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Solid Start To Season For Saints
Monday, 3rd Sep 2018 10:02

After the win at Crystal Palace Saints can go into the International break knowing that although the start to the season has not been great, it has been solid and we can build on that.

Over the years as a Saints supporter I have learn't to accept that for some strange reason we rarely make good starts to a season, you can count on one hand how many opening day games we have won since Kevin Keegan left the club the run stretches back that far.

So Mark Hughes task this season was far from easy, he not only had to look to strengthen the squad in key areas but dispel a malaise around the club that has been festering for a while now.

He had to also restore confidence to the squad not only collectively in being able to close out and win games, but individually where certain players had had the confidence knocked out of them.

So although four points from the opening four games is not exactly spectacular, given the opposition we have faced and the issues of the past few years, it is satisfying and suggests that we can now get better and stronger as we move forward.

Ironically it is not as good as the start that Mauricio Pellegrini made last season, he gained a win and two draws out of his first four games.

His predecessor Claude Puel did not make a good start though, his first four games saw a paltry return of only two points, both home draws, although the two away defeats were at Manchester United and Arsenal respectively.

In 2015/16 when we finished 6th Ronald Koeman only gained five points and a year earlier had bettered that with seven.

Mauricio Pochettino's only full season saw him also get five points and our first season back in the Premier League in 2012/13 saw us fail to gain a single point in the opening four games.

So given the circumstances the win at Crystal palace was vital in the it gave us a solid start, similar to most season's and a real foundation to build on and move forward.

But we have to give Mark Hughes the times his two predecessors were never given, Hughes has an advantage over them in that as he helped us escape relegation he has some goodwill as he starts the job and he has to be given the time to show that he is the man to be taken us forward.

The main job is rebuilding confidence in players, Nathan Redmond was a shell of the player he should have been last season, he was destroyed by the crowd, the groans every time he tried to take someone on and didn't beat them, there was never the encouragement that was given to certain players who weren't the whipping boys.

So far this season Redmond has been one of the better players in the team he seems a new man, he runs at players and takes them on and he creates chances, he has lost the fear that he played with last season, there are several others in the same boat as Redmond.

One of those could be Wesley Hoedt, he is lambasted before each game with some demanding that Yoshida play instead, no leeway is given for the fact Hoedt was thrown into a makeshift defence last season in front of a goalkeeper who lost all confidence, the finger was pointed squarely at him by some, who valued commitment above actual ability.

This season his partnership with Vestergaard looks promising, like the team itself it is still a long way from being the finished article, but in the three Premier League games so far it has kept two clean sheets.

So Hoedt needs to be given a break, judgement needs to be reserved for when the partnership has played ten games together at least, only then can we start to decide whether last season was about him being a poor player, or just being in the middle of a poor defence.

The new whipping bot seems to be Charlie Austin after looking on social media "get out of my club" was one tweet and there were plenty more in that vein.

Austin wasn't great on Saturday, but that is fate for you, Mark Hughes made an enforced change and brought on Austin for the injured Long, within minutes we had a penalty, if Austin had scored the pattern of the game would have swung firmly in our favour, we could have won by 3 or 4, but he didn't and he was forced to chase around a lot, something not suited to him, he put in the effort, but suddenly it wasn't his sort of game.

Those who demand Austin never play again often are amazed why Manolo Gabbiadini isn't in the starting line up, there is a good reason for that he hasn't looked at the races, there will be few people present at Brighton on Tuesday surprised that the Italian striker was not on the bench. He had a chance to make the manager pick him with a scintillating display, he did not take it.

Shane Long another whipping boy deserved his starting place on Saturday and he justified it in the hour he was on the pitch, his role is not about goals, it is about work rate, holding the ball up and creating openings for others, when he went off injured it was no surprise that suddenly Palace were able to build from the back.

So we have made a solid start, something we can build on and with a little more luck it could well have been more, 12th after the weekend's games were completed is satisfactory given all that has gone on, but we now need to build on it.

