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Difficult Times For Saints ! But Not Disastrous
Tuesday, 16th Feb 2021 10:24

No one can deny we are in a bad run at present, Southampton FC have never in their history lost 6 straight League games and it might be 7, but there are mitigating circumstances including injury, VAR suspensions and the general state of football in the pandemic, but we can get through this.

The vultures are circling with every footballer and want to be pundit whose names you had long forgotten, being rolled out across the media to try and create a headline, but the truth is this is a difficult time but not a disaster.

Yes we would have preferred to not have lost the last half dozen in the League, but we have to move forward and not backward.

Ralph Hasenhuttl is the man for the job, he will make mistakes, every manager does, but when I look across the Premier League I see few managers who consider that they are in a work in progress project and not just a short term job.

I would not change Ralph for any other manager in the Premier League, of course there are several more successful, but they have won trophies due to having the money to buy big and we cannot compete financially, it is not as simple as just spending £100 million on transfers and you are in the Top 4 and Champions League, ask Everton they have done that every summer for the last 6 years and have achieved no more than Saints in that time.

We are better off now than we were at the same stage in terms of games played last season, but back then we were already out of the FA Cup.

We will need a good run going forward to force our way back into the top 7, but it can be done and a realistic target for the season is still top 10 and getting to a cup final and that is the achievable target that we should be looking at as a club.

The owner and the board have come in for some stick from some sections of the fanbase and yes it is disappointing that after topping the League and being in 4th place 7 games ago, we now find ourselves slipping down the table, but we can look at the situation and see the reasons why that has happened, if we had been beaten at Old Trafford with a full team out and a bench full of experience, then yes we should be worried, but that was not the case, we should not dwell on it and move forward.

We have seen the big city lights and are now back in the sticks so to speak and that makes our situation feel worse than it is.

But the signs of recovery are there and we have a good foundation that can be built upon both in the final third of this season and going forward into next.

All that counts now is what happens next, I go to football to hope that we will win the next game and the one after that and so on and that at some point it will all fall into place and we find ourselves at Wembley challenging for a trophy.

Once the final whistle goes in a game it is the last game and not the next and it is only the next game that counts.

We as supporters have to ignore the detractors and concentrate on what the club is trying to achieve, we need to get our pride back, create a siege mentality and see how the club has improved over the last three years.

Back in 2018 after 23 games we had 21 points and were only a single point off the bottom 3, it was hard to see hope, but our spirit eventually pulled us through.

Spirit though is not enough, Mark Hughes was never interested in Saints it was just a chance to earn a few quid, but with Ralph it is different, we now have a team to be proud of, the only problem is that half of it is currently out injured.

So it the word of the old slogan we just have to "Keep calm And Carry On" our luck will change and this season might just turn out to be a great one !

Photo: Action Images



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felly1 added 10:39 - Feb 16
The biggest issue that Ralph has to deal with is our inability to hold onto leads.
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Centurion added 11:10 - Feb 16
We need to get mean and nasty.
We are in a good position but any complacency should have been erased by now.
Lets get the 10 points needed for absolute safety first. If that means packing the defence and grinding out results so be it.
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sandywelsh added 11:55 - Feb 16
Ralph Hasenhuttl might be the man for the job but
1/ He does not have a plan B.
2/He has his favorite players who dont get dropped when playing badly.
3/He has the team playing tippy tappy football going sideways and backwards even when we are losing.
4/His substitutions are either to late or wrong. On Sunday he took off Armstrong when we where losing. Armstrong is the only creative player we have at present unlike Djenepo and Redmond who both flatter to deceive.
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Sadoldgit added 12:06 - Feb 16
Pragmatic and sensible as always Nick, but for some losing a football match is the biggest sin you can make and they aren’t interested in the bigger picture. The club were right to stick with Ralph last season and they should stick by him now. He is doing a difficult job in difficult circumstances but we have seen what he can do and he should be allowed to carry on with the project. We stuck with a manager in the 70’s and that paid dividends. We have a quality manager again and need to stick with him. Changing managers every five minutes hasn’t worked. Time show show a bit of faith in someone who has shown he is deserving of it.
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SanMarco added 12:14 - Feb 16
Any one else looking in the rear-view mirror at Fulham? There is a perfectly plausible scenario that has them only about 4 or 5 pts behind us in three games time.

