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Saints Gamble's Didn't Pay Off Against Manchester City
Monday, 21st Dec 2020 10:25

All football managers have to gamble at times, this was the case for Ralph Hasenhuttl against Manchester City on Saturday, but sadly it didn't pay off, but that doesn't mean he shouldn't have tried.

I am very loathe to criticise Ralph Hasenhuttl for two reasons, firstly of course there is the fact that in two years he has transformed us from a relegation threatened team into one once again competing for a top 10 place and secondly because all managers make mistakes from time to time.

His first gamble on Saturday was to play Danny Ings, I mentioned after the Sheffield United game that I thought that the striker should have been given a rest near the end of the game and that perhaps came home to roost when at Arsenal we had to leave Ings on the pitch as we tried to break down the Arsenal back eight.

So starting him against Manchester City by Ralph's own admission was a gamble, after 5 weeks out, it is asking a lot of any player, let alone one whose game relies heavily on work rate, to play 4 games in 14 days.

It was a gamble that failed and it is likely now that the player will be out until the New Year and will miss vital games against Fulham & West Ham, games which are more winnable than the game against City

Ralph in hindsight should have started Ings on the bench for the game on Saturday, but hindsight is a wonderful thing.

Having failed in his first gamble, the Austrian gambled again in his choice of replacement for Ings, on reflection it would have been easy to revert to our line up of the Ings injury period, push Walcott up as a striker and then bring on either Redmond or Armstrong as his replacement.

But we gambled again, Nathan Tella may have scored 4 goals in a B team game a few days earlier, but that is different from playing one of the best teams in the Premier League, Tella had a grand total of 40 minutes experience in the Premier League for Saints spread across 4 sub appearances 3 this season, it was throwing him in at the deep end to see if he could swim, I could understand if it was against Sheffield United at 1-0 up, but this was Man City at 1-0 down.

The second substitution was understandable, Redmond for Djenepo was a straight swap, some are quick to jump on Redmond's back, some did in St Mary's when he let a simple pass run under his boot on a couple of occasions earlier on, but truth is he holds his position better than Djenepo not only when attacking but when we have to defend, for me Djenepo is an impact player, last 20-25 minutes when you have to try and save the game, but in the first half against City we struggled to defend as he drifted inside two often leaving his full back double teamed by City.

The third change on 82 minutes was even more of a gamble than the first in that Ralph was either doing something really out of the box or at that point he wanted to ensure damage limitation either in the scoreline or injury list.

On came N'Lundulu meaning that we had another with limited Premier League experience to their name, in this case 8 minutes over 3 sub appearances.

This is no reflection on either Tella or N'Lundulu's abilities, they are still young, I am not going to write either off at this stage, they are learning their trade and both clearly have ability, some players make immediate impacts when they start making the first team, others take a little bit more time and improve as they get experience.

It was also a surprise that given Oriol Romeu had been booked and will miss the next game, that we didn't give his likely replacement Ibrahima Diallo a little run.

In my opinion playing Tella & N'Lundulu together meant that although both players did plenty of running and worked hard, they lacked the experience to make the right runs both to get the ball and also to create space for others, they chased the ball too much.

That meant in the last 10 minutes although we had plenty of the ball and our build up play was good, when we hit the final third we no longer looked like scoring, City handled it with ease and indeed too often in that last 10 minutes they won the ball too easily at the back and caught us on the counter attack, the 1-0 scoreline tells a story of a Saints team that for long periods matched Manchester City, but it does not tell the story of some woeful finishing where they could easily have punished us and won 3 or 4 nil.

But as I said football managers have to take gambles, sometimes they pay off and sometimes they don't, throwing on Tella & N'Lundulu was a gamble that didn't pay off but it will have told Ralph something going forward.

Against Fulham Ralph will have to gamble again, he has to replace Oriol Romeu who has arguably been our best player this season alongside James Ward Prowse and a pre injury Danny Ings.