We have a squad capable of a top ten finish, that probably says more about the state of the Premier League these days than our squad, but there is no reason why we can't have a decent season and build on the start.

The transfer window is no shut till January so there is no point in moaning about who we did or didn't buy during the summer, what we need to do now is get behind those at the club, trust the manager to get the team selections right and create the right atmosphere for the team to succeed.

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roamer added 10:41 - Sep 3
Generally, I agree that probably 4 points are OK on this stage. But if we revert and review the gameplay of the team, it is a lot of worry. You mentioned Hoedt- it is one of the worst center backs, I've ever seen. He is now lucky that Vestergard is good enough to cover his permanent lapses, in my opinion. Moi-he is ridiculous. He is not even on the level of Prowse at all. What to discuss the idea to replace Tadic-it will never happened. sparky went wrong with Boufal in my opinion, who is difficult character I agree, but he has potential to bring much more creativity and danger than Moi. Long-he is just overrated. If we release him now, he will not be able to secure PL football for himself, but we keep him in the starting elevn. In the same time Gabbi is not even in the substitutes!? I think, Sparky will face significant difficulties this season because of his non-sense decisions in the selection. I just mentioned 3 players form the starting eleven who should not play at all, in my opinion. The other thing is man management. After 70 minutes in Palce's game, the opposition starts to do one simple thing: crosses to the right flank where Cedric /which is probably the main reason we lost games with Everton and Leicister/ was absolutely smashed in the air by Palace players and manager did nothing to prevent that to happened up to the end of the game, which is another worry signal, in my opinion.

helpineedsomebody added 11:14 - Sep 3
you only have to look at the bench again 3 midfielders 1 forward 2 defenders .
as soon as we go 1 up on come 2 players that defend rather than attaack then try & hold on . so for the rest of the season we will be playing eight at the back & 3 attacking players up front on the counter attack & hope we get lucky , no wonder the back 8 can just walk about for most of the game boring the hell out of us . still lots to look forward to this season we might get 4/5 players in the box when we attack . I SAID MIGHT .

bstokesaint added 12:29 - Sep 3
If players had any sense they wouldn’t read too much into social media comments. The problem with social media is unfortunately it gives a voice to those who are generally best off not being listened to and certainly don’t represent the majority of the fanbase. Reading that nonsense certainly wouldn’t many players much in the way of a confidence boost. It’d be interesting to know how many of those ‘fans’ jumping on Mane’s back in the autumn of his first season were calling for blood when he eventually jumped ship.

Anyway, agreed it’s a reasonable start. Always good to get that first win and to keep a clean sheet in the process. Shutting out Benteke has often been more difficult for us than Zaha.

StRipper added 12:29 - Sep 3
Totally agree with that Nick. The fan base have needed something positive to get behind and the back to back wins now give us that. Its too early to judge players and it is right for Hughes to try and establish a first eleven for the other players to break in to. Even if there is some disagreement between fans of who that 11 should be. Others will get their chance and they need to take those chances as they come up. Its would be highly risky to switch the team around too much before a playing pattern and familiarity between the team has been properly established. Pochettino and Koeman both tried to establish stability.

Roamer - i absolutely get some of the criticism of certain individual performances, but it doesn't seem sensible to judge players who are just starting in the Prem, like Moi and arguably Hoedt. Boufal had 2 years to establish himself and failed to do so. At what point do we have to cut our losses and move on, whatever his potential? If you think players shouldn't play, then who should? We have to look forward and Tadic and Boufal are gone. Whats the value in picking over it?

stmichael added 12:52 - Sep 3
Redmond last season did not take players on.
He cut inside or passed backwards.
He took the easy option.
This season so far he is being much braver hence he is not getting flak.
It’s down to the player what relationship he has with the crowd.
Would also add that a handful of people in the crowd or on a message board
does not equate to being a whipping boy.

