SOUTHAMPTON, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 22: Nathaniel Clyne of Southampton celebrates after scoring during the Barclays Premier League match between Southampton and Aston Villa at St Mary's Stadium on September 22, 2012 in Southampton, England. (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)
Coming into this game, much was made of the fact that Southampton had yet to secure a point in four Premier League games. Less was made of the fact that three of those four games came against Manchester City, Manchester United and Arsenal, with the two Manchester sides needing late comebacks to secure wins. The Saints didn't look especially good against Wigan and were horrid against Arsenal, but there was very little reason to think they were the worst team in the Premier League or anything close to it. They made that point quite emphatically today, scoring four in the second half to hand Aston Villa a 4-1 loss, overtaking the 3-1 thumping by Everton as the worst loss of the season to this point.
he first half wasn't especially good by either side, with decent chances hard to come by and the majority of openings that did appear being wasted. It was almost pure luck that Villa was able to open the scoring in the 36th minute, with Jason Puncheon giving the ball away to set up the chance and Darren Bent pouncing instinctively on Stephen Ireland's whiffed volley to open his Premier League account. Christian Benteke came very close to giving Villa some breathing room in the 48th minute, his free header from the center of the box missing the post by less than a yard, but from there it was all Southampton. Rickie Lambert equalized in the 58th after Villa were caught disorganized following a needless giveaway by Eric Lichaj to start a counter. Nathaniel Clyne gave the home side the lead five minutes later after being given the run of Villa's final third, with Gaston Ramirez finding a sizable gap in the back line to set up the chance. Jason Puncheon put it out of reach in the 72nd minute (though the goal was later uncharitably charged to Ciaran Clark) and Rickie Lambert added insult to injury 30 seconds from the end with a converted penalty, and Brad Guzan was likely a bit fortunate not to see red for the foul on Emmanuel Mayuka for which it was awarded.
There are very few positive signs to take from this game. Darren Bent and Christian Benteke were probably Villa's best players, but they didn't get much of a chance to make their mark on the proceedings in the second half. Everyone else ranged from poor to chickens-with-their-heads-cut-off terrible, and some of Villa's best players this season coming into the day looked downright awful as the collapse unfolded. But credit must go to Southampton as well; after being mediocre at best in the first half they were marvelous after the break. Results from their first four games aside, this is not a bad team. There's just far too much firepower in the attack for that to be true, and though they'll struggle defensively at times they'll have other days like today, where everything just clicks and the opposition doesn't have a chance. This was a frustrating and rather embarrassing defeat, sure, but it's far from the harbinger of doom that it's being made out to be by some.
Not much a team can do but dust themselves off and go after the next one. Unfortunately, the next one is Manchester City at the Etihad on Tuesday, but that's the way it goes. And hey, maybe it's a chance to pull off an upset and regain some confidence. To paraphrase Andrew after the game, this season is all about celebrating the good times and brushing off the bad. As the two previous weeks have shown, we''l have some good times. As today has unfortunately shown, we'll have some bad times. Peaks and valleys and all that. On to the next one.