I think issues of ownership of the club are very important and some will plough in to attack Nick for being pro-Gao. I genuinely don't know about that, I have objections on human rights issues, but is Gao worse than what we've had since the Sky neo-liberalisation of football in early 90s?? I don't know.

To me the immediate point (barring the fiasco of VAR and handball rule) is that we look like a 'nearly' team. Better than Koeman side at its best when going forward but without enough up front to score the goals. We were at our best in the first half vs Wolves but led 1-0, Koeman's at their best would have scored more, unless very unlucky. Secondly, we still have defensive problems and thirdly what I have come to think of as the " thin squad vs Ralph's tactics" dilemma. Ralph undoubtedly asks a lot of the players and that seems to lead to fading and injuries. We clearly haven't got the cover needed to have a strong bench (needed for the fading) or to bring in players due to injuries/fatigue.

And finally, linked to the fading/tiring is tactical flexibility. Opposing teams know what we will do for 90 mins and can be confident we will fade. Wolves' conservatism in the first half was intentional. We need the fabled 'Plan B' - Arsenal's winner against us and the Man C goal vs Spuds the other day came from a long hoof down field by the keeper. Adapt and survive - the next '9' fiasco may be defeats in a row - none of the next three are at all easy.
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ElijahK added 13:21 - Feb 16
Look nothings going to change whilst we have a squad this thin! I mean that’s what’s caused our drop as our first major drop off in form was after Ings got injured as before then we’d had practically no injuries, whilst recently we’ve almost had half the team injured! This has lead to us having mainly youth players on the bench and 2 GOALIES! In the end this is simply down to bad luck, but could have easily been avoided/solved by getting who we needed in January, but seeing that Gao’s here we didn’t!

I mean yeah Ralph doesn’t have a plan B and isn’t the greatest with his subs, but at the same time when you’ve got nobody to bring on and have a very limited number of players to choose from, what do you expect!? I mean honestly other than the fact we’ve lost 6 back to back and that 9-0, I’m not too angry with Ralph as in the end whilst we’ve still got Gao running the club like a clown, we’re not going to get/achieve anything!
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DellBoyWally added 13:22 - Feb 16
Recalling (even with fading memory!!) games against Merthyr Tydfil and such in Third Division South I find even a difficult top division season a bonus! All those years as a lower-division side until 1965/66....spending 2 or 3 thousand pounds on a player and being accused of wastefulness, and having a negative outlook for selling our best players!!!
Nothing new in the world folks. Heck, we even had our pandemic back in '57. And before that we had rationing!!
Be thankful for what you have. And support your clab
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davidargyll added 13:23 - Feb 16
I’d really love to know what people actually mean by (a lack of) a plan B. After we go one up, bring on three subs and play 10 at the back? Because when you really think about it it’s a nonsensical idea: shutting up shop with 5 minutes may be just about viable, but 45 minutes or more? forget it. We play the way we play and it’s hard enough getting consistency playing our type of football, let alone suddenly deciding to change it in the middle of a match. It’s really asking the impossible and I defy anyone to name another team who has a plan B; such a concept only really exists in the minds of fans.
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mattlegod added 13:29 - Feb 16
Good article, couldn't agree more.

At the start of the season much was said about top 10 being the target for the season, well we are still on for that. Exceptional circumstances have led to our recent dip in form, in over 40 years of supporting Saints I have never known us to have such horrendous injury list.

There's a couple of things for me that I'd like to see.. keep Armstrong on the right, that's where he is most affective. Only play Djenepo when we are in a positive position in a game, not when we are chasing a game, simply put he is not a game changer. I would pick Tella before Djenepo.
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DellBoyWally added 13:29 - Feb 16
A simple question: would you rather be moderately successful in the PL with Goa or facing bankruptcy, relegation and points deduction due to financial profligacy in the third or fourth tier as we were not so long back?
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saintmark1976 added 13:36 - Feb 16
I completely agree with the points that you make in your list sandywelsh. Your list could easily be used as evidence as to why Ralph is in fact not the man for the job.

