley Williams.
The Welsh defender came away from his latest Premier League outing most relieved to have kept a clean sheet, having come under severe pressure from a wasteful Everton in a keenly contested encounter. It was a result the Welsh club were content with, but here there will be desire to regain the attacking flair that characterised their play before the international break, and they may see Yoshida – who is not a natural right-back – as the man to exploit.
Jefferson Montero is the ideal man for that particular job, and his impact on the left will be crucial to the outcome of the game. It is likely to be tight, with the two teams relatively evenly matched on paper, so it might come down to which sides wins more of the individual battles. Indeed, only once in six Premier League meetings have Southampton and Swansea been separated by more than one goal.
The hosts are still without midfielder Jordy Clasie, but Pelle should shake off a foot problem in time to play. Ryan Bertrand may also come in for his first appearance of the season.
Last Meeting: Southampton dominated possession for most of the game back in February, but the away side’s organised defence meant they created little, with James Ward-Prowse coming closest in the first half. The sucker punch came after the break when a rare Swans attack led to a brilliant shot into the net from Jonjo Shelvey, and the day was made worse for Saints when Ryan Bertrand received a straight red card.