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Saints Guaranteed 12th Place ! But What If !
Tuesday, 21st Jul 2020 09:16

It might seem irrelevant whether Saints finish 11th or 12th, but that is still around £2.5 million in prize money at stake and it is also a shining light at the end of a season that not so long ago most football fans let alone Saints supporters thought would end in relegation, but actually ends in What If !

I said a few months ago before football was suspended that ultimately this would be a season that would prove the doubters wrong, but would also be frustrating in that we will look back on it knowing that a plethora of lapses of concentration and errors would mean we would be saying "If only" come the end of it.

This has been proved right, we go into the final day guaranteed 12th place after Newcastle's draw with Brighton last night, and we go into the final day level with Everton who sit in 11th on goal difference.

The situation is that we have to beat Everton's score by a single goal, ie if they win 1-0 we have to win 2-0, that scenario would leave us level on points but above them on goal difference, unless they have scored 6 goals in the process in which case they would be above us on goals scored.

A bit of a conundrum as most Saints fans would be happy to hear that Everton had buried Bournemouth by half time and condemned them to relegation, but that would almost certainly condemn us to 11th place with Sheffield United being one of the tightest defences in the Premier League.

But we could have so easily have been playing for 8th the position our opponents on Sunday Sheffield United currently sit in on 54 points, IF we had held on at Arsenal back in November when we conceded a 96th minute equaliser then we would now be level with them on 51 points, just that one game would have made a big difference and seen us challenge for 10th place with the Gunners.

If we had not gifted Burnley all three points back in February and drawn then we would be starting the final day knowing that by beating the Blades we would go above them and possibly finish 8th, now that would have been some achievement.

So just two lapses of concentration have been the difference between a possible 8th finish and potentially 11th.

Of course the situation is what it is, but it does show just how far we have come under Ralph Hasenhuttl this season and how near we are to being a top 10 side again.

We all know that we need a couple of new signings and perhaps this will go a long way to rectifying the situation, but even taking that defeat against Leicester into account, we will end the season in a position that most would have taken after that game, but with frustration it could have been so much more.

The list of points thrown away is endless, Bournemouth at home where we had so much possession and just kept getting caught on the break, add to that Spurs away when they were down to 10 men, Man City a when we gifted them a late winner, Newcastle a another gifted late winner, Wolves h 2-0 up at half time and caught three times on the break West Ham A and of course since the restart when we gifted Arsenal both of their goals through sloppiness , should of buried Everton before leaving Richarlison unmarked for an equaliser and likewise Brighton when we were all at sea and gave them a goal start.

Now we have to let these things go and they are in the past, but all of these games are good pointers to just what we can achieve next season, if we make the right signings and cut out all the errors, most of the games mentioned saw us play well for 95% of the time, but then gift silly goals through individual errors, there are at least 4 goalkeeping mistakes, god knows how many players left unmarked on the break and poor marking in general, whatever people may say far too many for a Premier League team to have in a season.

I am saying this on a positive note, as the season ends we have to learn from these mistakes, because if we can cut them out next season it could be a very exciting one indeed.

So I go into the final day happy that we have achieved so much more than I dared hope at around 10pm on 25th October and indeed in the following 4 weeks, but optimistic that we now have a manager who is a great fit for the club and who has created a team spirit than can carry us through, if we have learned from our mistakes and rectify them in the transfer market and let us be clear, we need new blood in to do so, then next season could be the best one yet of the Premier League era.

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SaintStu7 added 09:31 - Jul 21
All things considered a very good season. Certainly looking good for the future as long as we don’t forget what has helped us turn the corner. No spending on over paid show ponies, faith in the manager, blend of youth and experience, accepting that the board wants us to succeed on the pitch, hard work and cohesion. Lots of what’s ifs that could have led to a top half finish but what if Ings had got injured or Adams had scored in the first few games and remained our first choice striker!

