Midfield mystery?

Posted by Chris Rann

Saints' 3-0 victory at Craven Cottage on Saturday was a great example of the proverbial "game of two halves".

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The welcome return to fitness of Kenyan midfielder Victory Wanyama gave Mauricio Pochettino somewhat of a dilemma. Prior to his injury, Wanyama had been outstanding for Saints as the fifth Beatle of the Saints' defence to the John, Paul, George and Ringo in Dejan Lovren, Jose Fonte, Nathaniel Clyne and Luke Shaw, but in his absence Jack Cork had come to prominence as a key member of the team.

Wanyama and Cork bring very different qualities to the Saints team. Wanyama takes on the role as that extra layer of defence, acting like a wall that most struggle to get either round or through. Cork in comparison is more comfortable on the ball and adds an extra dimension to Saints on the attack.

Pochettino decided to welcome Wanyama back to the team by starting him alongside Morgan Schneiderlin, a partnership that had blossomed in Saints' impressive early season form. It was incredibly harsh on Cork, who really had been one Saints’ outstanding performers in recent weeks.

Saints were lacklustre in the first half, saved from going behind on more than one occasion by the alertness of goalkeeper Artur Boruc. Wanyama himself had somewhat of a difficult return, although he wasn't the only one struggling. The big Kenyan looked off the pace and clearly lacking match sharpness as he was often at the centre of a breakdown in Saints' play, and the visitors were perhaps fortunate, and certainly relieved to go in level at the break

Good managers don't shy away from admitting a mistake, or for that matter changing things for the better, so it was no surprise to see Cork replace Wanyama at the break. Saints looked a different side in the second period, completely outplaying their hosts and scoring three superb goals in the process. Cork was his usual effervescent self and Saints' midfield clicked again as it appeared to regain its balance.

For Pochettino, this is a selection headache that I am sure he would rather have than not. When Wanyama reaches match sharpness, it is not out of the question that the manager could rotate the three of Cork, Wanyama and Schneiderlin to keep them all fit and on top form, a frightening prospect for their opponents.

Fans should not be too quick to judge Wanyama who was certainly suffering a case of 'ring rustiness', it is too easy to forget his impressive performances earlier in the season, and how 'off the pace' Cork looked when he was first called back into the team.

With Stoke coming up next weekend, it might be prudent to start with Cork, the man in form and reintroduce Wanyama once the game is won. It will benefit them all long term.

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