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Time To Identify The Real Cause Of Saints Problems !
Tuesday, 8th Oct 2019 09:19

Since the defeat to Chelsea it has been meltdown season again with social media full of messages of panic, but the first thing to to is keep calm and take stock and identify the issues.

With five Premier League games gone most Saints fans were happy with the situation, we had come through a difficult start and sat nicely in mid table, all the talk was of Moussa Djenepo and the flair of our attacking players.

Indeed we went into the Bournemouth game knowing that a win would push us into the top 3, but we also knew our central defence was frail and that proved to be the case against the Cherries and the two games in the League since.

But we all knew that at the start of the season, so there is no need to start screaming now as if it is the biggest surprise going.

The manner of these three defeats was disappointing, but in essence last season these three games yielded only a single point, so it is not as if we were expecting all 9.

I have been saying now for three years about the central defence, at times to howls of derision that I have something against certain players, I pointed out back in February 2017 that we had failed to bring in a quality central defender to replace Jose Fonte, that the centre of our defence was Championship quality, yet I was told I was wrong.

No one is telling me that now.

But moaning about it won't change the situation, we cannot do anything till January at least, then hopefully we will do something about it, but there are things we can do differently & better.

The weak spine of the defence is at the core of all our problems, teams know they can exploit us here and they target this area, this in turn leads to uncertainty in the team, the midfield are scared to push forward in case our defence gets caught on the break and the goalkeeper loses confidence because he is unsure what the central defenders will do next.

So we can't bring in anyone till January, but we can do things differently, Kevin Danso was signed to play in the centre of defence, he has never played there, something is strange there, Danso looked big strong and pacy in his three appearances, however he didn't look like a wing back.

We have nothing to lose by playing him in his natural position, let's at least find out if he is good enough rather than watch the same players make the same mistakes week in week out.

Alternatively lets try something completely out of the blue, play Oriol Romeu in the centre of defence and move Danso into a central midfield holding role, he has played there in Germany, we need to do something to break the circle and get the ball rolling again.

So why has Ralph Hasenhuttl started to make different decisions than before ?

It is hard to tell the simple thing is that he no longer has Danny Rohl at his side, this is an obvious answer and may have some basis, but I think it is not so much the loss of Rohl but who replaced him and his coaching staff as a whole.

Richard Kitzbichler has taken on a role as an assistant first team coach, but he is only one of several, Dave Watson, Kelvin Davis, Craig Fleming are also in that role.

They all have one thing in common, they all have little actual experience in the job they are there to do, Kitzbichler has the most, he is essentially an analyst but went into physical coaching with RB Salzburg in 2015 and 2 years there was followed by another in China.

Hardly the experience necessary at this level, but hopefully he is Hasenhuttl's man and someone to bounce ideas off.

Dave Watson was goalkeeping coach at Saints for a while and filled that role from the summer of 2014 up till the start of this season when he was promoted to assistant coach, now I can't find any reason as to why he should fill that role, he is a respected goalkeeping coach, but that is a completely different job to coaching outfield players.

Likewise Kelvin Davis, his rise to first team assistant coach has been meteoric and without any real credentials to do that role.

A little under two years ago he was Football Development Executive at the club after retiring, no one is quite sure what that role involved it was a job given to hi for his service at the club rather than anything else, but it did not involve him with the playing side of things and he hadn't even coached at youth team level when after the departure of Eric Black in December 2017 he was appointed as an assistant coach to the fist team, footballing reasons were not cited, more his ability to help Mauricio Pellegrino with the knowledge of the Premier League.

A year later he was caretaker manager for a game when Mark Hughes was sacked, but like Watson, he is a goalkeeper with no real experience of coaching outfield players.

The fourth assistant Craig Fleming has just as little pedigree as the rest, although he has worked his passage through the ranks and played a lot of games in league football, his coaching career is not so glittering.

He started at Lowestoft Town in 2008 and stayed with them for 7 years as coach/manager, he got them promoted but the highest level they reached was Conference North.

Fleming joined Saints as U18 coach in 2015 and then became U23 coach in July 2018 jumping to the first team bench when Mark Hughes got sacked last December.

So Fleming has no real experience of coaching at this level, essentially we have four coaches who have not got the experience and indeed in the case of Kitzbichler, Davis & Watson are not actually coaches at all by trade, this is their secondary skill.

Here we are hitting the nail on the head why we appear to be lackustre and lacking leadership, the loss of Rohl was big because he was the only man on board who could take training who would command respect, now our first team squad are being coached by three men who they have been used to seeing in minor roles around Staplewood or coaching the goalkeepers.