My biggest concerns are that he doesn’t appear to learn from his mistakes together with his slavish desire to want to play “ high press” football against all opponents at all times, which to me shows a lack of tactical awareness. He needs to very quickly prove that he can make us difficult to beat rather than the soft touch that the opposition currently see in front of them. Put simply, he must provide evidence by way of improved results that he is more than a “one trick pony”.
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SaintPaulVW added 13:38 - Feb 16
I've been giving it some thought over the last few days. I am just as fed up with the league results as everyone else. However as some have said before the games, I would have traded those losses for our cup success. So I think I have to live with my Faustian bargain!

Looking at what could be changed quickly, Owners and players can't, VAR and refs decisions are out of our control. I do believe that Ralph needs more support, or needs to accept more support. It is his final decision how the team plays but good assistants should be giving him good alternatives to select from. The inability to adapt quickly during the MU and Newcastle games suggest either poor advice or poor choice. Similarly the recent poor substitutions and slowness to adapt against Wolves.

Whatever the problems are hopefully we can turn a corner soon.






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SanMarco added 14:02 - Feb 16
If my may try to answer David on 'Plan B'. I suppose it just means something different to 'Plan A'. Parking the bus should be 'Plan C' e.g. vs the Manchesters at home last season. I think Plan B would have someone staying up the field as an outlet and a more direct approach - worked for Bobby Stokes in '76. I fully agree that Plan B is difficult due to personnel (No Pelle style front manetc ) but in the end Ralph is there to win football matches and you need more than one plan to do that (unless you can spend billions - or you take the one-dimensional Fat Sam approach to staying up, and that's not working for WBA.) Modifying Plan A to be more flexible is probably in there somewhere too. Not easy being Ralph at the moment but he takes the credit when we are doing well, so.............
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WestSussexSaint added 14:12 - Feb 16
David, you ask what Plan B would look like. It is more subtle than the options you suggest. It’s about reading of and the momentum in the game.

Saints stick to the high press regardless on what else is going on. If we score early in the first half and have the momentum then I would like to see us going full blooded for the second and third goals. We seem to believe that one goal is a good outcome but that leaves us open to one lucky break for the opposition as we saw on Sunday.

Equally the high press is designed to disrupt teams but it does allow teams the opportunity to get in behind us and leave our defence exposed. Right now their confidence is fragile so I would like to see the press used a little more sparingly depending on the match situation. Sometimes nil-nil is an okay position to be in for 3/4 of the match and then go for it in the final quarter.

