The Southampton fans are feeling nervous in the transfer Tavern ahead of a season-defining fixture against Newcastle United tomorrow afternoon.
Mauricio Pellegrino takes his side to the north-east to face Rafa Benitez’s Newcastle at St James’ Park tomorrow afternoon for a fixture which could significantly alter the dynamic of the relegation battle this season. Southampton go into the fixture in 17th place, just 1 point behind their opponents today. The Saints arrive on the back of a 0-0 draw against another of their relegation rivals Stoke City last weekend in which Pellegrino decided to start James Ward Prowse (valued at £13.5 million by Transfermarkt) on the bench.
Pellegrino’s decision was surprising considering Ward-Prowse has been one of Southampton’s most creative attacking players in recent weeks. The fact that Southampton failed to get on the score-sheet against the league’s joint-leakiest defence speaks volumes about the severity of the crisis they currently find themselves in.
Southampton’s defensive midfielders, namely Oriel Romeu and Mario Lemina were both handed starting berths against Stoke City, which proves Pellegrino simply must adopt a more attacking-minded approach if the club want to return to the south-coast with a positive result on Saturday afternoon. With that being said, James Ward-Prowse should return to the starting line-up to provide a threat from wide areas and particularly from set-pieces.
The 23-year-old England international has scored 3 goals and provided 1 assist from his last 6 appearances in the league, and although his record is far from outstanding, he possesses an outstanding ability to deliver a cross into dangerous areas which could prove to be the difference in their relegation six-pointer clash.
If Southampton suffer a defeat against Newcastle then the club’s hierarchy could be forced into making a bold decision to sack Pellegrino with just 8 matches to play, so if the Argentine manager wants to remain at the helm then he must restore Ward-Prowse to the starting line-up tomorrow afternoon.