In an opening game where the two men in the spotlight were absent, Southampton and Swansea City found themselves sorely lacking star quality in a goalless stalemate.
All the talk around these clubs this summer has centred on the futures of Virgil van Dijk and Gylfi Sigurdsson. Here, neither played — and those that did shut each other out.
Southampton created plenty of chances but lacked a clinical edge, while Swansea were often camped in their own half and looked devoid of creativity. Not a great preview for a new season of potential success for either side.
Dusan Tadic reacts in frustration as he is thwarted by the Swansea rearguard, failing to capitalise on his chance
The Swansea players head off the pitch at St Mary’s after earning a point against Southampton in a stalemate
Lukasz Fabianski palms the ball clear as Charlie Austin chases up in the hope of a rebound during the second half
MATCH FACTS, PLAYER RATINGS AND MATCHZONE
Forster 6; Cedric 7, Stephens 7, Yoshida 6, Bertrand 7.5 (McQueen 86); Davis 6, Romeu 6; Ward-Prowse 7 (Boufal 71mins), Tadic 6.5, Redmond 6.5, Gabbiadini 6 (Austin 69).
Unused subs: Taylor, Bednarek, Lemina, Long.
Booked: Redmond, Romeu.
Manager: Mauricio Pellegrino 6.5.
Swansea City (4-3-2-1):
Fabianski 7; Naughton 6, Fernandez 7, Mawson 6.5, Olsson 6.5; Britton 6 (Fulton 74), Fer 7, Carroll 6; Routledge 5.5 (McBurnie 86), Ayew 6; Abraham 7 (Bartley 81).
Unused subs: Nordfeldt, Narsingh, Rangel, Mesa.
Manager: Paul Clement 6.
Referee: Mike Jones 6.
Man of the match: Ryan Bertrand.
Season at glance
New Saints manager Mauricio Pellegrino made little change to predecessor Claude Puel’s set-up — Manolo Gabbiadini for Charlie Austin was the only switch from to the team that started the last game of last season.
What did appear different for Saints, though, was a renewed attacking verve that they so sorely lacked here last season, scoring just 17 goals at St Mary’s. The switch-up showed from the start as they twice went close to scoring in the first four minutes.
First, Ryan Bertrand’s corner was flicked on to the top of the crossbar by the head of a back-pedalling Gabbiadini. Moments later the England left back was the provider again, bursting to the byline to pull back to Dusan Tadic six yards out who inexplicably scuffed a tap-in wide with St Mary’s rocking.
In the opposing dug-out, Paul Clement had gone with just one starting debutant himself, Chelsea loanee Tammy Abraham getting an outing up front.
Tammy Abraham wriggles free and manages to get a shot away but the Swansea striker sees his effort saved
Referee Mike Jones shows Nathan Redmond a yellow card in after a reckless challenge from the Southampton forward
Having hit 23 Championship goals at Bristol City last season, he should have grabbed a first in the Premier League on 10 minutes, rising high at the near post to direct Jordan Ayew’s cross narrowly wide with a free header.
Otherwise though, Saints were on top and having plenty of joy down the left where Nathan Redmond, Tadic and Bertrand could link-up. A combination of the former two created another pulled-back chance from the byline, this time for James Ward-Prowse — denied by Lukasz Fabianski. Southampton managed 13 attempts at goal in the opening period but that proved to be the only one to test the Polish goalkeeper.
Swansea looked to be relying on Abraham to nick them a goal and after half-time he almost did, brilliantly turning away from a challenge in the area after taking in Leroy Fer’s pass before his eventual shot was blocked.
Saints, meanwhile, continued to frustrate inside the box as another Gabbiadini effort drifted wide and a series of low crosses failed to find their targets.
Martin Olsson takes off in pursuit of Jack Stephens as the Saints player surges forward with the ball at his feet
Manolo Gabbiadini heads towards goal but fails to break the deadlock in a first half which finished goalless
Olsson leaps for a header in competition with Saints defender Cedric Soares in a tightly fought encounter
Pellegrino hauled the Italian centre forward off and replaced him with Austin but the story was more of the same until Swansea’s staunch defence opened up for Maya Yoshida.
A corner earned by a Tadic drive from distance was flicked on by Oriol Romeu and suddenly the Japanese defender was free, alone at the back post six yards out — only to head over.
Swansea, clearly happy to leave with a point, dropped deeper as Clement brought Abraham off for an additional defender in Kyle Bartley — a move booed by the away fans.
Clement got the result, at least, although he was relieved to see two stoppage-time chances hit the side-netting: Yoshida’s free-kick and a strike from Austin as he dashed through.
Dusan Tadic charges forward with two Swansea players tracking him as he looks to create an opportunity
Leroy Fer collides with Redmond (right) as the referee brings play to a halt for a foul on the Southampton right back
Maya Yoshida bent a free-kick narrowly wide late on but it wasn’t to be for the hosts who had to settle for a point
Signs for the season
Plenty of creativity but this was another occasion where Southampton lacked a goal threat. A clinical edge must emerge or else lower-mid-table mediocrity beckons. Manolo Gabbiadini had a brilliant streak last season but was not enough of a threat here.
Without Gylfi Sigurdsson’s guile Swansea look to be facing another relegation battle. Tammy Abraham looked a threat and will get goals but the service isn’t great and Paul Clement’s side spent long spells trapped in their own final third.
Tammy Abraham (Swansea City)
Very limited service but looked a danger when the ball did come his way. Sent one dangerous free header wide when he perhaps should have scored and then saw another smart effort blocked.
Abraham was given the start by Clement and rewarded his boss with a hard-working performance up top for the Swans