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Saints V Wolverhampton Wanderers The Verdict
Sunday, 19th Jan 2020 10:23

The stats suggested a comfortable Saints victory should have taken place, sadly we defended poorly in the second half to gift Wolves three points that we really should have had in the bag.

Once again VAR played a big part in the game, although Saints inability to defend was what cost us all three points, not the controversial video system.

Even though Saints dominated the first half and took a two goal lead through excellent goals from Jan Bednarek and Shane Long, the writing was on the wall with Wolves missing a couple of chances where they had one man in the box and 3 or 4 defenders nowhere near him, luckily for us they missed.

Likewise a flap from McCarthy should have seen the visitors score but the luck held for that on that one as well.

The second half started brightly and for the first 8 minutes there didn't look like there would be anything other than a convincing Saints win , but suddenly Wolves broke and we failed to get in a couple of tackles we really should have made, Neto was in the box with 3 Saints defenders marking fresh air, he had time to bring the ball down and pick his spot without a challenge made, sadly a return to the shambolic defending of a few months ago.

That changed the game, suddenly Wolves heads were up, then came the controversy, firstly Jonny should not have been unmarked and have been able to get through on goal as he did, secondly we were clumsy in the challenge and that gave the opportunity for VAR to do it's job.

Having watched the replays several times over I can see why VAR gave the penalty, however I think that they got it wrong, Jonny was diving before he even reached Stephens outstretched leg, he knew the ball was away from him and threw himself forward, he went down not because of any Saints contact with him and that in my book is no penalty.

Now it was game on and although Saints had their chances notably a glorious shot from Redmond that hit the bar, but we would again be caught on the break, Traore was played on side and surged forward, we had five players in the box and aside from Traore there was only Jiminez, yet we watched the ball and no one took a blind bit of notice of Jiminez who received the ball completely unmarked and again at least 3 Saints players marking fresh air, it was the easiest chance that he would get not only in this game but most of the others and he didn't miss.

We huffed and puffed in the final minutes and Boufal really should have done better blazing over from close range and the game ended on a bizarre note when a young child invaded the pitch for some reason, Sofiane Boufal stopped him, the only thing he caught cleanly all afternoon (OK harsh but i'm not above the odd cheap joke)

So this was yet another game thrown away by poor organisation and poor defending, we lack leadership and when we get a two goal lead we have no one on the pitch keeping us focused and therefore we defended like schoolboys, chasing the ball and not marking up players.

It is not the end of the World, in fact it is a warning sign to us that although we have had some great victories we still need to improve the team in key positions, the defence has been good in recent weeks, but it was appalling today at key moments and that has to be rectified and that means getting someone in in the transfer window, the issue isn't the full backs, we need a leader in the centre of defence.

We have to learn from this defeat, perhaps we got a little overconfident, but mainly because of what I have been saying all season, sometimes we will get away with our lapses and sometimes we won't, this was one of those days when we didn't.

This doesn't make us a poor team, it makes us a good one with issues.

We have a good foundation to avoid relegation, we need to stick to the task ahead and get ourselves over the finish line.

Photo: Action Images

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A1079 added 10:46 - Jan 19
Pretty much matches what I was saying yesterday Nick (and my thread), so cannot argue with your assessment. You make a valid point about the penalty. I thought it was a penalty, but having seen it again and compared it with what you have written, you make a good observation. I can see why it was given though and our defenders made it easy for them to give it.

janecook added 10:47 - Jan 19
We still need to sign a good centre-back someone to command the defence. Today Jack Stephens had a awful afternoon. Not only did he give away the penalty that allowed Jimenez to equalise, but he was also partly to blame for the winner as well. We need to Buy new players.

saintmark1976 added 11:17 - Jan 19
Firstly credit to Wolves, to win a game from being two goals down at half time in the Premiership takes some doing. Having said that we threw three points away with Long missing a good chance to seal the game just after the break and no acknowledgement by Ralph that we were overrun in the midfield throughout the second half.It is all well and good blaming the defence but they were given no protection from the midfield.Romeu should have been on immediately after Wolves scored their first goal and Armstrong should not have been substituted.

