Saints V Newcastle United The Verdict Monday, 29th Oct 2018 09:28
It is hard to say anything great about this game, but we have to face facts about the position we are in and try to find the positives and build from them.
This was a game of two teams in turmoil, Saints played with fear, Newcastle played with the freedom of a team who have given up hope so they just might as well give it a go, the truth was neither way was good enough.
From a Saints perspective we have to forget the result and take the positives, it was another clean sheet and the visitors did not get even a single attempt on target, however we did not do much better and that is a sin.
So what is the issue, I am beginning to think it is one of the manager failing to motivate the squad, there just wasn't that spark in the side, even Newcastle had a spark, but we still held them comfortably but failed to really put them to the sword.
First issue is the managers part in this, the starting line up wasn't the real issue, not many supporters would have picked a different starting XI with the exception of Hojbjerg and a partner for Danny Ings, but the side looked completely without leadership and motivation.
Even the bench was strange, two central defenders on it for a home game ? it stank of the manager trying to keep both Yoshida and Vestergaard happy, not of something we really needed, if we had a second defender then surely it should have been Targett who offers something defensively and going forward, or perhaps even Steven Davis,, if he isn't going to get a game in this one then when is he.
But the substitutions were also baffling, Gabbiadini on for Austin with 25 minutes to go was a predictable change, however when your one tactic is to get men down the line and cross it in, then Gabbiadini is not your man, perhaps better to play Long.
That change happened with only 12 minutes left, how Elyounoussi stayed on the pitch that long I will never know, he showed the odd flash of skill, but in the second half he was mainly a passenger, he should have been first off.
When the final double change happened, we did look a better side, Ward Prowse got the ball down and used it and Long hustled in a way that had been lacking, but it was too little too late from the bench and the manager seems to be losing the plot.
But we are still not in a desperate position due to other sides being worse, however we cannot rely on that, something has to change and fast, playing at home is now a millstone round the neck of the players, they are scared to play football, they do the simple things so the crowd don't get on their back, as I said Newcastle players were not scared, they were willing to have a go, but they were not good enough to damage us, we could cope easily and this was Alex McCarthy's easiest game in a Saints shirt.
Something has to change, over the last two years we have sucked ourselves into negativity, there is an atmosphere around the club that will lead to only one route and that is relegation.
Some of the criticism has been justified a lot of it hasn't been at least not until now, we need to take a leaf out of the Toon Army's book, did they give their hated owner stick and there is an owner who deserves it, yes they did, but they made ir perfectly clear they were still behind the team and the manager, that enabled them to play without the crowd on their back and that is what we need.
I don't feel we are going to get it though, too many people seem to be almost happy to at last be proved right.
I have no problem with our supporters having a gripe, what I object to is the scatter gun approach to create what is now a negative blame culture, to some the club is rotten to the core, Gao is pilloried because he hasn't spent any money, Krueger is pilloried but most don't know what for, whereas the the true issues are lost in the wave of Krueger/Gao/Reed out hysteria, you want to see a club in turmoil off the pitch then Newcastle are it, our issues go little beyond issues with signing decent players and appointing a good manager, but hey at least we aren't a selling club now !
We March On because we have to, we have to create a siege mentality, be proud of the club get behind the team, I'm sick of people ranting in the pub after the game and on social media, I would rather see the ship go down with all hands on manning the pumps than demanding the Captain be sacked because they didn't buy a ticket to see a hole in the ship.
If you truly care about it that much if you truly think the club is rotten from top to bottom then do something about it, I and others did so 25 years ago, so this isn't the Ugly Inside telling fans what to do, It's the Ugly Inside telling you what WE DID DO !
This was a poor game, I see people claiming it to be the worst game ever played at St Mary's and that the great relegation fighting teams of the 90's were not so gutless, bit of memory loss here, all of those last minute escapes were last minute for a good reason and that was we were awful for the first 30 odd games of the season.
This is nothing new I have seen far worse games than this one both at St Mary's and The Dell, what is different though is the fans, back then we backed the club through thick and thin on the pitch and stood up to it unified off it.
The atmosphere in the stadium is down to the supporters, like Newcastle did you can either turn negatives into positives or let it drag you all down.