Whatever he decides to do will be a gamble, if he does the obvious then as mentioned above he will play Ibrahima Diallo and a player who has barely played himself, he at least does some experience for Stade Brest in France, but since joining Saints he has made just 6 sub appearances for a total of 24 minutes, literally all of them have been in the final couple of minutes to run down the clock, this is not good preparation to be thrown into the deep end at Fulham, where he will be judged against two ex Saints in Harrison Reed and Mario Lemina.

This won't be the last gamble that Ralph Hasenhuttl will take, he like every other football manager has to gamble every week on something or other and it won't be the last time he gets it wrong, again he won't be alone there either.

Photo: Action Images

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IanRC added 10:42 - Dec 21
The rush of fixtures at this time of the year makes gambles of this type inevitable for a club of our size. Not so much of an issue for the cheque book clubs or those that take government (our) money to fund loan transactions - despite what Klopp says

saintmark1976 added 11:11 - Dec 21
I’ve pointed it consistently, the obvious weakness in Ralph’s abilities is his use of and timing of substitutions. Ings should have been brought straight off at Villa when we were four goals to the good with twenty five minutes to play. On Saturday, Long should have replaced Ings not an untried player with no proper Premiership experience. If Ralph wants to “blood” the younger players then the time to do it is against poorer teams and certainly not against Man City who are one of the best outfits in world football.

There is a difference between a calculated and a reckless gamble Nick. For reasons best known to himself Ralph consistently appears to like the latter of the two.

Colburn added 11:34 - Dec 21
Redmond is better than Djenepo is he? Utter garbage! The reason Djenepo gets picked ahead of Redmond is because he understands the philosophy better, covers better defensively and has more ability on the ball.. You keep on and on about Redmond, he can't do wrong in your eyes but he is now a weak link in a starting eleven and his attitude is wrong. He just doesn't seem to 'get it'. But of course you can't see this. Still think Hoedt is better than Vestergaard? Yes hindsight is a wonderful thing. We got it wrong against the ten man Arsenal but you can't knock Ralph for this game, I thought we were magnificent considering the opposition and gave vital experience to Tella and N'Lundulu, who will both be needed before the season is out. And they both did OK, Tella's cross was a whisker away from creating an equaliser. Even this young lad is better than Redmond already at understanding the way we play. Redmond still has wonderful potential but the team has moved forward and he has stood still.

TeamCortese added 11:38 - Dec 21
In hindsight, this is the sort of match where Hasenhuttl should have used his fringe players and really got an idea of whether they're up to the task in filling in for the rest of the season--especially if key players get injured! Furthermore, it puts more pressure on the board and Gao to invest in January to further highlight the lack of the quality of depth in the squad.

If I were Ralph, I would have started with the following line-up against Man City:

GK: Forster

Defence: KWP, Salisu, Stephens, Bertrand

Midfield: Djenepo, Diallo, JWP, Redmond

Upfront: Walcott and N'Lundulu

This would have kept our players fresh for West Ham and Fulham (which are very winnable fixtures) and given him the option to change things in the second half if it looked winnable.

Instead, he's played a full-strength team with Ings now injured again and we lost 1-0 anyway. Hopefully, the players will be fresh for Fulham but, nonetheless, I'd rather see Ing's injured having helped us with wins over 2-matches than lose him for the entirety of Christmas and NY period.

Hopefully, this doesn't come back to bite us!

In terms of the match, I was very pleased with our performance. It was very surprising the level of respect City gave to us. However, I agree with Nick regarding the subs. This sort of match was way beyond Tella's level and, for me, Walcott should have gone up front with Adams.

Regardless, we gave a great account of ourselves and many clubs will play against City with much worse results.

I also want to highlight that our left-back position needs more depth.

I don't think Bertrand is as hungry as he used to be. I'm not convinced by Brandon Williams as he isn't naturally left-footed but, as a temporary solution, he could push Bertrand for the rest of the season.

We march on!

underweststand added 11:50 - Dec 21
Hindsight is wonderful - isn't it . What would we have said if Ings hadn't been picked at all -against one of the bestsides in Europe, and started with Long or N'Lundulu instead ?.

