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Saints Can Now Get Back To Winning Ways And Make This A Good Season
Monday, 22nd Feb 2021 11:11

Saints have just come though one of the worst losing spells of their history, but there have been mitigating circumstances and that is the key parts of why we can now start to move forward again.

Losing six straight League games was not something we like to see, many will say it is the worst losing spell of our history and it terms of straight defeats it certainly is, but back in the 1990's we went through far worse spells.

Back in 1988/89 we went 15 league games without a win, losing 9 and drawing 6, although the worst losing run was only 5 games.

Another bad season was the start of 1993/94 when we lost 9 out of our first 11 game, we won the 4th and drew the 10th so never had more than 4 straight defeats in a row, but that is what I call a losing streak.

Dave Jones final season in charge in 1998/99 started off with 5 straight Premier league defeats and we achieved only a single point in the first 8 games, out of the first 17 games we managed only 2 wins and 10 points, Dave Jones will whinge about the way he was stood down as Saints manager that season due to his impending court case, but the record books will tell you exactly why he needed replacing.

So for us old campaigners, this 6 match losing streak is an unwanted record, but in the grand scheme of things means nothing.

But a look back at those seasons shows a marked difference between the situation then and now.

Back then we were getting beat with our full side, yes of course we might have had the odd injury every now and then, but essentially it was our full side out week in week out, that of course was very worrying and hard to see a way out of it in any of those seasons.

But this season is different, not only because of the current situation, but because the injury streak was not our full squad getting beaten week in week out, but a squad ravaged by injury and to a lesser extent suspension.

There are mitigating circumstances as to why we have been beaten including VAR decisions that were plainly wrong and of course just plain bad luck.

But we will get people back from injury, we will get the luck of the call from VAR at some stage and we will get just some plain old good luck at some point.

In that run though the spirit was always there, perhaps you could say that it wasn't so present at the Manchester United game, but even in that game just as we had dug in and were making a game of it, there then came a hammer blow to knock the stuffing out of us, not once but twice.

The good news was that the Chelsea game showed that the fight and spirit is still there, we are not a bad team, we are just one with a lot of issues beyond our control of late.

Some fans have accused Ralph Hasenhuttl of not having a plan B, that is wrong, he has plenty of plan B's but with so many injuries he hasn't had the personnel to implement them, when you are throwing on an untried teenager because that is all you have, then you have to keep your shape and formation that the side know, you can't revert to plan B's.

We are not out of the woods yet, on Saturday we had 6 experienced players out through injury, that is not going to get much better in the next few weeks, but hopefully by the time we travel to Bournemouth in the FA Cup we will have at least 3 of those injured back in the squad and fit again.

There is still a lot to play for this season, I read so much negativity on some social media platforms of late I wonder why these people bother following Saints, at the start of every season I don't go into it thinking we will win the title, I'm not naive enough to think if we spend £100 million it wll automatically get us into the top 6, I look around and see that even after the Big Six there are at least 5 clubs with bigger support and resources than Saints.

Football is not just as simple as throwing money at a problem, if it was then the League would follow a simple patter each and every season, so that means for Saints we have to try and compete on a level we can, not one that we can't.

Our success over the past 7 years and it has been success, aside from the aforementioned Big Six, few other clubs have been as consistent as us in that time, has been built on the Southampton Way, that means finding those with talent who are under the radar and have a hunger to succeed, improving them, using them to get us up the table and then repeating the process.

Saints current side is built on the likes of Stuart Armstrong, Jan Bednarek even Kyle Walker Peters and Che Adams, yes it is topped off by Danny Ings, but when we stick to what we do best we do well, when we try to buy our way to the top we go wrong.

So at this moment in time this season is going in the right direction, of course that losing run has set us back, but we are still only 6 points off the top 8 and we have a good chance of reaching the FA Cup semi finals.

Of course it is disappointing that we are not still in the top 10, but a win at Leeds would put us on the cusp and that is encouraging and an indication that at this stage of the season league positions mean nothing, it is how far you are away from what you are trying to achieve.

For me I think that par position in any season is probably 12th, there are the Big Six clubs and then sx others including Leicester, Everton etc who all have greater resources than us, so if we are going to base our potential on how much money is spent, then our par position is 12th

If Gao was investing in the club as some demand, or indeed a new owner came in, it would not alter our par position very much at least in the shot term, unless it was someone like Manchester City's owners.