It is for Ralph and the coaches to decide when to employ the right tactics but I’m not sure they are reading it correctly at the moment.
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Foreverred added 15:18 - Feb 16
It’s only a matter of time and our luck will change, pre Christmas we were a top six club,
Then our luck change a combination of injuries, and bad decisions going against us, then all of a sudden we have lost six on the bounce. Apart from the disaster of old Trafford and arsenal at home, we have been unlucky not to have picked up points against villa home Newcastle away wolves home ,all games we should have come away with something the performances deserved.although the record of defeats looks poor another eleven points Makes us safe, I believe a mid table position is still achievable .
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redwight added 16:30 - Feb 16
The most obvious plan B, which others have mentioned in general comment, is to give the tippy tappy a miss and hit it long. Not all the time, but just occasionally. At least this would ask a few more questions of the opposition who wouldn't then know what they need to set up against, as they do now. I see no reason why Adams couldn't play the role of Pelle, San Marco.
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Consigliere added 17:39 - Feb 16
What I really love about this site is talking football with fans who know what a Faustian bargain is! Well spoken St Paul!
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davidargyll added 17:45 - Feb 16
SanMarco, I see what you are driving at but I just don’t think it would work, even if we did have the talent; just look at the balls-ups that Liverpool are making when they’ve had to change shape and I think we’d all agree they’ve have a rather deeper squad than us.
And WestSussexSaint, you’ve got it in one, reading the game and making subtle changes is what’s called for in a perfect world, but again I just don’t think many (if any) teams outside the top four have got such an ability.
So OK, therefore it’s down to Ralph to see, to watch and to adapt. But my whole point is that he coaches the boys to play in a certain style, to be in this position, to run into that channel etc. But if he then tries to get them to do something different I’m sorry but I guarantee you’ll end up with another 9-0 on your hands. (Come to think of it, wasn’t playing players in positions they weren’t used to part of, if not the whole reason, for the Leicester debacle?).
But if he does do as you suggest from say halftime, ie don’t go so hard on the high press, I’m pretty sure we’ll end up playing the boring type of football we played before he arrived, ie uncertainty, zero confidence and passing the ball backwards all the time. Why? Because the players simply won’t know when to press and when not to.
No, the club has bought into his system, right or wrong, and I’m afraid we are stuck with it; you can’t play a halfway high press game, it’s either all in or not at all.
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sfcsuperfan added 17:53 - Feb 16
We have had some tough fixtures and with too many injuries it was always going to be hard to pick up points. Add to this unfair VAR decisions going against us ! This is a blip the team has been great to watch this season and with a full team were picking up points as a top 6 side. I love Ralph and have every faith in him and the team to get back to winning ways. Disappointed that Che was dropped as he puts in a real shift and was forming a good partnership with Ings , he has set up numerous chances for this teammates and holds the ball up well with his strength. His goals will come. Putting Redmond up top was a mistake in my opinion as his final ball is often lacking . Surprised that Ralph took off Armstrong v wolves as his running with the ball and eye for goal has been great. One area I would try improve on is to move the ball quicker and that starts with the goalkeeper, a quick throw can take out several opponents , rather than wait for a solid bank of 10 to try and get through. Mix up the options a bit to keep the opposition guessing . Keep up the good work and get back to winning ways.
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Colburn added 22:21 - Feb 16
Once the momentum swings toward the oppo in any game we play, the game is gone.. We have this habit of changing tactics when one up rather than seizing the moment and killing off a game, getting to a good crossing position by the oppo box and then passing it back to our centre backs via JWP and Romeu. We have to learn quickly that as soon as we begin to think of possession ahead of goals, then the oppo senses the chance to seize the initiative and as soon as they get one goal, we collapse. This started in the Man U home game when Ralph bottled it somewhat and tried to outpass Utd in our own half for 45 mins. No balls up the channel or inside forward positions for Che etc and we effectively told Utd that we don't want to hurt them anymore this game and we all saw the outcome. Since then Ralph has employed the same tactics but teams have sussed this out and know how to beat us. The lack of plan B does make sense to me, we try to play keep ball against good sides in half a pitch when we should look for a plan B like a more direct approach or the channels. It doesn't mean we have to attack in numbers but you simply have to maintain a threat to your oppo. It may work some games avoiding attacking when playing poor teams or those in poor form but more often than not our tactics when leading are detrimental to the end result and we keep making the same mistake. I think much of it is down to Ralph trying to win games with minimal energy exertion so he can play the same team each game with little rotation which in turn upsets those not getting a chance and when they do they get injured or are not sharp enough. Sadly I think our plan and approach to the season has not worked in the league.
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sidsaint added 23:21 - Feb 16
I think we should have stuck to the old and tried maxim of always having 2 players for each position. This was abandoned in the January transfer window, although we did try to strengthen the defence but targets preferred to go elsewhere.. I also felt that it was an embarrassment for a premier league club to have 2 goalkeepers on the subs bench. However I think Ralph will be flexible and try and shore up the defence even if it means playing ugly to get a few points to restore confidence. Premiership games are always difficult as clubs seem to be having good as well as bad spells e.g Palace as well as ourselves are suffering at the moment whilst Burnley are on a good run. Our time will come and maybe when we don't expect it. Keep the faith!
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SanMarco added 14:29 - Feb 17
David's " I’m pretty sure we’ll end up playing the boring type of football we played before he arrived" gets to the very heart of all this. Fans like us always want to 'have our cake and eat it.' If I dare to sum up the discussion it is that Ralph needs to coach a Plan A and a half into the players. My fear for Saturday is that Chelsea know exactly how we will play and they know our RB will be either out-of-position or very inexperienced. I stiil couldn't define exactly what than Plan A and a half is mind...
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underweststand added 15:24 - Feb 17
Looking back half-a-dozen games, it seems that we don't have such a problem scoring goals, just getting VAR to approve them. The handball situations, and having players scoring goals but with sleeves that are off side hasn't helped, not has the discrepancy in verdicts on the decisions made on the pitch, or at Stockley Park ..are then being laughed off by the media pundits as wrong / stupid /ridiculous, not to mention the small band of " former referees" (some of whom now appear to being " closing ranks" against us) and dismissing our complaints in order to " protect their integrity ". The most recent referee comment about Bertrand's " wrong body position " is typical.
"Face the kicker, keep your arms at your side" and let the ball hit you in the face at 80 mph. instead. NONSENSE.