This situation has to change, the quality of the players in the squad is there apart from in central defence, but they are lions being coached by inexperienced donkeys to coin a phrase.

The addition of Kitzbichler will bring some experience and support to Hasenhuttl, but from the body language on the bench the other three are very detached from the manager, they are in positions they are not qualified for, is Hasenhuttl happy with this, is it being forced on him, if so that is a recipe for disaster.

Short term we can get away with it, but longer term it cannot end well, the coaching team does not have enough experience or indeed command the respect that it needs to have, that could be a reason there is clearly indiscipline in the squad at the moment.

The board need to act and work with Ralph Hasenhuttl to bring in a head coach, someone who can not only get the squad motivated again, but can bounce ideas between manager and head coach.

Truth is there are no leaders in the team and Ralph Hasenhuttl aside no leaders in the coaching staff, that is why we are losing games.

Photo: Action Images

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saint22 added 09:29 - Oct 8
Clearly the loss of RHs assistant is a problem but that alone is not why we are losing games
its because we gift teams goals and we all know the defence is a problem as we have for years and if you dont learn from your mistakes then you never will and we aren't

stmichael added 09:33 - Oct 8
A bit simplistic but some valid points.
I would add that the midfield three that started against Chelsea is slow and uncreative.
Oh and that our strikers are not very good either.
Basically we have downgraded the whole team since our last 8th place finish and now we are seeing the results.

DorsetIan added 09:56 - Oct 8
You've focused here on the coaching staff which is fair enough but the 'real' cause of our problems could equally be the dodgy defence, the uncreative midfield, the players that deliver nowhere near as much as they promise (Redmond, Boufal, Armstrong, Adams, Obafemi...) or the manager who doesn't appear to be a tactical genius.

But really the real 'real' cause of our problems is the owner, because he expects these problems to be fixed without him having to put his hands in his pockets. My assumption is that his pockets are empty so that even if wanted to, he couldn't provide the funds but that's really by the by.

It feels to me like we are in a downward spiral of no money, mediocre buys, and frustrated/depressed players, manager and fans.

Really hope that someone can pull a rabbit out of a hat from somewhere.

HythePeer added 10:00 - Oct 8
The problems are on the pitch and in the dugout. The wrong players are picked to do the wrong job. RH has trained them to run about enthusiastically following play consequently getting dragged out of position leaving big gaps, instead of concentrating on doing their individual job. RH spends his time micro managing to justify his salary and the big picture, which is just a game of football and is simple enough after all, is lost and out of focus. The background staff may have some background issues but the foreground is being run aground by a helmsman too busy looking at charts to look where the ship is heading.

saintmark1976 added 10:20 - Oct 8
Nick, firstly we need to take stock of who we are and accept that as things stand we have a very poor squad of players managed by a man who has very limited Premiership experience.The "miracle worker Ralph hype" has to stop because his recent record of two Premiership wins from the last thirteen attemps proves otherwise.

If we accept the above then the players themselves might just fathom out that it's they alone who can turn the situation around and stop looking for a brilliant tactic decisions from Ralph every game because put simply, it's not going to happen.

The owners track record of minimal investment will continue in January hence if the players want the club to avoid relegation then it's down to them. Whether some of them are of this mindset is open to conjecture I would suggest.


SanMarco added 10:25 - Oct 8
yes - good article. If we had a decent central defence we would be top 10. The MF was the reason we stayed up the last two seasons and I believe our attacking options are slowly improving. I see the Echo today is already starting the mood music for no squad strengthening in January so this will be another bottom 6 season. We are paying for at least half a dozen dud signings over the past 3 or so years (not all defenders of course). If we are being run on a break-even strategy then expensive deadwood has to go before we can bring any (hopefully) better plaayers in. That is our problem. Also Djenepo, as the only 'success' of the new signings so far, getting injured (are these 'out for the season' rumours true?) has not helped.

I think Ralph needs to decide on his preferred CB pairing (Bednerak + Danso or Yoshi in my view) and stick with it. Same with the full backs. If the rest of the team can gain some confidence in the defence we may start moving slowly upwards. Oh and give JWP and Gunn a rest please.

And, of course, how does the Wilson departure effect all this?

mgprobert added 10:30 - Oct 8
that's a long post but I think the key was right at the beginning "I have been saying now for three years about the central defence". Well so have I. All good teams need to start with a solid defence and that begins with the CB pair - preferably commanding in the air, quick, brave, organised, leading and distributing. A good pair that plays week in, week out. Its a lot to ask but we seem to be making a particularly bad job of it

arfurdent added 11:01 - Oct 8
if you look at the relegated teams for the past five seasons they all have a similar story about poor coaching, poor defence andlack of team spirit.