Since returning Danny had 2½ games - scored a penalty and was charging around like a bull in the Arsenal games - and even got himself a yellow for his efforts.
IMHO -it was right to leave out Armstrong who despite his efforts ON the ball, often "went missing" in the last 2 games and wasn't upto his early season (pre covid) form, and much the same comment about Redmond. Djenepo didn't have his best game either, but how will he progress if he doesn't measure himself against teams like City?

We can't boast about our new signings . or academy talents without giving them a chance and when one down to a side like City, you have to take chances. Tella and N'Lundulu rely on "youthful enthusiasm " rather then CL experience and our record of young players doesn't produce an Alan Shearer's in their first game, although Theo Walcott looks almost as sharp as he did in his first sub.app. ...way back when.

YES - it was a chance but based on recent apps. no-one (except Ralph) would have dared to drop Ings from the start side - especially against a side like City. Most of us declared in our verdict(s) that we put up a good show -even after Danny left the field, and there won't be too many sides who "only get away with a 0-1 defeat" against this City outfit,
and Che Adams was also on a hiding to nothing without Danny to play alongside.


SanMarco added 11:59 - Dec 21
I thought the 'gamble' to play Ings was understandable - we weren't going to have many chances so dropping the one player we have who has a high conversion rate would have had many moaning. Obviously, with hindsight..., but you don't have hindsight when making those decisions.

The substitutions were odd. Long for Ings would have made more sense - then bring on one of the youngsters towards the end. The fact that Redmond made three quick mistakes when coming on does not mean that the substitution was wrong (remember: if you think Redmond is rubbish then you are going to oppose him coming on in all circumstances). I think however that Djnepo was playing alright and when Romeau gazed up at the inevitable in the second half I would have swapped him for Diallo, both to avoid danger of red and to give him a bit of game time before Fulham.

Reading some comments since the final whistle I have got the impression that some saw defeat as inevitable (so therefore 'rest' players for the 'winnable' games). That's not true in my opinion - City are not on top form and if we had been given the dead-cert penalty or Adams had scored that sitter header he totally missed things could have been very different.

Happy Christmas everyone. Look forward to 'seeing' you all again on Boxing Day - hopefully to celebrate three more points!!!

SaintNick added 12:26 - Dec 21
Colburn, Im giving a personal reply as the hatred at Redmond just because I had dared to say I think it was the right move and he keeps his shape better is puzzling, why do you hate one of our own players ?

I gave a fair reason as to why I think it was a good move and why I think Djenepo is better coming on in the last 20-25 minutes I don't hurl abuse at Djenepo because I think he isn't a great player, I see his value for what it is, I could see why he starts against certain teams, but defensively he is not great despite what you say, take a look at hi positioning as I did Saturday and he may chase back, but he is usually out of position. Take a look at City's goal, Bertrand gets double teamed and they get a cross in from the right, Djenepo was chasing back but not where he should have been.

You are stlll going on about Hoedt who hasn't played in two years, yes in the only comparison we have Hoedt was better than Vestergaard, in fact 4 months ago you would find it hard to find anyone who would not have offered to drive Vestergaard to a new club, what it does show is that if you give a player a chance, stay off his back and allow him to take it, what can be achieved.

I'm sorry Nathan Tella may become a legend for Saints, but at the moment one decent cross doesn't mean he better understands the way we play anymore than Redmond's goal against Sheffield United meant that he has got our philosophy off to a tee.

They are all Saints players, give opinions as to why you think one is better than another one, but it saddens me to see such hatred even against players who havent played in two years

DorsetIan added 12:30 - Dec 21
Armstrong has looked out of sorts in recent games, and Long has been disappointing when he's come on. I don't therefore have any problem with Redmond, Tella and N'Lundulu being on at the end. Redmond, unfortunately, made mistakes earlier on which knocked him. The other two were OK - they worked hard against very good defenders. It was never going to be easy to score against City, whoever we had on the pitch.

As for Djenepo being better that Redmond. That's the most ridiculous thing I've read on here in a long time. Redmond is a good player. Djenepo is not in control of what he's doing and is really barely adequate at this level. (And I think the other players know it too. Bertrand seems frustrated by the fact that Djenepo seems to have no idea how to link up with him, and I noticed another player on Saturday about to pass to Djenepo but then think better of it.)

