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Saints V Sheffield United The Verdict
Monday, 27th Jul 2020 09:08

Saints finished the season with a flourish to leapfrog Everton into 11th place and only two points behind the visitors who ended in 9th, it was a case of "if only" for Saints and gives much hope and anticipation for next season.

In the end it was a comprehensive victory for Saints but they could easily have been three goals down at the break instead of just one, Alex McCarthy having to pull off a couple of very good saves to keep us in the game with Lundstram giving the Blades the lead on 26 minutes with our defence all at sea.

But the second half was different, Che Adams fired Saints in front on 50 minutes and from then on it was all Saints, 20 minutes later it was Adams again to put us in front and with 6 minutes left we were awarded a penalty, on another day Adams would have taken the ball for a go at his hat trick, but a goal for Ings would bring him only a goal short of Jamie Vardy and so he attempted to score a week after missing, he did so with aplomb but sadly it would be "if only" for Ings, if he had scored against Bournemouth with his spot kick then he would have been level with the Leicester man .

Indeed it is hard to mention Saints season without that Leicester game at St Mary's being mentioned, but Vardy got a at trick in that one including an injury time penalty, another "If Only"

But the season finished on a high with a fine all round performance in the second half, Che Adams was the star, having now broken his duck he can't stop scoring and showed why we signed him and he has forged a fine partnership with Danny Ings.

But there were other notable displays, Kyle Walker-Peters did not look like he would even return to St Mary's after the lockdown, Ralph Hasenhuttl playing him only once before the suspension of football, but another fine game from the right back and hopefully we wlll make the move permanent.

Will Smallbone coming on for the injured Stuart Armstrong on the half hour put in a decent shift and his tackle and toe poke put Adams through for a goal.

Nathan Redmond had an amazing run beating 4 players and put in a decent ball that sadly couldn't be forced home in the first half, he looked lively throughout and of course Danny Ings was well Danny Ings, always involved working tirelessly and unselfishly to create chances for himself and others, even though the temptation must have been there for him to shoot on sight from all ranges and angles.

The irony of us jumping above Everton for 11th place was not lost on me, four years ago after finishing 6th after a fine win on the final day we looked to be going places, but then in came Everton to poach Ronald Koeman after repeated re buffs, back then it was they who were proclaiming through their owner that they were going to challenge for the champions League and overtake their near neighbours as they trampled us into the ground when they found Koeman's point where he would put money over morals, yet here we are 4 years later and we are above them again.

Al Saints fans should be looking to the future now though and not the past, things have changed at St Mary's and we have a squad with potential, with the acquisition of Kyle Walker-Peters permanently and at least one new central defender we could be a force to be reckoned with, certainly no one can complain that they aren't being entertained, our 51 goals makes us the joint 8th highest scorers and if Adams & Obafemi had been firing on all cylinders in the first half of the season we would have scored a lot more.

Add Djenepo and we have a potent attack, we just need to sort out the defence.

In the nine games since the restart we lost only once and that was when we gifted two goals to Arsenal, there is another if only if we had drawn that game we would not have changed our final league position , but we would have been only 1 point behind the Gunners who finished 8th.

Indeed add to that the gifted three points at home to Wolves when we were 2-0 up approaching the hour mark and we would have finished the season level with them.

That is how close this season was to being seen as something special, these two games are just the tip of the iceberg, I could list 10 more that we gave away soft goals that cost us dearly even after the break.

The 9 games since lockdown have seen us get 18 points, an average of 2 per game, before the break we were averaging 1.17, the improvement in the side is immense.

Ralph Hasenhuttl has to be thanked for this, he has stayed focused through a dark period and not been afraid to deal with issues in the squad, the most notable being the Pierre Emile Hojbjerg situation, he has created a team spirit second to none, some have said Chris Wilder should have been manager of the year, but Ralph had a far tougher task this season and we are only two points behind the Blades who are touted as having had a great season, this should tell us something and I think we will be a better squad next season for the experience.

So what was there not to like about this final day, our points ratio per game in a Premier League season has only been bettered three times out of 21 season's and is joint with Gordon Strachan's 2002/03 season.