This was the first game in a long time that I went to without any expectations at all. Everyone was talking about how we were going to take an early lead or get a bag of goals but my best guess was that we would lose. So a 0-0 was no surprise at all.
When Mark Hughes came it, I was impressed by him identifying that the problem was that the players had forgotten how to win football games, but he hasn't been able to change that. Sometimes we let ourselves down defensively (Brighton) but the main issue is the strikers. Everyone thinks about Long being on a bad run but in the last 6 months (SIX MONTHS) in the Prem, Austin, Long, Armstrong, Elyounoussi are all on a duck and Gabbi and Redmond have one a piece. We had 22 shots yesterday but only 4 on target. so the issue isn't one of creating chances, it's about having the composure to put them away. Gabbi epitomised that yesterday - his blast into Row ZZ when he had two people to pass to was lunacy.
I think they need some hypnosis or a bulk buy of sessions with a sports psychologist. Or maybe we need to give Gallagher or some of the young strikers a go. They couldn't be any worse.
Yesterday's game reminded me so much of the 0-0 against Swansea at the start of last season. We bounced back from that with the late pen 3-2 win agains West Ham but were then completely outplayed by Watford in the next game.
So let's see whether we can get a point against City (we came very close twice last year) and then let's see whether we can give Watford a game this time.
Frustrating game given that Saints did all the hard work but in it's bottom of the table way quite entertaining. It would be interesting behind the scenes to see how this manager's coaching techniques differ from those of Pochettino and Koeman. I'm pretty sure they worked their teams a damn sight harder. We either need a better goal scoring coach or sports psychologist?
Football is a game of fine margins and this was no exception - they were very marginally worse than us. As one wag on Twitter put it, this was like watching two eunuchs engaged in a willy waving contest. So what is wrong? First, we aren't playing as a team. So often was the ball lost in midfield or hoofed into empty space (both teams guilty of this) and so often did attacks break down in the final third that I doubt anyone would have scored had they played all night. Individually, there were some good performances (Lemina in particular) but collectively, the team is anxious and sterile. I don't really think that the manager is (wholly) to blame though he played his part with subs coming on too late to make much difference. The team clearly recognised that they needed to pull together (I can't remember seeing a team huddle at the beginning of the second half before) but they then forgot all about that as soon as the whistle blew. That, more than anything, is what needs to change.
MH has to work with what he's got and what he's got is a bunch of players but no characters when Hobjberg is missing. The exciting players of the last few years have moved on and their replacements are proving to be not so gifted and, to a degree, a bunch of pussycats. My main gripe with Hughes is his apparent unwillingness to introduce some height into our attack and the only answer is Sam Gallagher, unless he's unfit. Ings needs someone to feed off if he's to score regularly, the same can be said of Gabbiadini. I can't see playing Gallagher making us any more impotent in front of goal than we are now so why not give it a go? On the subject of our home support, we've been treated to a couple of seasons of uninteresting football corresponding to the exit of talent. The air around St Marys is consequently filled with resigned dejection and there does not seem to be an instant remedy for that but, in my opinion, the crowds do not go there hoping to see anything other than a Saints victory. In the words of St Thomas More "a drowning man will clutch at any straw". Sam Gallagher is my straw.
From what I saw on Saturday we are not moving the ball quickly enough. On the 3 or 4 times that we did we actually looked a half decent side and we opened Newcastle up at will. That tells me there is a lack of confidence. I watched Mark Hughes on the touchline quite alot Saturday and there didnt seem to be much encouragement to the players. A lot of double teapotting and a face like a smacked arse when we gave the ball away. Koeman and Pich were always talking to players, encouraging and praising when they did something well. None of that from Hughes on Saturday. I didnt personally want him here anyway and was mortified when he got a 3 year contract after what he did at Stoke. We should have just thanked him for keeping us up and sent him on his way. His record since he has been here has been very poor so its just a matter of time before he gets the boot. I dont personally like us kerp sacking managers but the last 2 have been shocking appointments . I wouldve personally gave Puel another season to see if the football improved but thats just my opinion. Ings looks knackered to me. He was blowing out of his backside for the last half hour of the game. Lemina is quality and was head and shoulders above anything else on the pitch - absolutely ran the show. But not consistant enough for me. Romeu kept giving the ball away. In my eyes he shouldnt have started anyway. In a game we needed to win I probably would have given Armstrong a go, especially at home. Im not JWP's biggest fan but I must concede he looked decent when he came on. Anyway in a nutshell - Hughes out 😁😁
Second, they need to be fitter. Too often there was a failure to engage with the loose ball. Third, we need a confidence boost. One small success could make all the difference. Until then things will remain grim.
