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Southampton 1 v 3 Manchester City
Barclays Premier League
Sunday, 30th December 2018 Kick-off 14:15
Saints V Manchester City The Verdict
Monday, 31st Dec 2018 10:06

In the preview to this game I pinpointed Saints weakness at the back as having the potential to cost us dearly and sadly I was spot on.

This was a strange team selection from Ralph Hasenhuttl, it was almost as if he had got his dates mixed up and thought we were playing Derby in the FA Cup, in the back four there was no experience of any note with Jack Stephens the senior man in terms of Premier League appearances with 45 starts and 4 as sub since his debut two years ago, even Alex McCarthy has less experience in the top flight.

The back four as it always does battled hard but the brutal truth is that we were all at sea and a shambles and once again we failed to defend to Premier League standards, the first goal saw us torn apart and just as we thought we were getting into the break level we conceded two goals on the stroke of half time, the last of which saw poor marking and the goalkeeper not exactly distinguishing himself.

In the main though we battled hard to stay in the game right up to the end, Manchester City are a class act who rip apart most teams on their day, if you can stay strong at the back then you have a chance, but we do not have the quality to do that as has been shown time and time again.

This leads to frustration in other areas of the team, why did Pierre Emile Hojbjerg commit a needless foul to get a straight red card in the dying minutes, the answer is pure frustration, I know how he feels it is sickening to see what would otherwise be decent performances that should yield something get absolutely zero due to yet another failure to mark at vital times at the back.

People have said that I have something against the likes of Yoshida & Jack Stephens, this could not be further from the truth, the only thing that I have against them is that they are not Premier League quality players, two years ago they were 4th and 5th choice, after VVD got injured they were thrown in as temporary stop gaps and yet they are still there, this is why Les Reed was sacked, a failure to sign quality central defenders.

Ralph Hasenhuttl must be tearing his hair out, he has tried multiple options to solve the problem, he can't because he doesn't have the quality to hand, Saints have to sign an experienced central defender in January or it will be a long season, if they do that then hopefully one of the bunch we currently have might be able to find some form beside them.

There were plus points from this performance in terms of the fighting spirit displayed and the fact that we kept going and didn't let it become a rout, but the same old problems are there and have been there for the past two years, forget sentimentality we need to address this problem now and I think Ralph Hasenhuttl might just do that.

Photo: Action Images

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Sanguin added 10:25 - Dec 31
The first goal was a result of a mix up between Lemina and Targett. For me, Lemina didn't track the run. Lemina seemed off the pace all game, Hassenhuttl has said he's injured so I don't know why he was playing.

Clearly we wanted to rest our front three, but with Austin, Elynoussi and JWP as or attacking players it felt like lacked a midfield link man.

The plan seemed to be to keep it tight in the first half then bring on pacey attackers later in the game to push for the win. I think this might've worked but for a couple of minutes at the end of the first half.

Losing was expected, but the Hojbjerg red was a kick in the teeth.

131153 added 10:48 - Dec 31
I am don’t feel too depressed following yesterday, when all said and done MC are one ofthe two best teams in the division. Whilst the team selection was a major surprise I do feel if Mark Hughes had picked the team the result would have been the same or worse. I felt Targett should have done better for the first goal and McCarthy should have done better with both the second and third.Also Bednarek should have done better marking Aguero as well. I have to say don’t think we have had much luck with referees decisions this season. The JWP penalty was a stone wall penalty compared to the last minute penalty we got against West Ham last season. I assume it is going to even out in the second half of the season!!!

I thought the best game JWP has had for some time. Not sure if Pep was manager when PEH left Bayern but assume he could see the flaw in PEH’s game therefore didn’t play him or let him go. On balance fingers crossed I feel there is probably enough teams to win points from to keep us up just!!


wibbersda added 10:48 - Dec 31
New Manager bounce is over already. Please, someone, explain to me -

1. Where is this high press game they are supposedly on?
2. How have the players been allowed to get so unfit?
3. Why do all the defenders follow/watch the ball, instead of sticking to their man like a leech?
4. Why did they essentially give up for the second half?

Most disappointing.

DorsetIan added 10:57 - Dec 31
Sanguin is spot on. Lemina was Tracking Bernardo Silva but just stopped, leaving BS to receive the ball all on his own in acres of space and pick out his namesake who couldn’t really miss. My working hypothesis is now simply that Lemina is not a very good footballer, and I watch every game to see if he doesn’t anything to disprove that.

Their second goal was pure luck. Their third was ridiculous and wouldn’t have been scored had Vestergaard been playing.