The shoots of recovery are all around , we are back to doing things the Southampton way again, it is time to look towards the football and not the past.

Photo: Action Images

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halftimeorange added 09:17 - Jul 27
Glad to see you didn't single out Vestergaard - you didn't need to, his lack of mobility and marking was there for all to see.

SanMarco added 09:26 - Jul 27
Yes - it is good to be positive. Third best away record, third best since the resumption and Adams is scoring! Only really a couple of dud first halfs and those goals vs Arsenal on the negative side.

I hope the club takes seriously the need to firm up the centre of defence. JV has his qualities but is too slow at this level (and surprisingly poor in the air). If we get KWP and strengthen at CB there is no reason why we can't come higher next season.

Have a great summer Nick and all on TUI. Roll on September 12th.

PS anyone else noticed the symbolic final goal difference of minus 9??

sidsaint added 09:29 - Jul 27
Thanks for a good all round report Nick and for keeping us up to date during the problems of the pandemic. Here's to a bright new future after a great last 9 games performance.

wibbersda added 09:46 - Jul 27
I think Che has worked out that you need to hit quick and first time in the Prem. Now he's crack it should be a great season for him and SFC. I felt OR was MoM he was playing as defensive and attacking midfield and did everything right.

felly1 added 09:48 - Jul 27
Well it looks a dead cert that Mohammed Salisu is joining so at least we will have another CB to choose from. As you say a season of what ifs. What if the Leicester game ended nil nil. Our goals against would be better than all the teams below us bar Palace. What JPW didn't miss that pen at Everton, 3 points instead of 1. What if those blocks and saves against Man City had not stopped City scoring , what if Ings tapped in the easy chance against Liverpool on the opening day and so on and so on.
Other than Ings being absolutely brilliant for us, the next best thing for me has been watching players like JPW, Redmond , Armstrong, Macarthy, Bednerek and Stephen's coming into their prime and giving us a strong spine for next season . Happy days.

Flamingbankers added 10:10 - Jul 27
Great turn around for the team and Ralph. Great credit to all those that have put in the hard work.Amazing and very pleasing, after the last 3/4 worrisome seasons, to see Saints playing such exciting football. Long may it continue. However the team does need careful and serious consideration, especially as we've boringly been saying for 4 years - in defence: we need to spend carefully, we need consolidation: a premier class four across the back. Great improvements by Bednarek and Stephens this season, hopefully Bertrand will stay and we seem to have good cover in Vokins. KWP would be a good addition though he needs work on his defending and we need cover for that position. Salisu looks like an excellent defender, hopefully we can integrate him effectively. Don't forget Danso as well - that lad has talent and will come good given the chance . We will definitely need another strong and creative midfielder - like the chap who plays centre mid for Celtic, seemingly an ideal swap with Fraser! However Reed will be back and this time we need to utilise him. Smallbone is coming on nicely although he needs to get stronger and more assured. Hopefully, we'll keep the quad together, minus a Scandinavian player or two. Only 6 weeks until the start of next season - can't wait.

ronan006 added 10:11 - Jul 27
Every team have If onlys look at Bournemouth , could think of many for them , like if Antonio scored or if there was no VAR then they would of got a point of us.etc etc

highfield49 added 10:29 - Jul 27
Let's not forget that Sheffield Utd are a good team who have got some decent results throughout the season. Yes, we could have been more than one down at half time but equally we could have been ahead before the break without some sharp defending keeping their lead intact. Romeu was back to his best, as has already been said, and Vestergaard was the only player who was quite literally off the pace.
Media reports suggest JWP has agreed a new five year contract and that is a great step towards stability in the squad, hopefully one or two others will be offered new deals to keep the group together. Crucially though the usual suspects have to be moved out and it's obvious that several players are surplus to requirements because they aren't team players no matter how talented they might be technically.
Only a short break and hopefully there will be two or three signings very quickly to build on the momentum. Great job from RH and all the players who gave us so much pleasure during the latter part of the season.

davepid added 12:48 - Jul 27
Great result to finish a great run of games since the resumption. It will usher in what should be a revealing and decisive closed season as Saints work out what to do with the forgotten foreign legion of loanees across Europe and the USA as well as a few lurking in the back rooms of St Mary’s ( Mc queen, Hesketh and Jones) : a forgotten and largely unwanted X1 , surplus to requirements.