All in all a very disappointing result which makes it imperative that we don't loose at Palace on Tuesday particularly bearing in mind that Bournemouth play Brigton and Villa play Watford on the same evening.

Sanguin added 11:47 - Jan 19
I don't think we deserved to lose, but I don't think we can complain about the result either. We didn't convert enough of our chances and our defending wasn't good enough, particularly a failure to mark key players. These are problems we've had for a while, I just hope its' a blip rather than a return to the norm.

I thought Redmond was fantastic yesterday and deserved an assist, if not a goal.

wibbersda added 11:50 - Jan 19
They thought they had done enough in the first half and then stopped the high press in the second. Thus allowing Wolves to push up and once again expose our Midfield and CenterBack failings. Just when hopes were running high Saints go and do what Saint do, yet again. Hopefully, we can put it right against Palace.

Number_58 added 11:57 - Jan 19
Our midfield has been fantastic in recent weeks but I thought they ran out of steam in the second half yesterday and, as Saintmark1976 correctly pointed out, they gave the defence little or no protection at times and Wolves took full advantage (watch PEH closely when Wolves score their winner - he ambles along with his arm in the air appealing for offside instead of charging back to help out). That said, considering the great run we've been on it's probably a bit harsh to criticise anyone.

St_Gats added 12:01 - Jan 19
Nice article and a fair assessment of the game. Small margins decide games and of the short that hit the post at 2-0 goes in, its 3-0 and Nuno would start pulling players in anticipation of the next game. Instead, we suffer a sucker punch and the pressure seemed to leave us with clouded minds. As you suggest above, we needed a leader on the pitch to sure things up, but instead we continued to lack discipline and concentration. Ultimately that cost us, but with a little more composure, that would have been a handsome victory. Wolves have only lost 5 games all season, which is on par with Man City. They're not an easy side to beat. Their side features near world class players and that was evident when they pinned Liverpool in their own half for significant periods at Anfield a few weeks ago. That said, the game was lost by Saints rather than being won by Wolves. Ralph has few options from the bench and Boufal's erratic nature lack of composure delivers very little. He had his chance to snatch us a draw and failed emphatically. Results below us were kind and we still have a healthy six point cushion to the relegation zone. This result serves as a stark reminder that discipline and concentration are as important as pace and flair, so the sobering result should re-focus us for the next few games. Ralph is ringing out every drop from this squad and days like these are inevitable if we don't invest. Competition in the squad is paramount, but we have very little of it right now. That can breed complacency and that could be very dangerous for us. More dangerous is Gao's complete lack of engagement and financial investment in our football club. The most important signings we can make are a new 80% shareholder to replace Gao and an extension to Ralph's contract. There is little encouragement on the former suggestion, but Ralph is making positive noises about a potential extension. This club has lacked stability for years, so an extension to Ralph could provide the foundation and solidity we so desperately need to move forward. Up the Saints.

JoeEgg added 12:21 - Jan 19
Ralph is doing his best but it was disappointing to read that he apparently no longer considers it vital to bring in some better defenders. A few good results and the Gao administration can walk us silently through another transfer window without the need to splash out. Two first class defenders could transform this team but instead we will most probably be left with just enough to see us avoid relegation. We need investment , motivation and ambition from the management. If we dont get it and Ralph continues to do his best; he will join Mr Koeman off to seek richer pastures elsewhere. Is this going to be yet another missed opportunity to make this club a real force on the south coast?

