“I love it when a plan comes together.” So said Hannibal Smith, leader of the soldiers of fortune known as the A-Team.
Saints went to the Hawthorns on Saturday in need of a new plan. Having been bullied by Youssouf Mulumbu and Claudio Yacob last season, they badly needed to add a bit of steel of their own to the centre of midfield. Enter Saints’ enforcer, Victor Wanyama.
It couldn’t have gone any better. The bullied became the bully, Saints not only kept hold of their lunch money, they left West Bromwich with the Baggies’ too. Wanyama was immense.
There is strong, and there is STRONG. Wanyama plays with a ferocity that often looks like it will overspill into reckless, yet doesn’t. The ease with which he brushes off opponents is staggering, and often prompted the referee into penalising him unfairly.
The effect he has on players who dare to go shoulder to shoulder with him is like that of a bumper on the pinball. He approaches the game like a bulldozer stuck in fast forward effortlessly bounding forwards with ball (often several yards in front of him) opposition players pinging off him like a north seeking pole trying to attach to another. You simply don’t take the ball off of Victor Wanyama. You’ll get it when he is done with it.
It was an effervescent debut performance and he was man of the match by a distance. Yacob was a shadow of the player we saw last time and resorted to niggly fouls, while Mulumbu was still the Baggies best player, but lacked the impact of last season.
It is nice to know that Saints identified a problem with the squad and rectified it over the summer. I, along with many others, thought the £12 million transfer fee might have been a gamble, now it looks like it has been a steal.
When your central man is doing such a commendable job, the rest of the team can settle into theirs, and while this was far from a spectacular performance from Saints, it was an accomplished one, and a very good opening three points.
We can expect big things from Wanyama and likewise this Saints squad over the coming season. The future is bright and with the likes of Wanyama and Dejan Lovren joining the current crop of young talented players and England’s latest hero, Rickie Lambert, soon everyone will want a piece of Saints.
Keep the faith.