Lesson for the future?

davidpeach added 11:08 - Oct 8
Good morning. Although I've been following the Saints for over 40 years and regularly read the posts on this site, this is a rare post from me and I hope you wont mind me putting in my tuppence worth about the current defence.

Given the recent results when playing 4 at the back, I think Ralph is almost certain to revert to a 5 man back line for the immediate future. Like others, I would like to see Bertrand in the back three along with two from Bednarek, Danso or Yoshida assuming there is adequate right wing back cover. If not, then those three should be given a go in the centre of a 5 man defence.

I also think we are a bit thin in the defensive midfield roles if Romeu or Hojberg are injured or suspended due to cards. This seems pretty certain to happen at some point and I'm not sure who could step in to effectively replace them when it does.

Finally, I do think we have a good manager who performed a minor miracle to keep us up last season and we should stick with him.

saintnige added 11:08 - Oct 8
Having done a round trip of 320 miles on Sunday to see the Chelsea game, I feel I am qualified to put my two penn'orth in. We simply have no central defence. Why have we not even attempted to replace van Dyck and Fonte? While we work the minutest chances at one end, we show our opponents huge gaps and zones where they can stroll about and hurt us.
Playing the ball around our centre backs and wingbacks gives an illusion of stability when, within seconds, the ball is turned over and we are back under pressure.
I hate criticising individuals but what does JWP do again? Apart from taking corners, he is pretty much a passenger. Even his much vaunted free kicks are no longer on target, let alone goalworthy.
I have been a Saints fan for nearly 55 years and this is NOT the worst side I've seen... but we need new personnel to make us a) safe and b) capable of developing up the table.

RobtheSaint added 11:36 - Oct 8
Only thing I would disagree with is that the coaches lack respect because of inexperience. I quote The Special One as having no previous experience before working for the great Bobby Robson and there are many more. Having played at a high level is no guarantee.
I like the idea of succession planning and bringing a young English coach such as Davis to work with a manager.

Ripleys_revenge added 11:54 - Oct 8
Have to agree with this, there is clearly something wrong with our coaching staff - the run down of keepers, non leaguers and entry level analysts you describe Nick is frankly laughable. There’s no excuse for this situation, a coaches fees aren’t the same as a premier league players; the failure to sort out the coaching staff can’t be financial limitations - I’m afraid I see it as gross incompetence.

Premier league footballers, as ego driven as they are, are always going to struggle to work with people they don’t respect. Not saying that’s right buts it’s how it is. I think Ross Wilson also has a lot To answer for, his role even under les Reed always seemed strange for someone with such little experience. Recruitment and staffing has been appalling at saints for a long long time, that includes players and coaches / behind the scenes staff.

Having reflected on the disappointment against Chelsea, I do think ralf has his work cut out and his reactions on the bench were very telling. Very little discussion between him and the new guy who is apparently Supposed to be his number 2. It somehow seems like such a typically saints thing to
Do to hire a quality manager and give everyone a bit of hope for some improvement only to hamstring the boss and let everyone down by shoddy off the pitch management / recruitment! The atmosphere on Sunday certainly did reflect the general sense of disillusionment around the club which is very palpable.

Hey ho I suppose this is what saints do! We’ve always done this stupid sh!t and we always will - we can not enjoy the brief flickers of good times when they come along as much as we can!

highfield49 added 12:05 - Oct 8
Your article is certainly food for thought Nick and raises points which are worthy of discussion, but doesn't bringing in a head coach undermine RH's position? At this point I'll admit that I thought he was the head coach so maybe that ambiguity just adds to the problem. That said I can't really comprehend why experienced, if not senior, professionals need to be coached to do the basics of the game. If you've played professionally and been coached since the age of eight to eighteen how on earth can you subsequently lose bad habits? Even in sports like golf and tennis where players get into problems because their swing pattern, rhythm, ball alignment etc get out of sync coaches can correct it because the they go back to basics. I'm sure every player on Saints books can trap, juggle and perform party tricks with the ball but those skills are only good for a circus unless you have got natural, or well developed, ability to read the game and some instinctive positional sense. Without naming names it's not hard to run through the squad and identify those who cannot change their game because they are unable to do so. Gareth Bale, for example, went from a competent left back to top level midfielder and forward because he has the ability to adapt and read the game without a coach explaining what is required. You've either got it or you haven't and somehow we've acquired several players that no amount of coaching can overcome bad habits or lack of ability. Players like Tadic and Boufal will grasp the need to track back and defend and up their work rate but that is totally different to coaching a headless chicken to recognise when they are out of position. Whilst there is some merit in blaming the coaches I believe the real fault lies in poor player recruitment.