And it’s all very well to talk about Hodjberj being frustrated but he’s not a teenager, he should be able to control himself better than that.

mikesaint added 11:00 - Dec 31
What sort of team was that you put out today Ralph Hasenhuttl ? Had you surrendered before we even started? That was the worst performance of the season so far and it made Man City look good. If you had stood bye the normal 1st team players we could have got a draw. The team today were running about like headless chickens. Two of the players are to lightweight and offer us nothing that's Prowse and Elyounoussi who should both be sold in January. We should have started with Ings, Armstrong and Redmond up front. What has happened to Cedric? How we have missed him and Bertrand. Need to buy at least 3 new players a top striker, a good centre half and a good playmaker to replace Tadic.

Afrobob88 added 11:29 - Dec 31
For once I disagree with your analysis. I think there was a game plan in the team selection.

It appeared that he was planing to have Lemina/Hodjberg/Romeu sitting in front of the back four to break up City's play. Ward Prowse was on to cover Sterling seemingly as when we we did not have the ball he fell back into an almost back five. With Ramsay taking the inside. My main criticism was this formation looked to be set up to take pressure and counter attack. The selection of the front three, however, did not lend itself to this style. With Austin and Elnousyi being not known for their pace, and Ward Prowse being to deep. On the flip side, to me it looked like he was resting players for the Chelsea game, perhaps he thinks we have a better chance of getting points of them. Also he clearly realized after West Ham that the team are not fit enough, which is why Redmond, Ings and Armstrong were on the bench. All players who looked off the pace in the previous game.

On the goals, the first was Leminia ball watching and not following his man. When the ball was laid off instead of following Silva's run he stoped to cover the man Targett was already shadowing. Honestly Leminia both in this game and at West Ham looks like he is carrying an injury. The second Ward Prowse was unlucky. The third was the damning goal, if we had gone in 2-1 down at half time its all to play for, but both center backs lost their man.

Overall it was a frustrating game, and again exposes that we never replaced Fonte with a defender who will captain the defense (we dont need an able defender we need somone who is experienced and will keep them disciplined). If Hodjberg hadnt been stupid I would have felt it was a game were the manager learnt a bit about some of his fringe players, and were we showed a clear improvement over the 6-1 beating under Hughes.

To one of the commentator on the high pressing game. It was there, particularly with the goal but we did put a lot of pressure on the keeper. In the second half with the 2 goal cushion, City sat back to hit us on the break if we committed two many players forward. Which was why in the second half you did not see us committing players forward.

Whatsforpud added 11:29 - Dec 31
Just when Redmond has been playing well, and the best player to have a go and run at defenders, he is left out. He should have started with Ings. Armstrong should have played instead of Lemina who was slow of thought and of action. Nick complains about the defence, but no one was holding the ball further up the pitch to give them any respite. In the second half it looked like men against 13 year olds.

Also, playing the league champions was not the game to give a player his debut.

SanMarco added 11:34 - Dec 31
Yes - even under Ralph our appalling lack of quality at the back could well send us down - thanks Les. The problem is lack of quality full stop. I watched the third goal happen in what felt like slow motion. Our CBs stood there like statues and yes the keeper should have done better with that and the second. What is it with us and keepers??

The window creaks open tomorrow. I would sell as many CBs as we can and buy 2 good new ones. If we stay as we are at the back it is going to be a very anxious few months.

PS Charlie Austin through on goal and then.......?????

SaintPaulVW added 11:58 - Dec 31
I think RH was resting players and aiming for a draw at best.

I thought JWP had a pretty good game and Stephens, some good forward passed.

Austin and Lemina were just not sharp enough.

Aside from the excellent chance he created Ely's first touch was fairly abysmal.

In the circumstances, the youngsters did pretty well. Hopefully a step on the way for them.

McCarthy had little chance with the 2nd and third goals (which had 2 deflections) and made some excellent saves one at point blank with his head, so I'm not too sure why everyone recently seems to be crying for his head. Gunn is clearly the future but perhaps once we've got a settled back 4/5.

