Saints Early Season Analysis ! Tuesday, 3rd Oct 2017 08:00 by Dan
Our resident reporter Dan takes a look at Saints start to the season and what things we have done right and what things wrongly !
With the second international break of the season on the horizon, Saints will be out of action for two weeks. Because of this, it seems like an appropriate time to assess how well or poorly they’ve started the season.
In terms of defence, we’ve been pretty solid. With three league clean sheets thus far and seven goals conceded, we haven’t been too shaky at the back. The return of Van Dijk on Saturday was good to see even though he didn’t really help us much of the game and the partnership between Romeu and Lemina seems to be gelling nicely.
However, in terms of attacking, we haven’t been as brilliant. With only five goals in seven games (eight games if you include the cup defeat) we really need to find a source for goals. Shane Long has started the last three games and, despite getting an assist against Stoke, he is yet to get on the scoresheet. I think he’s a great player to have in the side as he works so hard for the team but we have two strikers who are already off the mark this season on the bench and maybe Pellegrino needs to find a way to integrate Long and either Gabbiadini or Austin.
As for the results, if you compare eight points from the first seven league games with previous seasons then it is actually one point worse than this time last season. Also including that we were top of group in the Europa League and had reached the fourth round of the Carabao Cup then it really is something to think about. Around this time last season, we started that run of six consecutive clean sheets in all competitions and were also unbeaten for a while. Our next set of fixtures could allow us to start a run like this but we need to be scoring the goals in order to do it.
At the start of the season you would’ve said that the fixtures we were given to start the season with were very kind but then you could’ve also said that it puts pressure on the team to get the points. I don’t think that winning and drawing twice and losing three times is a good enough tally from those fixtures. What’s more is that five goals really isn’t good enough either (two of those goals were penalties!). Not only that but exciting the cup at the first stage to a lower division side at home really didn’t help. Hopefully we can have a run in the FA Cup but these competitions are the ones that teams like us should try and do well in, as we saw last season.
After the international break, we have three winnable games in the month of October. Obviously, having lots of players away over an international break doesn’t help but hopefully Pellegrino will have driven the idea of improvement into the minds of the players before the game at home against Newcastle. I doubt that nine points from those three games will happen but saying that we should pick up six or seven really is the bare minimum. We have been playing well the majority of the time so as soon as the goals start flowing so will the points
The back 7 are solid as anything .... this should enable the remaining 4 to be adventurous & attack with flair knowing whats behind them.... so line up our most adventurous players i.e. Boufal .... Sims .... Gabbi ..... Tadic .....
The corresponding fixtures last year – Watford, Man U, Swansea & West Ham at home, then Stoke, Palace and – last year Hull, this year Huddersfield all Away – We gained just 6 points, 1 win, 3 draws and 3 losses. This year we have 8 points from them fixtures – considering last season we didn’t really have any remarkable results against the big teams that we have managed at least 2 or 3 of in recent seasons – we did not beat any of them (Bar Everton whose ‘top team’ status is questionable, but count them if you wish). So I see no reason given the slightly improved way we are playing, albeit still a worrying lack of goals that one can hope over the season may rectify itself, that we are on track to have at least a top half season. Given the fact the top 3 or 4 teams are beating everyone else, I see us being far off the top 4, a way off 5th & 6th, and battling around 7th and 8th again. Some will call that a good season, others a poor one. Me personally will be fairly happy with that.
I think we have to be realistic. We didn't score many goals last year and we are scoring even fewer this year. I can't be arsed to do the research but we haven't scored in something like 8 or 9 out of the last 10 home games. It is frankly naive to think that this team is suddenly going to be free scoring. We can't change personnel for a while so unless the manager changes approach then I think things are going continue as is.
The style of play has to change. You can't pass teams to death and hope that alone is going to lead to goals. Every team needs a player or two who, when 1 on 1, can beat his opposite number thereby opening up the play. Redmond and Boufal were the players that were signed to do that. Unfortunately, for whatever reason, they're not doing it. That means that we need to look to other players. I've seen enough of Lemina to think that he could play that role for us. Against United he was going past Matic for fun so I would play him further up the pitch and tell him to take on his man at every opportunity; as others have suggested van Dijk could also play further forward and take on this role. Carrying on with the same players in the same formation is just not an option!
As I said yesterday I'm finding it hard to get enthused about this season already. Basically any kind of success in my opinion will be based on a good FA Cup run and staying in the league. I don't think we have bad players, in fact I think the likes of Forster, Bertrand, Cedric, VVD, Romeu, Lemina and Gabbi are class, but for some reason or other they're not performing. If you look at the stats and the teams we've played this is relegation form. There's no point in trying to hide from it. I can't see us just going on a run, likely against better teams too, without something drastically changing. We're not doing badly just because of a run of bad luck. We can't score and that's fundamental to doing well! I hate negative posts, but you can't just gloss over this dross.
"exciting the cup at the first stage" - I wish we had!
The lack of goals is obviously the only real question and MP is going to have to sort it out. I think he is right to bring Long into the equation and to remove JWP from it. Redmond also needs to be kept as an 'impact' winger rather than a regular starter. I like Lord Lucan's idea of Lemina taking a more forward role. Also Gabbi has to start - the guy is more likely to score than anyone else and the Yoshida goal on Saturday did show up those who are actually paid to score!!
This year's Early Season Analysis you could cut and paste last year's Late Season Analysis: We can't score goals and Les Reed and the board act like nothing is wrong and refuse to address the issue.. Pellegrino , like Puel before him, is expected to get great results with mediocre talent.
Our set pieces and penalties are absolute cr@p and yet Eric Black is still in charge of the training pitch. And again the issue is ignored.
Helpisomebody-if you mean it looks like the players are using ZIG-ZAG rolling paper, you are absolutely right!
When you have solid defensive guys like Romeu, Hoedt, Yoshida, van Dijk, Stephens.... surely Lemina with his technique and attacking power should play in a more attacking role supporting the attack more than defense.....
Still not giving up hope that this could be a good season. If we had a poorish squad massively over performing and getting these results we would know we at our limit. We have a goodish squad underperforming so surely it will click and we will get better at some point (hopefully soon)
That said if we don't get 7 min points out of the next 4 I may start questioning my view on MP / Eric Black combination and if a change had to made that wasn't sacking the manager it is obvious what the board could do to keep the fans at bay.
Also anyone else think Rickie deserves some sort of permanent recognition at St Mary's. Is a statue down by the Northam too much ? The very least should be a bar or area named after him.
A bit early for a half term report but with just under 20% of our fixtures completed it would be hard to suggest that things are going particularly well or that an up-turn in our fortunes is just a round the corner. There were times on Saturday where our play was inept and totally disjointed and that included most worryingly our defensive co-ordination and solidity.
The one area of our play where on paper we should be strong and dominant we were frequently wrong footed and over-stretched and but for Forster's interventions we could quite easily have been humiliated.
So we focus on our attackers and their seeming ineptitude but in truth no aspect of our play is satisfactory and at times we are all at sea and in a state of near panic. At the moment not one player is reliable, every single one seems to lack confidence and composure.
It is too glib to suggest that a few wins will fix everything... they won't. We are psychologically brittle and fragile and the coaching staff seem not to realise that or be able to do anything about it.
We do a lot of sports science at Staplewood but mostly it seems to be physical stuff with not much evidence of any work on psychology and mental preparation. I recall Adkin' teams used to do stuff like that notably on vision awareness and confidence on the ball and of course Pochettino had them running over hot coals so that the players overcame their own fears and developed a mindset of fearing nothing and so developed their individual self confidence.
Without self belief nothing will change very quickly.