Smudgeman23 added 13:29 - Sep 3
I agree with most of the article, but the follow up comments seem to reflect preconceptions people have on players rather than game evidence! Does anyone actually WATCH the games or do you just have favourite players you like to Slag off? On Saturday Hoedt had a much more accomplished game and looked to have started to build a real rapport with Vestergaard. Long, whilst not scoring was my choice for many of the match. He penned Palace back, created problems, worked tirelessly and created space for others to create chances . Hoijberg was outstanding and really took control of the he midfield, his display capped by an excellent goal (made by Hoedt I might add). Elyounoussi is still adjusting but I have seen enough to know he will be a danger once he is up to speed and Redmond is a completely different player so far. I have one complaint..and that is Austin. Our style of play doesn't suit him, he doesn't have the speed and creative edge we crave and we have Ings who is a better positional player..I'm a big fan of Gabbi, but if he's not showing it to MH..what choices do we have. I'm confident enough with what we've seen that we will be comfortable...I just wish players were judged here on performance and not past reputation.

highfield49 added 15:06 - Sep 3
Every player who assume's the unwanted role of the social media whipping boy usually gains it from being asked to do things on the pitch for which they are least equipped. We've seen a lot of that over the last couple of years including Long, Gabbi, Redmond, Hojbjerg, Lemina and others being asked to play to their weaknesses rather than strengths. Let's give some credit to Hughes for getting these players back on track and if he can do the same with JWP, Gallagher and Bednarek we could have a pretty decent season.

IWOZTHERE added 17:19 - Sep 3
Well said highfield. There have been some strange positional selections, Currently, has Redmond been tried in his natural position on the right?
I'm a tad concerned about a few good players being 'marginalised?' Gabbi, Bednarek, Armstrong not even on the bench? Armstrong was like a breath of fresh air, first thought FORWARD..... Something some of our players could still learn from.
OK 2-0 justifies the selections, but?........

SanMarco added 18:26 - Sep 3
If Redmond was 'destroyed' by the crowd why is he playing better this season? I know it is a contentious point as to whether he was Mane's 'replacement' but it may have put too much pressure on him. The club are clearly desperate for him to succeed - he hasn't has the Boufal, Carillo, Claisie loan treatment, instead he is back starting in the first team. Let's hope his improvement continues.

I agree that it is now an adequate start. Burnley, Everton and Palace were fair results and Leicester should have been a draw, so only 1 point down on our just deserts. I wish we didn't have to wait two weeks for Brighton as we have a bit of momentum...

ottersaint added 21:06 - Sep 3
Would love too see Gabbi, Long and Ings up front the next game...

TeamCortese added 06:28 - Sep 4
StRipper: What are talking about?! JWP has had 5/6 seasons to establish himself as a first team player, yet he's still here!

Hoedt had a whole season and was brought in for a lot of money. He's done nothing to warrant the price tag yet his performances are defended so vehemently by Nick it beggars belief. If his defensive play was as good as Nick's defence of his ability then he'd probably be our best defender!

Yoshi is a better player. All this nonsense that Hoedt is the future and Yoshi is getting on doesn't add up for me. You could have applied the same logic 4-5 years with Fonte and Yoshi--as Yoshi was a lot younger back then. Moreover, Bednarek is younger that Hoedt so why isn't he playing. He got a WC call-up FFS!

With regards to Roam's comment, I completely agree with him. The gulf in quality between Boufal and Moi is ridiculous. What the hell made the club choose Moi over Boufal? It doesn't make sense. Someone in our transfer committee needs to be sacked! Ever since Paul Mitchell and co left the quality of transfers have been getting worse and worse every season.

Anyone who has played football or at the very least understands it will know that our most talented striker is Manolo Gabbiadini...period! Shane Long and Charlie Austin are not good enough and would be shipped out in January if it was up to me. It is the coaching staff and management's role to motivate and get the best out of the players. That being, tactically, mentally, physically and technically.