If we need to sell in January to try to get a reliable proven CB, we just need to do it. Hoedt, Lemina, Boufal, Cedric, Long and Austin, are all surplus to requirements in my book and could be moved on.


saintjf added 12:03 - Dec 31
There are so (too?) many games over the Xmas New Year period that it is very difficult for even the fittest players to play a pressing game without time to recover. We held on well in the second half except for the captain who whilst getting better and better needs to work on directing that drive that pushes him on. He does though care which is what we need.

highfield49 added 12:32 - Dec 31
In all honesty, as much as the result and apparent capitulation was a huge disappointment, none of us know what RH is planning to turn the season around. My guess is that Cedric, Hoedt and Davis could be on their way out very soon. I'm also going to guess that at least one of Yoshida and Stehens will be allowed to leave. My hope is that RH has identified, either on loan or immediate transfer, at least one central defender from his contacts in German football. I'm still not sure whether Lemina has a stomach injury or is just plain gutless when it comes to the crunch. The reality is that City are a much better team than us and, even if we were able to recruit on the same financial level, those quality players would not be looking to St Mary's as their next destination. Hopefully, the likes of Obafemi, Ings and Bertrand can come back into the team and avoid further injuries. And, lastly, I have to agree with others that Lemina completely sold out Targett for the first goal by taking the easy option and forcing Targett to pick up the man that he should have been chasing. As I said, injured or gutless?

dirk_doone added 13:04 - Dec 31
I'm not sure why you've spent a large part of your match report criticising Yoshida, He wasn't playing. Anyway, as for those that did play, including Stephens, considering the fact that Man City totally dominated midfield and spent 85% of the match camped in our half of the pitch, our defence did a reasonable job keeping the score down to 3 and one of those was an own goal form Ward-Prowse. It was our slow, weak midfield and poor finishing from our forwards which really cost us this match. I've long been a fan of Austin as he has been a goal scorer for us but that early miss of his was bad. He just dithered.

I know Ward-Prowse has his fans but when he plays, you know we're going to cede control of midfield and lose the game. When our best midfield tackler, Romeu, was taken off, we no longer even made a pretence of trying to compete in midfield. Fortunately, City went easy on us as they were saving their energy for their next game.

City's attack is good but their defence is really poor. They haven't kept a clean sheet in any of their last ten games and they had lost 3 of their previous 4 matches before this game, including defeats to Palace and Leicester. They were also missing their best player, De Bruyne. At times their defence was comical. A team and performance like the one that beat Arsenal, might well have beaten them.

codge added 15:05 - Dec 31
As for JWP having a good game as quoted from Ralf he never had a free kick or corner kick find any of our players or any height on his kicks.

131153 added 15:19 - Dec 31
Codge you are wrong a corner from JWP was headed by Austin at the near post and very well saved by Ederson.

underweststand added 15:52 - Dec 31
In reading all these reports (above) I'm wondering if we all watched the same game ?

I agree Ralph thinks we have a chance of points at Chelsea - hence resting some players.
By the end of the Chelsea game we will have played 8 games in 32 days, having been
without several of our established (international) names, and with Ralph's "beefed up" training sessions also having put an extra workload on the squad.

Even when they don't win - City are formidable and no-one can forget our 1-6 thrashing when they literally rang rings around us while we played "statues " in defence.
Only losing 1-3 must be some sort of an improvement considering the side we put out.

As for the game, Charlie missed his best /only chance, and I can think that Tadic might have toe-poked the ball past the keeper on the first touch. Surely we should have had a penalty when JWP was elbowed down in the box (?) and he'll feel doubly-punished by the o.g. incident that hit Ramsay first then came off McCarthy's hand before it went in.

Targett looks good going forward but still lacks the right quality to be a LB at this level.
Ralph said Lemina had been off with a stomach problem, but he did look off-pace and is almost as bad at tackling/ passing as Elyounoussi who was depressingly poor. If Ralph wants to use Academy players he could do worse than trying Calum Slattery in midfield.

A scientific research paper some years ago stated that the human brain is not fully developed until the age of 25 . Hojbjerg proved that theory correct. He might have got a top rating for his goal, had it not been his mad moment when the game was already lost.

So - even allowing for injuries - we will be without PEH for at least 3 games and Yoshida will be away in the Asian games from mid-January, and with Charlie Austin likely to be "up before the beak" for his "two-fingered exercise" surely things can't get worse.

So we march on - next stop Stamford Bridge. What I wonder will Ralph have up his sleeve to try and contain Hazard... and our French nemesis that is ..Giroud (!)


davidargyll added 16:35 - Dec 31
Am I the only one who reads/listens to what RH says?!
This was from the Echo: “If I want to make decisions in January about new transfers I need to know everyone in the team.”.
Which surely answers the question of team selection. Try everyone out under the pressure of a top opponent and see what happens. And I dare say he’ll do something similar vs Chelsea.
All seems perfectly logical to me.
For Christ’s sake everyone give the new manager a chance....

vanmans added 18:08 - Dec 31
underweststand its the 1st of January so all will be made good when we buy nearly a whole team of players we need.