LordDZLucan added 12:45 - Jan 19
Let's face it Wolves are a very good side and will beat teams that are better than us. We couldn't cope with Traore's pace and his breaks resulted in our defence getting pulled horribly out of position. But we didn't help ourselves. At crucial times yesterday we needed more leadership on the pitch to keep our shape and also to adapt to Wolves change in tactics. Yes, of course, better players will help but only if we are better organised. On a positive note that's another one of the top teams out of the way!

davidargyll added 13:23 - Jan 19
Not sure I wholly agree with observations. I reckon our first goal was quite fortuitous coupled with lousy defending - the sort of thing we are perennially guilty of! The second goal was excellent, Danny Ings putting off their defence and Shane knocking it in! Beautiful!
But I think we are quite lucky to be two up at the interval - we could easily have had one or even two goals against us, but luck was with us.
But Wolves don’t lie down and I think they just looked more like they wanted it in H2 and we started to look a bit knackered as the half wore on, exacerbated by conceding once then twice which caused us to be increasingly half a yard off the pace.
I don’t think you can blame anybody really, luck was with us in the first half but not in the second (for the first time for a handful of games).
Despite our recovery we cannot expect to win every game or even most games. Mid table is where we are likely to finish (I hope!)despite Jeff Sterling saying we are a top 6 team so we are going to continue to cock it up from time to time. And yesterday was just such a time.
Wolves are not a timid team at all I fact they are quite niggly, lots of pushing and shoving and I think that really got under our skin. I ran out counting how many shoves in the back that went unpenalised.
On the balance of play I think we might have deserved a draw with a bit of luck and maybe VAR for once going the other way.
PS. JoeEgg I think you can take RH’s comments, about now not NEEDING to buy anybody, with a large pinch of salt. Much more likely he doesn’t want to suggest we are desperate - despite the fact we are! - and push prices up against us. Fingers crossed we get out mojo back on Tuesday.

Saintsforeverj added 14:08 - Jan 19
Pretty much spot on Nick. You are right that the defence let us down and that it was "appalling in certain moments". We absolutely do lack leadership at vital moments and it cost us the game. So why does Ralph not just go and buy an experienced centre back? Lack of funds or naivety from the manager?

schatfield added 15:09 - Jan 19
Ok second half we shot ourselves in the foot but no need to start on the 'Stephen's is rubbish after all' line by some and say we need to buy defenders. Likewise no need to start bashing gao too - I dont recall seeing him on the pitch! Wolves are a very good side. We scored 2 excellent goals, hit the post too.
On a side note why did the kid come running on the pitch near the end?

stmichael added 15:15 - Jan 19
People blaming defence.
We were done in transition with their midfield getting on the ball and breaking quickly outnumbering us which is why they were unmarked in defence.
Emergency defending and we saw the outcome...

Farlow added 15:28 - Jan 19
ALthough Jack Stevens did not have his best game Jan Bednarek and Ryan Bertrand were clearly at fault with two of the goals.Iagree we were overpowered in midfield and Romeu should have been sent on early to shore it up.

the_saint added 16:26 - Jan 19
We still need players in We still need players to improve us that was the wolves manager said after the game at the end of his press conference about the game,
Now that's ambition a manager that is also backed by his board well done wolveswish we had a owner as good as yours

underweststand added 17:15 - Jan 19
A game of two halves, with Wolves starting with 3 men at the back which gave them midfield dominance in the first 10 minutes and before we'd even got a shot on taget. Bednarek's goal was a bright spot, and well-taken as he was the last man out on the left and had a free shot. Pity we don't use that tactic more when we kick towards the Chapel end. Match after match ...balls are centred from left , but miss everyone and there's often no-one at the far post to pick it up..

The penalty situation was confusing, but as Nick stated..their player was going down before and not in possession of the ball. He was also sandwiched between Stephens and Cedric - who I think was closer, and made more contact than Jack did.
However, we must accept that VAR has been kind to us this season.

Were we overconfident at HT ?--maybe a bit . Previous results and our good first half dominance may have made it look like another win on the cards, but Wolves are a tough side, and the "new ref" (his first Prem.game)..might well have given yellows to a couple Wolves players, for some crude tackles that were worse than JWP and JB got.

Warning signals still at the back and those much publicised targets may become necessary buys before the end of the month. Our results v. Palace and Spurs will tip the balance... as to who ... and why we finally decide to buy.

Consigliere added 17:18 - Jan 19
Extremely high quality responses to a well-written article - nothing to add!

