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Saints Still A Work In Progress !
Monday, 19th Oct 2020 09:07

The draw at Chelsea means that after two defeats at the Start Of The Premier League season, we have now gone three unbeaten, but there are still things to be sorted out in the squad and it should be noted that last season it all went pot at this point.

The draw at Chelsea had the good and bad of Saints, on one hand we were scintillating going forward, but on the other we were carved apart three times on the break in the centre of our defence.

Ralph Hasenhuttl will take heart that three members of his squad who might well play a big part going forward were not available for this game, Moussa Djenepo & Stuart Armstrong missing through injury & Mohammed Salisu not quite ready, he will though be pleased to have blooded another new signing in Ibrahima Diallo who came on in the dying minutes.

The Austrian will hope that Salisu will turn out to be a talent, but although he could well be just that, at just 21 and barely 40 games to his name before arriving at St Mary's, he will be looking for guidance at the start of his Premier League career.

The centre of defence is the main part of the team that is the work in progress, it is worrying that Saints did not deal with it in the transfer window or indeed windows, perhaps it is because they don't think it needs sorting out or perhaps it is because with the current financial issues caused by the Covid 19 situation, that it is something that they just didn't have the money to do.

I find that hard to believe in that we found the money for Theo Walcott, whilst no one will argue that that is bad business, the truth is we would have been better finding a player with a similar experience to Walcott who plays in the centre of defence.

But it is what it is and elsewhere in the team now the transfer window is shut we have to work with what we have got.

In goal we are alright, not great or Ok, just alright, both McCarthy & Forster have at times shown they are good keepers, but neither have done it with conviction or over a period of time for Saints in the past 3 years or so, but we can live with that for the time being.

In the full back positions we have two good options currently first choice and two deputy's who have shown they could be Premier quality in the future, we are fine there.

In midfield we are strong, in the centre we have two good defensive players in the rejuvenated Romeu and James Ward Prowse, we also have the likes of the versatile Will Smallbone who has shown promise.

Out wide we have a plethora of options and the good thing is that they all have different skills, Nathan Redmond is a tricky winger who can cause trouble for any defence, Theo Walcott has a combination of pace and experience, Djenepo has a raw talent that means that although he can become isolated if he doesn't have the ball, give him it and he can beat defenders and score goals, Stuart Armstrong is a grafter, he can work hard when you are on the back foot and offers guile more than pace.

We also have the option to play others as wide men in midfield, whether it is JWP, Will Smallbone, Jan Valery or latest youngster Nathan Tella.

Up front we are strong, Danny Ings and Che Adams are fast becoming one of the best partnerships outside of the Big Six,, add the experience of Shane Long who will do a job and the pace of Michael Obafemi, plus the ability of others to play up front, Theo Walcott being the most obvious, things are looking good.

Overall the squad has depth when you look at those with experience who can't get in the starting line up and the youngsters on the fringes, but the final two pieces of the jigsaw are still to be slotted in, we can finish in the top 10 this season, but the difference between doing that and ending up just outside again, will be the goalkeeper and the centre of defence.

Both areas at times were strong against Chelsea, but we conceded three goals and we really should not have.

We are going to have another rollercoaster ride for the moment, but it will be entertaining and hopefully it will continue to improve, Rome wasn't built in a day and neither was Liverpool, parallels can be drawn between Jurgen Klopp and Ralph Hasenhuttl, both are similar in style and manner, Ralph was not called Klopp of the Alps in Germany for nothing.

Klopp was not an instant hit as Anfield, Klopp joined Liverpool in October 2015 success was not immediate, at the end of his first season Liverpool languished in 8th place, two behind Saints, the following two years saw 4th, but that was not what Klopp was there for, he was there to bring back the trophies and title and in his first three & a quarter seasons the trophy cabinet was still barren.

But for Liverpool they knew that it was a work in progress and Klopp was slowly building up his squad, ok we didn't like it as his rebuilding plans included Virgil Van Dijk and Sadio Mane, but Klopp got patience from both his board and the fans and so we should have patience with Ralph Hasenhuttl.

Ralph cannot change things overnight but we are slowly but surely building foundations that will remain in place long after Hasenhuttl has left, that is why Saints kept faith with him a year ago after the Leicester debacle.

He is not perfect, our squad is not perfect and although he will continue in the same vein as Klopp, the reality is he won't have the same resources, but in relative terms he has the capability to truly rebuild the Southampton Way to the level it has not been since the late 1980's.