SanMarco added 13:22 - Dec 21
On the Djenepo - Redmond comparison. Part of the way we 'judge' players is what we see their role as. It is no fault of Redmond's that he was compared to Thierry Henry or that he was seen by some as a replacement for Mane. From the start we have seen Redmond as a major player and views on him reflect that. Djenepo feels to me to be a rather eccentric player more in the Boufal type mode, certainly not one I see as having a major role in moving the club nearer the 'glass ceiling'. Redmond, over several years, has not been as consistently good as we need him to be, Djenepo, in my subjective opinion, will only ever be a bit part player who will score the odd good goal and do the odd impressive thing. I would, of course, be abslutely delighted to be proved wrong on that!!

DorsetIan added 15:20 - Dec 21
Perhaps a better comparison is Djenepo with Walker-Peters, who is about a year older.

Walker-Peters is amazingly comfortable on the ball, he has the ability to hold onto it turn away from an opponent and then turn again beating him. He can carry the ball forward, he can find a sensible pass and his tackles are deliberate and thought out. His football skill buys him time. He looks like a really good footballer.

With Djenepo, absolutely everything seems rushed and although he seems to be able to beat a player with a piece of skill over a 10 yards or so, he is relying entirely on surprise and speed. When it works it's good but most of the time it is ineffective and sometimes very rash. It looks like he should be playing a different version of the game - 5-a-side maybe or what's that one where you're in a cage and have to get it through someone's legs? And the sadness of it all is that this was the same sort of the issue with Boufal and Djenepo is clearly not in Boufal's class when it comes to close control skill.

I try to give Djenepo the benefit of the doubt because he is only 22 and Ralph rates him enough to keep picking him, but at the moment I think he is a long way short of being a good footballer at this level.

Jesus_02 added 15:27 - Dec 21
In hindsight Ralph should have gambled more against Arsenal and less against Man City!

Oh and Djenepo is the next Mane. Towards the end of the season he will be slotting then in like a machine.

I know this because I'm a direct descendent of Nostradamus .

In all honesty I'm just over the moon that we are grumbling about not getting better results about two giants of teams that are both below us in the table .

davidargyll added 07:54 - Dec 22
Poor old Ralph he’s damned if he does and damned if he doesn’t.
Let’s look to the future positively, pur-lease.
Whatever the rights and wrongs of playing Danny and or OR last week, the fact is we now have to see what some others can really do.
I for one am really rather excited by this.
Yes of course Tella, Diablo, et al might make a huge balls up of iit and we get stuffed by Fulham, but on the other hand maybe they won’t.
All I can say is thank God a lot of the bloggers on here aren’t the manager, and yes I do include myself!
RH does things as he sees them at the time in terms of starting line-ups, substitutions etc, and I for one think he DOES make good decisions. Some will go right, some won’t. But that’s the point of a good manager, the ability to be decisive.

bornonthemiltonroad added 09:52 - Dec 22
You pick your best team until you can’t, then you pick your second best team until you can’t, then your third. Before you know it you’re picking your best team again!!!

Waylander added 11:51 - Dec 22
Diallo will not be judged against two ex-Saints. Lemina cannot play against us as he is still our player.

Peterx added 18:18 - Dec 22
Ecstatic that RH is Saints Manager.

Cant reconcile though him starting Che and Obafemi against Chelsea last season over the busy period when neither where first choice . In hindsight an inspired move that worked.

But then not resting Ings for City a couple of games after coming back from injury over an intense period.

Just seems inconsistent, and also our management of injuries has been one of the aspects of the Saints game that has been exemplary, but we took this risk. Easy to say in hindsight but I don't get it. It goes against our tried and tested processes.

I would like to see Redmond and Armstrong start Saturday with Theo and Che upfront. Djenepo to come on for the last 25 to 30.

I would also like to see more of Shane Long who had a good run of games for us last year and who I think has a lot to offer with his pace and his headers.

Tella and Ndululu look like good prospects, but lets see how they perform from the subs bench first.

The secret of our success in my opinion since Arsenal last year has been consistency of shape and selection, lets get the youngsters in but for cameo roles first.

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