Consigliere added 19:26 - Dec 31
The truth is that the Premiership is made up of two leagues, comprising the top four or five and everyone else. The chances of beating City were always slender and the team choice reflected this in that the manager was clearly having a look at as many of the players as he could in order to decide on his best team for winnable games. So, what lessons might he have learned? That Austin doesn't have any pace, Long can't score any longer, our midfield is weak (I thought Romeu was particularly poor, JWP flattered to deceive and Lemina couldn't be bothered) and that, as so many have said, we need a big tough centre back who commands the defence and takes control of the situation. I could see the strategy, now all we need are the troops, so its into the market place.

Consigliere added 19:26 - Dec 31
The truth is that the Premiership is made up of two leagues, comprising the top four or five and everyone else. The chances of beating City were always slender and the team choice reflected this in that the manager was clearly having a look at as many of the players as he could in order to decide on his best team for winnable games. So, what lessons might he have learned? That Austin doesn't have any pace, Long can't score any longer, our midfield is weak (I thought Romeu was particularly poor, JWP flattered to deceive and Lemina couldn't be bothered) and that, as so many have said, we need a big tough centre back who commands the defence and takes control of the situation. I could see the strategy, now all we need are the troops, so its into the market place.

saintmark1976 added 22:16 - Dec 31
We have won only eleven out of the last sixty six Premiership matches under four separate managers. Carry on in the same manner and we will be relegated without a shadow of doubt and deservely so.

The current squad are all serial under achievers as their record shows. Solution? Put the whole squad on the list and sell whoever we get offers for using fees received together with T V moneys to purchase players who want to win matches rather than those who currently treat S F C as a soft touch. In other words "put a bit of stick about".

BoondockSaint added 01:33 - Jan 1
I think RH wanted to get a look at every player under game conditions in the last 4 games.
That is why there have been a lot of changes and subs.

As we have seen under the previous 3 managers, players might look good in half-speed practice against non-tackling teammates, but when it came to a real game, they were completely different.

RH needs to know who he wants to keep and who he wants to get rid of as the window opens.

Happy & Healthy New Year to all!

KriSaint added 01:54 - Jan 1
Yes, our line up also a mystery to me until´ I gave it some thought.

First of all Cedric, Hoedt, Gabbiadini, Davis and maybe even Bertrand are - because of financial issues - for sale from today and won´t be used, at least until´ the transfer window is closed and in case we haven´t succeeded in selling them.
Vestergaard, because of his size (and heavy legs), would have had a nightmare of a game against City´s quick players.
Ramsay played because - and only because - he was the defensive player with most pace in town. (Yes, he is only 18, and yes it isn´t optimal for any young defender to have his debut against a free scoring team, but so be it. Valery does NOT have pace).
We saw Ings being worn out against West Ham. Obafemi and Gallagher are injured, so..., who else to start with than Charlie? (Another teenage debutant? I don´t think so).
Long, with his work rate and pace, should always be on the bench as an obvious impact player as RH has - of course - realized long ago).
Yoshida is not 25 anymore and was rested.
Our midfield selection - 3 powerful players like Hojbjerg, Romeu and Lemina - was obvious. No puzzle there either. Yes, Lemina was poor and was ball watching for the first goal; he is obviously still not very experienced. You could tell by his immidiate body language, that he instantly knew he was at fault for that goal.
McCarthy could have done better for the second and third goal but made no blunders, AND he made up for it with nothing less than 3 class saves, one with his head, one with his body and one with his hands.
We were desperately unlucky with the own goal. First of all we should have had an obvious corner just before the ridiculous build up to that ridiculous goal, and secondly JWP tried to block Sterlings PASS; it was not even a shot at goal for crying out loud.
And I haven´t even mentioned the obvious penalty just before the above mentioned obvious corner we didn´t get...... :-/ :-/ :-/
Football is evil sometimes. Why don´t we ever get such ridiculous goals??

If we had only kept it at 1-1 before half time, it could have been a totally different story (with 0 red cards), and RH would have been a genious again...

SaintBrock added 10:10 - Jan 1
So davidargyle why hasn't he given Hoedt & Cedric a run out?

Sorry old cock but there is more in it than that.

dirk_doone added 12:17 - Jan 1
SaintBrock: Cedric, along with Bertrand and Gabbiadini, is one of our most saleable commodities, so that's why he's lined up for sale. There aren't many players left in the squad we could get a big transfer fee for. With the way he's been playing lately, it would even be difficult to get a big fee for Lemina.

I guess they know we need Hojbjerg to have any hope of staying up, so they won't be planning to sell him until the summer. Kat will still be here and Gao will still have to pay back the loan he took out to pay her so the sale of our best players will continue.

vanmans added 14:17 - Jan 1
Gao will have to open his Chinese Takeaway Bank and return some of the money that he creamed off to get new players.

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