SaintNick added 10:21 - Jul 21
Good points and I agree we have to get back to signing some hungry young players and I do think Che Adams is one of those and will come good at the end of the season.

I also think we need an experienced central defender

dirk_doone added 10:30 - Jul 21
A lot of teams will have similar 'what ifs' so these things even themselves out over the season. We are about where you'd expect a club of our size to finish: 12th. This is our 22nd top 12 finish in our 43 seasons in the top flight. Leicester, a similar-sized club, have had 21.

Our recent form indicates that we could do better next season. We are making good progress for the first time since Koeman left in 2016. Ralph is a great manager, who has inspired both the players and the fans. The aim next season has to be to qualify for Europe again, either through our league position or by winning a cup. It's about time, we won another one and it looks like we might have the right manager and players to do it.

erick added 11:33 - Jul 21
The last game we created good chances our defence is really good, if next season we start with the same back four, Djenepo on the left, Harrison in CDM and Che up top. I wouldn't mind. We would finish top half, we need a consistent team week in week out, we need a sub for Armstrong cause that ain't smallbone.We need to offload long n Redmond, yes they do work hard for the team but do not offer enough assists n goals to warrant a stay in the team.

TimSaint added 11:46 - Jul 21
Predictably Nick, you have chosen to focus your what ifs on the defensive and goalkeeping errors that have cost us (and I fully concur to an extent), however it is also the huge amount of missed chances that have also cost us, results, points and therefore league positions.
In the Arsenal Away game you mention, yes we conceded a late equaliser with a goalkeeping flap, but before that we should have put the game to bed with Cedric and Oba somehow combining to miss the best chance ever to score, Redmond not shooting and Djenepo missing 2 glorious chances. Put any of those away and we win the game. Likewise we score a 2nd at Everton and we win and are 3 points about them.
All too often we have been on top in games, created great chances, not scored, or not scored enough, but then sit back and get sucker-punched.

It is what it is and every team can point to what if situations - even Liverpool lose, or Man Utd and Bournemouth concede late goals !!

We would all have taken 11th or 12th in November.

We generally seem to create some good chances, but Ings aside, we are not clinical enough. 2nd highest scorers are JWP and Armstrong on 5 !!

As we have said so many times, our defence and GK always present the opposition with chances - forced or unforced, but at least they have improved a little under RH and hopefully this window will see some deadwood departing and a few defensive acquisitions. (KWP or the Belgian RB and Salisu for starters).

Number_58 added 12:02 - Jul 21
Nine away wins. NINE. Despite having a central defensive pairing who lack leadership, can't mark, can't organise and concede soft goals in every single match we play (apart from the eight clean sheets, obviously). How do you explain that Nick? Presumably we just got lucky nine times?

saintlee added 12:08 - Jul 21
From where we were in October after that fateful night against Leicester, I'm sure I'm not alone when I say Wow, 12th. I feared the worst after that embarrassing performance but to where we are now, no one would have foreseen how the season would finish for us. Someone asked me in November if we would stay up and I flatly told them no, that we weren't good enough. I have to say I did rather enjoy my big fat slice of humble pie. Very happy how the season has gone. Dont care if we finish 12th or 11th. My faith is restored. COYS !!!

TimSaint added 12:35 - Jul 21
9 clean sheets isn't too bad, but as the title of this article suggests, what if !!
We have gifted the opposition many goals and if we had kept clean sheets in just a couple more games, it could have really improved our points total.

Teams like Watford and Brighton also have 9 clean sheets, so it is not that big an achievement, especially when Palace have 10, Newcastle 11 and Burnley 15 !!

The difference is that many teams have the fire power (ie Chelsea) to outscore the opposition, even if they do concede. Ings aside, we don't.

What really bugs me is that Burnley, Newcastle and West Ham have all done the double over us this season. Just a couple of draws or 1 win from those 6 defeats would have made a real difference.

schatfield added 12:55 - Jul 21
If my aunty had balls, she would be my uncle....