wemarch added 12:09 - Oct 8
The difference between the Special One and our staff are the Special One is he was interpreter under Robson, not an ass manager. He clearly learnt and shown sth that led him being ass manager under Robson as ass manager where he was successful. However, what Wilson and Davies proved at Saints is continuously failed GK one after another. Funniest thing is when they left saints, they can perform. i. e. Boruc, Forster, ect.

underweststand added 12:19 - Oct 8
Good observations from David Peach (above).
Aside from all the obvious comments made (above)..we should also add "young".
We have only two regulars who have any pedigree of top level football (Bertrand, Ings and Yoshida) apart from which we have one of the youngest squads in the Prem. and the lack of experience in so many of them is clear when we start to reckon up the mistakes after every game.
Our best strength seems to be in our (currently) goal-shy strike force, although to be fair the rest of the team are hard-pressed to create chances for them to convert. There is a decided lack of creativity in midfield although many people seem satisfied with their individual performances. (exception being a below par JWP who finished last season on a high point). ralph is clearlt trying to find the best role for certain players, but you don't see the success of that in a couple of games. ("square pegs -and all that).

Clearly confidence is a factor when the likes of Prowsie and Che Adams are both struggling to find form and it may be time for some dramatic changes - (irrespective of who the opposition may be ) because if they are in the squad (theoretically) they should be as a good as each other)
So .let's see McCarthy back in goal, Danso playing in the CB role we bought him for) and give Armstrong a good run in midfield and stop the nonsensical 15 minute cameo apps. he normally gets. Continue Valery's rehab. and keep yoshida as the experienced CB . He's not Jose Fonte..... but the best alternative we have at present.


helpineedsomebody added 12:21 - Oct 8
1 no investment since 1885

2 tubby paid 210 million pounds 2017

3 mr gao remorgage st marys+ the training ground 250million pounds

4 to pay back the loan over 2 years aii the season tickets + EPL money repaid to a bank in AUS+ interest

5 2019 12 players sold/ loaned




8 no real investment in the youth set since ROOPS put money in

9 if we had top coaches at all levels At the club they would be poached to the top 6 sides in the EPL.

10 we are a at the moment a bottom 6 side & have been for the last 3 seasons why every body having a lucky dip & people relying on other people advise to employ staff on hearsay hoping for a bit of luck

11 thats my rant over for the day ps i still love the saints they are run like a whores draws

wemarch added 12:27 - Oct 8
add: Jose started as interpreter for Robson in Porto, then was taken to Barca by Robson as his ass manager, then he had success in Porto after learnt from Robson. Case here are Dave and Kelvin can't even prove themselves as GK coach, how can they move into ass manager?

Billeewithers added 12:28 - Oct 8
A frail,defence .... tall heavy legged players that seem unable to jump to any significant extent.
Laying off opponents is not zonal marking .... players everywhere not picking up or marshalling runners. .... confused team play becoming increasingly disjointed. Failing to clinically put opportunities away does not help a faltering backline.
Playing players out of position beyond a certain point has never worked effectively in my experience ... playing and watching.
Buying expensive players as a knee jerk response is fatal. Not having a strong spine is flawed thinking.
The play is declining because the players are not really good enough all round and the tactics are becoming more vague and complex to no real effect.

bstokesaint added 12:31 - Oct 8
I think it’s fair to say our downfall is a combination of things. Personally I’d start with the top and work down. It could be a fairly short article based on the relative anonymity of our current owners. A lack of expenditure due to previous failings is a dangerous tactic if it ultimately ends up in you losing your Premiership status, at a far bigger cost. I would suggest our owners aren’t the right people for the job if they’re not prepared to spend anything. It sounds like Sunderland are heading in the right direction with discussions involving a conglomerate backed by Michael Dell! Now that is an owner worth having and going places, even if FFP may stem things to begin with.

I don’t know if our failings are really down to inexperienced coaching staff, but you don’t have to be that experienced to spot that our defence have been woeful for seasons now. And we’ve ALL said that. If it was me and I was in a position of power at St. Mary’s I’d dig up the old model that clearly worked for Poch and Koeman and identify each key area such as coaching, recruitment, match preparation and look at who was doing what and what was working so well. It’s not like we’ve not experienced success to benchmark us. Also, as others have stated, the spine to the team was our success for a long time. Spend the money on a decent core of 6 players and then work around those players. It’s not rocket science. Since we’ve lost that decent core we’ve looked wobbly and leaderless.

