Graziano Pelle enjoyed a good start to his own Premier League season, scoring on the opening day away at Newcastle United in a 2-2 draw in the North East.
It’s easy to start with the goal that Pelle scored. Stepping up to give Southampton an early lead, Pelle leaped highest above Newcastle’s new centre back Mbemba and nodded the ball into the bottom corner past Tim Krul. As I mentioned last week in the impact Pelle can have on Southampton’s season, the aerial threat he brings to Ronald Koeman’s side is evident in their play. Even up against someone as strong in the air as Mbemba and Coloccini, Pelle won 72% of his aerial duels at the weekend and brought something that no other Southampton striker brought to their game.
He wasn’t at his most fluent best on Sunday, but still scoring and then picking up the man of the match award shows exactly how strong he was in Southampton’s opener despite me personally thinking that I’ve seen him play much better last season, which only highlights how good he was last campaign and the heights he’s set himself for not only Southampton, but for Italy too if he can continue to get picked in their national team with the European Championships coming up at the end of the season. It’s still clear that the Pelle is one of the key focal points in the Saints side. As I’ve mentioned about 100 times, his presence and physicality is something not many attacking players in the Southampton side have so he instantly becomes someone that opposing defenders have to focus on as their biggest threat.
The introduction of Shane Long in the second half gave Pelle a new role in the side. His link up play with the Irish forward was different than when Rodriguez drifted a lot and left him quite isolated. With a more direct style towards the Italian he used his head and chest to bring Long into play and the move that started the second Saints goal from Long began with hold up play from Pelle himself.