So we are a work in progress, there are still things that are not right, still areas that can be improved, but if we have patience then we might just have some nice surprises ahead of us, it is about keeping calm, staying loyal and realising that in Hasenhuttl we have a manager who is well suited to the club, let's support him !

Photo: Action Images



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WestSussexSaint added 09:43 - Oct 19
What team isn’t a work in progress? Every manager will always be looking to improve their squad, whether that is spending big to get a ready made player to slot straight into the first XI or to bring through youngsters from the academy or through “rough diamond” purchases.

I don’t think you can make direct comparisons with Koop as Liverpool have spent significant money over the last few years to back him. Ralph has a preference for player development and for a club with limited resources that is our business model. Just look at how Romeu, Adams, Vestergaard and even Stephens have come on since Ralph arrived. Let’s hope they and the rest of the squad continue to develop.
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wessexman added 10:08 - Oct 19
The issue of getting Walcot in at his age, yet ignoring the fact, AGAIN, we need an experienced centre half who can lead and guide our defense is baffling. This has now been an urgent problem since VvD decided his contract wasn't worth the paper it was written on. shipping stupid and needless goals will continue to haunt us until this problem is addressed, or at least taken seriously.
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arthurfane added 10:20 - Oct 19
I disagree with wessexman and Nick - Walcott is a smart signing in a position that was very much needed. Boufal's gone, our experienced options are Armstrong, Redmond and Djenepo (the latter has big injury problems, Tella good prospect but inexperienced). The number 10 role is a massive part of RH's system and we didn't have nearly enough strength in depth there, so Theo's a great signing.

In terms of 'using the money' to sign a CB, that money was £50k a week wages, no transfer fee - funds which were freed up with shifting of Hoedt, Boufal, Carillo etc. What options out there (for free) would people advocate signing? I for one think Vestergaard is coming good, Bednarek had a poor game against Chelsea but many defenders will struggle against the pace and movement of Werner this season. Salisu is a huge talent who has been dismissed as too inexperienced before he's played a game - Fofana is 19 at Leicester, Upamecano is 21 and one of the top CBs in the world - he'll likely come in soon and could well (I think he will...) be the solution at CB you crave.
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Chesham_Saint added 11:43 - Oct 19
If you check the reaction of Chelsea, Spurs and West Ham fans after this weekend’s results they are ALL demanding better CBs. Beyond them if you look at any team we beat you’ll see the same demands.

Almost every team would like better Centre Backs and we are no exception, trouble is they seem to be rare as rocking horse droppings,
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erick added 13:21 - Oct 19
I think the defense is abit naive not poor. They should be more aggressive by bullying opponents strikers. I think our main problem is the wide players, Armstrong is good not great. Redmond/Walcott/Djenepo still they lack that edge, it was Walcott's first game so I will give him time. But Redmond is outright poor currently. The next transfer window we should be looking to fix wide players not defense
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derbydog added 14:19 - Oct 19
Hard to see where Nick goes now for the rest of the season with his tactics becoming predictable, based on a dodgy goalkeeper and no experienced centre back. The dominant leader at the back, did Nick really suggest Martin Carceres at one point?!, might just be there with Vestergaard, 8 foot 3 with plenty of Euro experience and now playing with a bit of confidence. Not to mention in demand by other clubs it would seem. So, given a limited budget we now have three options on the left side, one being Bednarek who gets shifted over to the right when Stephens doesn’t play and two on the right. I thought our guys looked pretty good compared to Chelsea’s two. As well as Spurs, West Ham and Chelsea, Man U and now Liverpool without VVD don’t look that great at the back either.

Nick needs to accept that defences concede goals. If we are scoring freely that’s about all we can expect. If you draw up a league table based on playing budget it won’t look too different from the final league table, give or take an occasional Leicester or Sheffield U. That’s ultimately why Bournemouth got relegated and Leeds won’t. We will most likely have to accept our place, which is mid table give or take a couple of places.
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schatfield added 15:20 - Oct 19
Is this article just another excuse to have a dig at our defense again.....
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underweststand added 18:08 - Oct 19
Squads are in flux all the time. Although Ralph says he has his "best 11" that goes out of the door with injuries, Corona, loss of form etc. and the average contract time is 3-4 years.

Good centre-halves who can DAJFU come once every 4-6 years. Richards, Lundekvam, Svensson, Fonte, VvD but not too many more who stayed the course.
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IWOZTHERE added 12:43 - Oct 20
I rarely agree with Nick, but he is TOTALLY RIGHT in his criticism of our CBs. He should also include Ralph for not recognising it!
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