Sunday 4 December 2016

Austin's magic touch propels Puel to points

Jeremy Wilson

Published 19/09/2016 | 02:30

Modou Barrow of Swansea City (L) is chased down. Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images
Modou Barrow of Swansea City (L) is chased down. Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images
Swansea City's Gambian-Swedish striker Modou Barrow (L) vies with Southampton's Northern Irish midfielder Steven Davis. Photo: Glyn Kirk/Getty Images

It has become a cliche to talk of the Premier League's increasingly fine margins between success and failure, but at few clubs is this more apparent than Southampton.

Southampton 1 Swansea 0

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The team that progressed from eighth, to seventh, to sixth in the past three years suddenly seemed less sure of themselves under Claude Puel and, while performances have not dipped, the knock-on with results was just threatening to become serious.

Enter Charlie Austin, who has not just rediscovered his goalscoring touch over these past five days, but also single-handedly settled some ripples of restlessness around St Mary's. He inspired a first win of the season against Sparta Prague on Thursday and now a first three-point haul in the Premier League.

Austin, who admitted that he was "frustrated" to be named as a substitute, replaced Shane Long after 53 minutes and there was an immediate added physicality and directness to Southampton.

It was Austin's first Premier League goal since his debut back in January and sufficient to push Southampton out of the bottom three and up to 14th.

"It was very important for the confidence and for the future," acknowledged Puel. He also declared that his players "now understand the philosophy" of the diamond system he wants to play.

The margin of victory certainly could have been greater and, for the second match in succession, there were clear signs of tension between Swansea manager Francesco Guidolin and one of his players.

Neil Taylor was visibly unhappy at being substituted before half-time of last week's draw against Chelsea, while Ki Sung-yueng openly showed his frustration here after being taken off on 66 minutes. Guidolin confirmed that he would be talking to Ki.

"This is not a good attitude," he said. "Southampton deserved it. If we play in this way, it is difficult to win any game." (© Daily Telegraph, London)

 

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