Not sure what the point of this article is....it swings both ways. What if Ings snapped his ligaments on day one and we lost those 21 goals this season..

SanMarco added 12:56 - Jul 21
"What ifs"!! We all do it of course and however hard we try it is difficult to be balanced. The Romeu 'red card' at Old Trafford and the hand ball in the build up to the equaliser vs Watford at home are two I can think of which we might disregard when totting up all those 'lost' points...

Football, like life, is a contingent activity - if a throw-in had been given the other way in the first minute on 1 May 1976 we might have gone on to lose 6-0 like Bobby Charlton said. Or we might have won 6-0. I remember the 8-0 against Sunderland when at 2-0 Forster could easily have got a red and given away a pen for 2-1. Would we have even won? Who knows? It's a "What if". It is even just possible that if Arsenal had not equalised when they did they might have gone on to score 2 in the remaining seconds (alright pushing it a bit that one!!) It is true though that the only "What If" that has total creedence is a last kick of the game one.

Sorry - a very long-winded way of saying that surely, over the long season, 11th/12th is about right. We had a couple of spells of top six form and a couple of spells of relegation form so I am sure it roughly evens out. Although our defence is our biggest weakness I fully agree with those that point out that some of those 'lost' points were caused by the failure of the attack to finish sides off - Arsenal and Newcastle away and Wolves at home would be good examples.


dirk_doone added 13:13 - Jul 21
Tim Saint: Talking of what ifs and Burnley, you could argue what if we'd kept Jay Rodriguez, who is a much more clinical finisher than Shane Long?

Burnley play a very negative style of football but he regularly scores their only goal in 1-0 wins and 1-1 draws.

Burnley would have 13 fewer points this season and be 5 places lower in the league without his goals.

An Ings-Rodriguez partnership would probably have seen us qualify for Europe this season.

But, being positive, let's hope that Adams and Obafemi develop into equally fine finishers next season, now that they've both started scoring goals. What we need to break back into the top 8, as well as the 20+ goals per season from Ings are 10+ goals from another of our strikers.

felly1 added 13:42 - Jul 21
After a season of lifeless boring football under Puel. Followed by 2 seasons of down to the wire relegation battles I'm happy with either 11th or 12th. That's where we deserved to be. As a previous poster stated we've had spells of both top 6 and bottom 6 form. We have an absolute diamond in Ings and a mix of hard working youngsters and players in their prime playing a high press system that in the main works. I'm a very happy fan at present. Thankyou SFC

SaintPaulVW added 13:48 - Jul 21
I thought we would end up mid table this year. Although there were various points in the season when this felt either wildly over or under optimistic!

We have improved over the season in both our system of play and attitude. Some of our players have also really developed. Stephens, JWP and Armstrong stand out. We should also not forget the improvement in Ings - who last season was still pretty badly affected by his long term injury problems.

Hopefully, now we have a solid base, we can can: get a few more players in who can slot into the system; Push on with the development of the younger players; Release a few more surplus players back out to clubs where they may fare better, Hoedt, Lemina, Carillo etc ; Solve the keeper conundrum- there can be only 2!

All credit to Ralph and the board who have put all this in place. Hopefully we can build on this season and enjoy some tangible success in the next few seasons. For me, a good cup run and challenging for a Europa place would be good progress next year.

We are finishing in a good place, so I am really looking forward to next season.


Peterx added 14:42 - Jul 21
My key takeaways of the season.

Ralph stopped going with massive changes to the system during games which our team could not handle and instead stuck to the which clearly the players bought into, This to me was the biggest reason for our turnaround.

We can point to specific games but we need to keep improving our plan within our system to play teams who let us have possession and aim to hit us on the break, i.e. Newcastle, Burnley who we should never have lost to. We improved after lockdown though.

KWP is a must to sign, we look like a different team with him on the pitch. If I was the manager I would still be starting Long every game if selection was a short term project but I understand we need to build up Che and Oba for the longer term picture.