ThereIn76 added 17:31 - Jan 19
Bednarek must be banned from going upfield for set pieces. Twice he’s scored - twice Saints have lost after leading 2-0.

redwight added 18:38 - Jan 19
The last few weeks have lead some to suggest that our defensive problems are all in the past. The silver lining to yesterdays black cloud is that any such thoughts have now been dispelled. Also, in view of the negative posts he has been getting, I have to say that Redmond was outstanding.

bstokesaint added 19:39 - Jan 19
It hurts. It did yesterday at 5pm and it still does now, especially after carving out a decent lead and seeing other results go fortuitously our way. It feels a little like that season where Leicester won the league. You have one team winning week in, week out (this time the Scouse) and beyond them places are up for grabs. With a little bit of investment in a show of ambition a number of teams could pick up a really decent league spot. Unfortunately that won’t be us under the current administration. The only positive is it’s obvious we can’t keep papering over the cracks and we do need some leadership and competition for places. Ralph is being let down.

PezzaSaint added 20:24 - Jan 19
Have only watched the MOTD highlights, but for both Wolves 1st and 3rd goals where the hell is Bertrand?! Looking at Wolves’s first goal you would think that we were 2-0 and chasing the game! Ralph still learning his trade, but the positioning of the defenders showed a lot of naivety! So frustrating 😡

SanDiegoSaint added 20:38 - Jan 19
I thought the most interesting comment in the fans forum was when Ralph was asked about the apparent lack of on field leadership. For those who didn’t see it, or did see it but didn’t listen properly (Nick? And many of the commenters?), I recommend a listen/relisten - it’s on YouTube. Essentially Ralph’s notion of leadership is effort and commitment. I paraphrase of course, but in Ralph’s opinion, players should know what they are doing on the field and therefore you don’t need players shouting during the game. That kind of leadership is a sign that players weren’t properly prepared. Whether you agree with Ralph is obviously an individual choice - but if you think Saints are shopping for that type of player then I’d wager disappointment lies in your future.

Billeewithers added 21:14 - Jan 19
Saints were lucky that Wolves missed opportunities in the first half. Second half Saints missed clear clinical opportunities to kill off the game. Further the midfield lost contact with the forward line which led to an ineffective press.
This exposed the poor leadership within the defensive line ..... no great characters or drivers here.
A comment made by RH in the fans forum was to characterise leadership as a value in all players not in individuals. This bothered me a lot. Today exemplifies my concern. Whilst individual responsibility for a teams performance is very useful it is also useful to have organisers on field who know how to drive the managers orders as such. We do not have any of these personalities.
It is great to be a warm and welcoming club but a few nasty bastards around the place that make a team tick when some don’t want to quite so much is invaluable.
I was worried that after the recent run that against wolves the ambition may drop .... enough done! Reflective of a lot of players at Saints who feel they are the judges of their own commitment ..... a number of lazy players is what I saw. Tiredness is not an excuse .... a) the money. b) Wolves were more tired and thinly spread.

IanRC added 22:16 - Jan 19
The marking was shocking for their third goal. I thought we had got past that but apparently not.

Peterx added 04:53 - Jan 20
My frustration was with the inconsistency with VAR being applied watching live on TV in South Africa.

Too me it was not clear and obvious for the pen with Cedric getting between the attacker and the ball, there could be an argument that the attacker fell into Cedric and was not brought down by Stephens. When you look at Zaha and Walcott pen VAR appeals this year not being awarded for more clear cut pens this application of VAR is inconsistent.

Then on their 3rd goal at the start of the move the ball came off Traore's arm for his first pass. In other games this type of goal has been ruled out.

I don't think VAR has been that kind to us this season as everyone says, the Bertrand sending off for example was bad news for a few games and really exposed us at LB when we played Danso / PEH / Djenepo at that position and we went on a bad run.

Having said that Wolves played a better game in the second half. I think RH for all his +ve points did get outmanoeuvred in this game.

Taking off hardworking players like Long and Armstrong I'm not convinced was the way to go. Romeu for PEH to me would have been a better sub earlier.

Also if we had options at LB and RB on the bench we could have countered there energy more effectively in the last 20.

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