What's obvious so far is that we're going to be relegation candidates. Like last season, we'll only stay up if there are 3 teams worse.
There's been lots written on this site about our demise, and I won't add much to that here other than to say that for me the poor player recruitment over the last 3 seasons is the main issue. Off the top of my head, I can't think of a single player who we've bought in the last 3 seasons who's been a success - maybe PEH?
The manager recruitment has hardly been much better. To be fair, Puel was ok but his preferred playing style didn't really work. The less said on MP2 the better.
As for Hughes: while he's clearly not a root cause of our problems, I don't see him as the future of the club. His main asset as a manager seems to be his man-management, but I don't see that the team has improved its confidence or mental strength under him. The most important question is will we stay up with Hughes in charge? I don't know. However, what's clear is that we've already had 5 winnable games this season, and we've only won one. The standard we're at, there aren't too many more winnable games left. Hughes is such an experienced PL manager that if it's not working now, I'm not sure if ever will
Our build-up play is much improved and with the Strikers getting back to defend we look a lot safer defensively. The main problem, for all to see, is they are so desperate to score that they keep making the wrong decisions. 3 Managers in 3 years, various combinations up front, and all had the same issues with the front line putting the ball in the net. Therefore these are Player issues, be it confidence or they are just not good enough. At this point, they either need a phycologist or fresh blood. Maybe they love being last on MOTD every week!
I don’t get down To St. Mary’s often living away from the area. I also tend not to comment and just read. However, I just wonder if part of the current problem is that Saints have lost their distinct identity. I see youngsters like Reed, Sims, Hesketh and Gallagher out on loan at different times and wonder if in the past they might have been more involved in the first team squad. The Southampton way often seemed to be to have a core of players who came through the club and bonded with the supporters. In turn the supporters then had a connection with them. I think of the likes of Dodd, Benali, Le Tiss, Oakley in the time when I had a season ticket. Now we have a group of players many from abroad who perhaps supporters don’t have quite the same connection with. The balance between home grown and external signings seems out of kilter and I can’t help thinking some of those youngsters might have more to offer than some of our more recent signings. I hasten to add this is not just a Saints issue it is symptomatic of the premiership as a whole but would say Hesketh or Sims be any less effective than Elynnoussi? Hard to know if they never get a run.
I admire Nick for his rallying cry but to read "our issues go little beyond issues with signing decent players and appointing a good manager" is to wonder what rabbit hole I have fallen down. Perhaps Cedric will find a bottle with "drink me" on it and will suddenly become 6 foot 4? Yes our problems are wholly about declining quality in both players and management. We are not a selling club anymore because no one wants em. That essential lack of quality leads to all the other problems in confidence and leadership. It is not awfully surprising that lots of fans are looking for someone to be held accountable for all this.
"Gao is pilloried because he hasn't spent any money" - well he hasn't has he?
"Krueger is pilloried but most don't know what for" - well what is he for? (answers on a postcard)...
"Reed out hysteria" - No hysteria with most people I speak to. They feel that he is the man responsible/accountable for the plunge in squad and manager quality.
Like the vast majority of those moaning I want the Saints to do well, always have and always will. I do not want us to go down. We will be relegated, though, if all the ostrichs with their 'let's be loyal and not moan' do not get their heads out of the sand/Reed's &rse. That wasn't the worst home game I have seen but it may well be the weakest opponents we have failed to beat in the top division...
Let me start by saying I don't go to matches anymore so ignore if you wish. A couple of times now I've heard on radio commentary that Hughes has been giving instructions to players and it's looked like he's talking a different language- the players have apparently looked confused. Like I say I haven't seen it for myself and I do agree Hughes should've been thanked and let go.
San Marco - your points are 100% valid. The rot starts from the top and works it's way throughout the whole club:
Gao - on another thread SonicBoom says he has invested "plenty" - how much exactly is "plenty". As far as i can tell it's nothing! Kruger - no idea what he does but as Chairman he is in charge of everything. He is not Chairman of "everything except football" Reed/Wilson - recruitment has been woeful over a sustained period of time. In any other business they would be out of a job.