Redmond has started the season positively but he's not enough to get us back into the top 10. We need more quality wingers (especially one's with pace).

The only positive transfer we've made this season is Vestergaard. Danny Ing is ok too I guess but he doesn't get me off my seat if I'm honest.

Also, I think Hojbjerg is starting to reap the benefits of first-team football and he will only get better :)

SaintNick added 08:37 - Sep 4
Sadly some of the replies on this thread in the main emphasise the main point I was making, too many people are writing off certain players who they dont like without a fair crack of the whip, the point was give them 10-12 games and then see where they are at.

Football is about confidence, some players have it whatever the situation others dont and need the crowd behind them or they struggle, yet some are not prepared to give them that support or chance .

Mark Hughes is keeping things simple and we can build on that, players are encouraged to go forward rather than sideways and arent lambasted if a pass or cross goes awry.

Team Cortese's post sums it up, yes Manolo Gabbiadini is our most talented player but he is not at the races at present, anyone who saw hi at Brigton will know why he is not in the team, yet TC would rather him be played that those like Redmond & Long who are putting shifts in and actually contributing to the team, perhaps they are not the long term answer but in the meantime they are the ones prepared to work for the team and hopefully when we have a positive set of results we can build on it and get the likes of Gabbiadini firing on all cylinders.

If Ings with 2 goals in his first 4 games isn't getting you off your seat, but you would prefer Gabbiadini with 2 goals in the last 27 stretching back to October last year then that says a little bit about what is wrong with a proportion of Saints supporters

JohnBall added 17:48 - Sep 4
A good summary, with one big disagreement !
Nick's claim that Gabbiadini was given his chance to shine at Brighton and blew it, is a poor conclusion that ignores the evidence. The truth is, like in many other games when Gabbi has been given "his chance", he has been largely expected to lead the line with little or no support whatsoever. Since he arrived it's clear to anyone with even a few braincells that he is an instinctive and skillfull player who can make intelligent and decisive runs, can unlock defences - but who needs midfield support who can deliver the ball to feet - and anticipate his movement. Remember those 3 goals against United in the cup final ? So why oh why has Hughes not seen to partner him up with Ings (who has both the guile and the skill) and use the more creative midfielders to support them. Gabbi has more natural talent as a striker than either Austin or Long and if supported and encourages correctly, would I think, very likely produce the goals we so badly need.
Not even including him in the squad (both Leceister and Palace) is a criminal waste of talent and money spent. Come on Hughes - sort it out !

TeamCortese added 22:19 - Sep 4
Evidently, Nick has all the wisdom and knowledge in the world when it comes to Saints FC and anyone who differs from his opinion is clearly delusional.

For me, I don't see why supporters shouldn't demand to get their money's worth whilst average players who nearly got us relegated get paid handsomely without changing too much!

I stand by what I said. I know I'm right and it doesn't take a rocket scientist to see who's bad and who isn't. People need to deliver when it counts. Football is a cutthroat sport and we need to realise we're being taken for a ride with some of the past performances.

GeordieSaint added 12:02 - Sep 5
Mario lemina let's give him a cheer
He does 90 miles an hour in second gear
He used to play for juve but now he's here
Mario lemina let's give him a cheer

GeordieSaint added 12:02 - Sep 5
Wrong article

BoondockSaint added 14:50 - Sep 5
Nick, I don't think you are being fair to Gabbiadini.

One way to rate players is: "Who do you think other teams will come after in the next window?"

Just watching the games you can tell who has quality and who doesn't.

But, since you like stats:

I would think Gabbiadini with his " 2 goals in the last 27 games"-which is really 5 goals in 1076 minutes last more likely to be a target than Long with his 2 goals in 1580 minutes or JWP with his 3 goals in 1717 minutes or Redmond with 1 in 1947 minutes!

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