1970 added 12:57 - Oct 8
Good article Nick and there is so many good posts its hard to add anything else but I did say a while ago about all the goalkeeping coaches we have is not healthy especially when you consider how bad Forster had become and now Gunns form is questionable,
somebody within saints hierarchy need to be accounted for scouting Hoedt and Vestergaard and coming to the conclusion we should part with 30+ million for them because we wont sign any CBs until they have gone
make no mistake these last 3 seasons are coming to a head if we are shrewd this season.

BoondockSaint added 15:22 - Oct 8
Well, it's that time of the year again!
Here we are 8 games in and:

-We wonder why other small clubs such as Brighton and Bournemouth, etc. are playing better, with more drive and urgency, taking the game to opponents, while Saints are happy to knock the ball around in midfield.
-Nick posts an article correctly pointing out how crap our defenders are (Yoshi in particular) ever since Fonte left -although he was happy to see the back of him at the time.
-I point out that yes, our defense is crap, but our offense is just as bad-only 8 goals in 8 games (two gifts from blundering goal keepers)-which means our defense would have to be perfect, keeping a clean sheet in every game for us to have a chance. I point out that when Pelle and Mane left, 23 goals left with them (and I get my dig in that Nick said at the time they were "easily replaced") and that issue has never been properly sorted. We don't have one player that scares the opposition,making them focus their game plan on him.
-The previous year we had a good goal keeper who, for some reason started making stupid mistakes. He's replaced. The new man is making great saves-winning games for us. But when the new season starts, he starts making stupid mistakes.
-We wonder what the manager is thinking when losing by 2 or 3 goals he waits until the last 10 minutes to bring on players who might get a goal.
-Ownership is silent.
-We keep hoping everything gets sorted during the next international break.
- We find ourselves again desperately looking around trying to spot 3 teams that are worse that us.

It's just a re-occurring nightmare. I am afraid that when we wake up, we will be in the Championship.


pintsizedsaint added 15:36 - Oct 8
What an amazing co-incidence: the headline of this article and the emerging Saints news regarding Ross Wilson!

It may well be the case that our senior leaders may have played an important part in our troubles. And perhaps this has seen a weak link in our set-up. It is no co-incidence that Mr Wilson was instrumental in advising Les Reed in a number of our now fabled ‘disaster’ signings and sales.

You ask Nick what might be the cause. The answer is that it is never just one thing, but you have to look at the myriad of issues you rightly raise (Head Coach issues, poor coaching team, poor recruitment of players and managers etc) and note that much of these fall at the door of the past (or soon to be past) Directors.

wessexman added 16:09 - Oct 8
To say Saints fans have gone into meltdown on social media is somewhat patronising. Most sensible Saints fans knew full well this season was going to be one of sweat and toil and there would be no guarantee of survival. We all knew what we had to into the season with. I think many of us have been shocked at the manner at which we simply surrendered. I think many of us have been shocked at the lack of fight and physicality within our ranks. It looks as though Ralph has now come up against the same problems as Puel, Pellegrino and Hughes and, after initially getting a motly crew performing as a semblance of a team, he now seems to have hit a brick wall. Hojberg was asked whether he was going to extend his contract at the forum....his body language spoke volumes and his recent form has reflected this. JWP continues to flatter to deceive, as does Remond. We all knew our defense was very, very suspect...yet again, it was ignored.
The bottom line is simple....lack of investment in real quality coupled with an arrogant belief we can continue pulling rabbits out of the hat season after season is now going become the nightmare many of us long predicted. Raplh is a good manager......but not a miracle worker. To think we can undo 3 - 4 years of mismanagement in this international break is fanciful.

misterg added 16:16 - Oct 8
Very good article Nick. Was it just a coincidence that Danny Rohl suddenly upped and left very soon after the revelation of Ralph's huge salary ? Wonder whether he was aware of it previously, if he wasn't I am sure he would have been pretty upset. I am sure Danny was back for the first couple of weeks of pre-season. Also I seem to remember that Ralph talked of the Coaching Staff needing to be overhauled at the end of last season. Not seen much evidence of this yet except for new goalkeeping coach.

halftimeorange added 16:35 - Oct 8
If I was Ross Wilson I, too, would jump at the chance of joining Rangers. Irrespective of the lack of competition north of the border, Rangers are once again relatively successful, something we are unlikely to see at Saints for some time. The whole of Nick's worthy article indicates lack of investment and I suspect the departure of Rohl is a result of either a cost-saving measure or the disillusionment of the man himself. If there is no considered expenditure in January it can only mean that we really have no money, otherwise why would the owner(s) want to juggle with the possibility of relegation? An experienced centre back has surely become a must, although by January the remedy might be too late.

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