I also agree with BaselSaint's point about coaching and training - it was the same last year as this. Unfortunately our players are just not fit enough to even be able to judge whether they are any good or not. This is down to the coaching staff from DoF downwards - responsibility is Hughes'.
In addition, the club cannot do much about the players until January at the earliest and even then the opportunities are limited.
So reluctantly, I come to the conclusion that Gao/Krueger/Reed/Hughes should all do the decent thing and leave as soon as possible. As they are clearly not men of honour then the only course of action open to supporters is a boycott of all things Saints - going to games, buying merchandise etc.
Could not agree more with SanMarco! In fact could have been me writing it!! It seems the only way left for fans to protest is with their feet-Ian Branfoot - Ipswich springs to mind. Even the much vaunted love in Nick seems to have with the Toon Army overlooks the fact that they were the absolute hardcore (just like our away support) and by the very nature of that are bound to be 'up for it'. Think you will find it a different matter when they play at home and have the fans on their back-lost every game I believe. All fans are the same-want to see goals,win and be entertained-obviously can't be done every week, but come on-3bloody years without it!
I am not sure to referring how bad Saints have been in the past helps us get through what looks like the 3rd season of decline at St Mary's. Keeping a clean sheet against Newcastle is not a big plus either as they are as bad at scoring as Saints. For all the singing and vocal support from the Newcastle fans they are worse team than Saints. Not sure about a management change. Will we score no matter who is in charge? It is so much more of a business now with corporate thinking behind the decisions. It does not always sit well with the footballing decisions.
The obvious games to boycott or stage an early walk out are Manchester United at home on 1st December or home versus Arsenal on Sunday 16th December - we won't win either and they're on TV for maximum embarrassment.
What amazes is me is how a team that has only won one game out of the last ten plus not scoring any goals for five games is not in the relegation zone. I think it says more about the quality of the Premiership than it does about the Saints. Best and most competitive league in the world? Pull the other one it's got a hand made shoe on it.
As usual San Marco, a brilliant response to another "we will fight them on the beaches" report from Nick.
It's funny how we see things differently. I saw a decent performance apart from not being able to stick the ball in the back if the net. We hit the post and the keeper made two smart stops in the first half. In the second we had 2 or 3 decent chances to score. On another day this would have been a comfortable win. Newcastle, by comparison, offered nothing. I also thought the atmosphere was pretty good in the home sections as well, far better than in previous home games. We need to unlock the goals somehow though. Is Hughes the man for that; I'm not sure tbh. I've said this since day one; I don't think Lemina and Romeu together works. We need more drive from a midfield. Armstrong must come into the side for me. Austin is way off the page and id be looking at Elynnoussi as the number 10 behind Ings. Danny Ings works hard in a deeper role, but we need him leading the line now.
I'll take a positive from this game. Nobody including hughes is still saying we are too good to go down or that we have a great squad that is under performing. Both those ideas have contributed to the club sleepwalking into the relegation danger zone again. Lets live in the real world... in team sport at any level you don't have a leg to stand on unless you can play as a team with enough confidence in eachother to take risks. And it is clear playing at home gives the away team the advantage at st marys. So lets stop moaning at the obvious and encourage loudly any thing that is good. And hope that behind the scenes the clubs pros sort it out. Our encouragement might make it happen sooner rather than later...
Nobody wants to moan at the club but at the same time you can’t ignore the facts and those facts need addressing. We scored twice at home to Newcastle last year, Gabbi got both I think. Gabbi plays against Chelsea in a game where he was likely to get few chances, then he’s on the bench home to Newcastle. I think we struggle to score because we use the wrong strikers at the wrong times.. I also think Elyounoussi is less fit than when he was at Basel, but would be ideal no.10. We have to address the issues quickly or we will struggle to beat the drop. Hughes has had enough time to have his style and instructions clearly communicated to the players and it’s not working. It’s ironic that Hesketh and Reed both score from midfield in their respective loan positions and Sims producing assists at a poor struggling team this season. New manager who will bring in and use our enthusiastic youth to re-energise our stale seasoned campaigners please. I also agree that it’s a mystery as to what Freddie does and Reed/Wilson combo has run its course.