Djenepo, Vokins, Smallbone, Reed all look like they could play a part. Boufal will need to come to the party soon or we will need to cash in. Of the loanees Elynoussi would be one I would be giving a chance to, maybe we can turn him into the Armstrong backup, I would also love Ralph to spend some time with Hesketh.

We were lucky with injuries this year, hope that continues but if we lost a few key players long term we would have been battling. Think how we did when Redmond was injured and Bertrand suspended.

Farlow added 16:01 - Jul 21
With all the bad buys we have made recently i dont want to see many changes,KWP would
be a good addition but i think Ralph is improving all the players and the system works.

Farlow added 16:01 - Jul 21
With all the bad buys we have made recently i dont want to see many changes,KWP would
be a good addition but i think Ralph is improving all the players and the system works.

Colburn added 16:03 - Jul 21
What if we'd have had more from the likes of Redmond, Djenepo and Boufal in terms of goals and assists.? Before the lockdown they had provided little between them and they regularly lose possession. Armstrong has showed he creates more and Obafemi always seems to make something happen in the short game he has has this season, although I appreciate he's a striker, he sees a pass. I seriously hope we don't send him out on loan next season. We need him. Hoping KWP will join us too, he has been magnificent and a huge reason for our recent success. Yet another interception created Ings goal on Sunday. Jack and Jan forging a stronger partnership all the time and with an addition there, we will have enough in defence to mount a challenge for Europe along with the goals which will come from Che etc. Can't wait for next season now!

SalisburySaint added 06:38 - Jul 22
As others have said after Leicester game, most would have settled with 12th place

When I attended the Man City Cup and league away games in the week after, and went to both fearing more drubbings, but the spirit was back in the team despite 3-1 and 2-1 defeats.

But after a poor performance against Everton, Ralph and his coaches must have sat down during the International Break and reviewed out tactics.

The game against Arsenal was the start of the revival, in a game we should of won, we ditched 5 at the back and moved to 4 4 2 and immediately looked a better team. Despite letting in a late
Goal my mates and I were all much more positive after this game, and I proved to be the turning point.

After they game Saints who in past few seasons had been terrible against supposed top 6 teams, got wins agains Spurs, Chelsea Leicester and Man City, but most importantly did doubles over Watford, Norwich and Villa

A few decent signing and I think next season will be a good one


saintpp added 12:21 - Jul 22
Saw a stat that said after if the season started after the first 12 games our form since then would put us 4th place.Havent checked it but assuming its true thats not so much a what if but a what can be.

KilkennySaint added 17:06 - Jul 22
Has our decline since Koeman left been down to the appalling recruitment and constant imbalance on the team? I strongly agree with SaintStu7 on his comment of “No spending on over paid show ponies”

When I think back to the signings since Koenman who can we say were a success, Ings, Armstrong, Redmond, Bednarek, Højbjerg ?

I know others have contributed like Boufal, Gabbiadini, Gunn, Vestergaard, Djenepo, Adams & Gunn but have any of these players made us any better ? (I know some are young and can go on to became great players for us).

Then the players who honestly have done very little for us and have to go down as disasters in the transfer market Hoedt, Carrillo, Lemina, Elyounoussi. I assume that bringing in some of these players probably brought some negativity (Hodet, Lemina) with them and that probably affected the morale of the dressing room.

Looking back over the past four seasons and trying to build a team based on the influx of the players above has been a struggle. Now Ralph has the nucleus of a strong, positive, side with a good work rate & attitude, I hope we don’t go out and buy a load of flops that will unsettle the balance and positively in place, 2 of 3 signings would be enough while developing the current squad and bringing in youngsters.

Looking back over the past four season it leaves me so frustrated how we performed in the transfer market, at least those responsible for these transfers are no longer at the club, I hope Ralph has a big say on future players coming in.

We’re not a rich club, we have to be smart with our money if we want to compete in the premier league

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