What the club decide on these will be equally as important as who we buy.

SaintPaulVW added 12:59 - Jul 27
Agree with most of the above.

Good game to watch. They looked better in the first half but we were just irresistible in the second half. Adams seems to have come into form. Just hoping the short break now allows that to continue.

I am hoping that although we won't hear the last of the Leicester game for a while, that our future performances define it as a turning point and we build on this season and a tangible reward in the next few seasons. That will truly put it to bed once and for all.

I had good expectations for this season and they took a while but came good in the end. Even better expectations for next year now.



Peterx added 15:06 - Jul 27
11th place after where we were in November, amazing. I suppose it would be to optimistic to average out our post lockdown haul of 2 points a game and predict 76 points for next season ?

That would put us 10 points above 3rd on this season's log and 5 points behind second. But with a couple of smart buys and a team who are obviously playing for the team and the manager one of our best years since the 80"s could be on its way.

Somebody tell me I'm talking rubbish before I throw my name away with continuing this type of crazy talk!

IanRC added 15:26 - Jul 27
Likewise agree with much of what Nick says. In the interests of balance although KWP had a good game otherwise he played one howler of a pass that could have led to SU going two up. Much to look forward to, hope we get our transfer business done early although if Levy is involved seems unlikely.

Saintaxidriver added 15:31 - Jul 27
A similar situation to many of our games this season in particular since the restart. Lacklustre and dodgy defensively in the first half, bright and proactive in the second. Great to see Adams confidence growing and apart from Vestergaards lack of pace most of the team played well. Found the last few mins quite frustrating when we were doing tippy tappy at the back instead of lobbing it up front to try and get that extra goal for Ings. KWP and Salisu look like good buys and once all the loanees are sorted I think we might have a reasonable squad. Wonder what the odds are on doing a Leicester next season?

davidargyll added 16:57 - Jul 27
In the post- lock down table we are....
No more need be said.

redwight added 17:34 - Jul 27
Huge respect to Ralph. He seems heavily invested in the club and its plans for the future. We could be looking at one of the all time great Saints managers if he is as good as his word and stays the distance. Thanks to Nick for keeping the UI show on the road, for ignoring the criticism and sticking to his guns. IMHO he is right most of the time! Haven't felt so positive about the future in years. Onwards and upwards. COYR.

geecee added 00:51 - Jul 28
So we all agree that our central defensive positions need strengthening during the transfer window. Who should we make an offer for from the three relegated sides?

NewburySaint added 21:36 - Jul 28
SanMarco: That was exactly the 1 thing I noticed over all else in our final standings, other than our position & points total, the -9 goal difference-a symbolic reminder of 1 of the darkest days of our club but also, hopefully, the turning point in being more successful going forward.

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Letters from Wiltshire #09 by wessex_exile
Letters from Wiltshire #08 by wessex_exile
Lots of discussion this week on football forums, including here, on two subjects – the petition to lobby parliament to allow limited numbers of supporters back into football grounds, and of course the return of that old chestnut from Man City Chief Executive Ferran Soriano, introducing Premier League ‘B’ teams into the EFL. First off, I don’t mind admitting I’ve signed the petition ( https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/552036 ), as have 192,779 others at the time of writing, though I don’t actually think it’ll make any difference. I can completely understand why some do not think this is a good idea, as second-wave spikes of coronavirus infection pop up all over the country (mainly because – let’s face it – some people are dicks and can’t be trusted to sit the right way on a toilet). But to me, the two go hand in hand (not dicks and toilets) – whilst football clubs throughout the country struggle financially without spectators, we are always going to be under threat of this sort of ‘B’ team nonsense as a condition of financial support from the Premier League fat cats. They got their way in 2016 with the EFL trophy, who’s to say they won’t again when the financial squeeze really starts to tighten its grip without paying customers through the turnstiles? Robbie has featured prominently in this debate in recent weeks, and looks like he will again on Sky tomorrow if this tweet from Sophy Ridge is anything to go by -
Letters from Wiltshire #07 by wessex_exile

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