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Letters from Wiltshire #35 by wessex_exile
Letters from Wiltshire #34 by wessex_exile
Letters from Wiltshire #33 by wessex_exile
Letters from Wiltshire #32 by wessex_exile
Fifty years ago yesterday, Colchester United of the 4th Division pulled off the greatest cup giant-killing ever, beating 1st Division Leeds United 3-2 at Layer Road. Watched by 16,000, and the Match of the Day cameras, Dick Graham’s U’s, a rag-tag band of mostly aging journeymen, defied the odds to defeat arguably the greatest club side in Europe at the time. “The greatest cup giant-killing ever” is a bold claim, and over the years various football magazines and websites have run their own polls of which was the greatest. Whilst that day at Layer Rd always features, as the years have gone by other feats fresher in the memory have been put forward as a candidate – we probably all remember Ronnie Radford’s screamer against Newcastle, Sutton’s exploits, or even Bradford City quite recently at Stamford Bridge – but these pale into insignificance when you pause to reflect on the Don Revie side that we beat that day. Sprake, Cooper, Charlton, Hunter, Lorimer, Giles etc – all full internationals, all household names – the only one missing was Billy Bremner, and that was because he was injured. By comparison, all we had to offer was Ray Crawford – at his peak arguably on a par with some in the Leeds side, but that peak had been ten years earlier playing for Ipswich and England. Eleven heroes didn’t just try and hold out against Leeds United, they took the game to their illustrious opponents with such tenacity, grit and no small amount of flair, and before we knew it, the U’s were 3-0 in the lead. As legs tired, Leeds got back into the game with goals from Hunter and Giles, but we held firm – typified at the death by Graham Smith pulling off an impossible save to ensure the U’s achieved the greatest cup giant-killing ever!
Letters from Wiltshire #31 by wessex_exile
And so the dust settles on another transfer window closing, and despite (my) expectations that the possibility of incoming business was going to be remote, we have instead seen a veritable flurry of activity, with no less than three coming in. Big Frank Nouble, making a very welcome return on loan from Plymouth Argyle, of course needs no introduction. Neither really does feisty Brendan Sarpong-Wiredu, here on loan last season, and this time signed full-time from Charlton Athletic for an undisclosed fee. Actually paying hard cash for someone did come as a surprise, presumably offset by the sale of Cohen Bramall to Lincoln for a similarly undisclosed fee. However, the fact that the Addicks have insisted on not only a sell-on clause, but a rarely used buy-back clause too, suggests (a) Wiredu’s signing fee probably wasn’t too high, and (b) Charlton are protecting those finances with these clauses. The last one, which would have been a complete surprise for me were it not for a contact leaking me the news earlier yesterday, is left-back Josh Doherty on loan from Crawley. Josh was only announced once outgoing left-back Bramall was confirmed, and presumably his loan is directly related to part-time fashion model, TV and radio celeb and former left-back Mark Wright signing for Crawley on a non-contract game-by-game basis in December. We have also released seven from the academy, Ollie Kensdale, Miquel Scarlett, Sammie McLeod, Michael Fernandes, Ollie Sims, Danny Collinge and Matt Weaire, and I’m sure we all wish them the best for the future.

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