So at the moment 12th is where we should be at the end of the season, but 7th is achievable and that is what we aim for, on top of that we want a good run in the Cup, a Cup win is the most achievable way of getting into Europe, so we should be looking to do it.

So set your targets at a achievable level when supporting Saints, I am not saying we will always be 12th in that pecking order, we can move higher, but throwing money at the squad by the owner is not what is going to get us up the table, the Southampton Way of doing things might just do that.

Hopefully we can get back to winning ways, but truthfully I would be happy if we won only 5 more games this season, two in the Premier league that see us to safety and then 3 in the FA Cup !

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halftimeorange added 11:46 - Feb 22
I'm inclined to agree with you, Nick but, I would hark bark to the point you've made on several previous occasions about our lack of experience and a thin squad. Saints surely can't want to persevere without more strength in depth other wise , with Ralph's pressing game there will be more instances of the injury list piling up. At the end of this season there are likely to be a lot of ageing but, still useful midfielders and defenders looking for a new home. I wouldn't mind if we signed a couple to cover our frailties, such as Stuart Armstrong not being able to play several games on the trot or Nathan Redmond's problems with his body or Mo Salisu's mysterious debilitating injuries.

underweststand added 11:54 - Feb 22
Whatever explanations / excuses we have, they are all true to some extent.
Looking back to early November, 8 games into the season and playing with a settled side we beat Newcastle and after a run of 6 unbeaten games were (for a few hours ) top of the Prem. but then came a series of injuries than saw us drop to 6th. Injuries saw us lose Vestergaard for 9 games,and Ings for 4. Even after returning Danny had obviously lost his magic touch in front of goal, and has managed just 3 goals in his last 8 Prem. starts. It's unfair to criticise him as others (like Adams ,Walcott and Redmond ) have worse stats. that should not to be compared.
Hopefully those controversial VAR disputes have not gone unnoticed, (and some common sense might be applied with future decisions) all of which has contributed to our present position. Hopefully a few more good results will see us clear of the drop-zone candidates and a chance to re-assess the why and wherefores about players, contracts and possible new signings for next season.

Our progress in the FA Cup has been one of the few bright spots, and a win over Bournemouth will get us a Semi- final place when, (as all the pundits invariably say), almost anything can happen.
Well ...we need to get back to some VAR decisions that go in our favour, and hope that our strikers can hit form again. Whilst we are still having to use players who would normally be on the bench, and battling with constant injury problems to the rest, by season's end - it would be nice to see us " up for the Cup" once again.

saintmark1976 added 12:05 - Feb 22
“ So for us old campaigners, this six match losing streak is an unwanted record, but in the grand scheme of things means nothing”. I commend your valiant attempt to air brush history.

I’ve got some news for you Nick. To me it means a lot, particularly taken in the context of us now holding the record for the biggest ever top flight home defeat and being joint holders of the record for the biggest ever away defeat also. All of these records occurring in a period of fifteen months during the clubs majority ownership of one man doesn’t help either.I’m reminded of the expression “proof of the pudding is in the eating”.

For the record this “ old campaigner” speaks from some experience having seen my first Saints game during the season 1959/60. I rather imagine before you were even born?


StEdmund added 12:24 - Feb 22
How many black cats did RH run over to get so many injuries and bad refereeing decisions - not to mention the number of penalties? As for spending millions, it hasn't got Aston Villa the success they expected, though it has rescued them from a relegation battle.

JohnT added 12:26 - Feb 22
I will mention yet again Nick that when I mention ''Plan B'' I mean the lack of awareness & ability to adapt when the opposition changes tactics usually after half time, as seen in the results in out bad run.
I agree that this has been a bad run of defeats & it's not as bad as awful performances in the past.
On Saints Social we welcome all opinions good & bad about the Saints ...posting only good things is pointless I think.

SaintPaulVW added 13:10 - Feb 22
An outside chance of a Europa League spot and a good cup run are really what I was hoping for at the start of the season. So we are bang on target!

We have bad runs but equally when wins come they tend to come in multiples too. Hopefully we are now due a bit of luck on both the VAR lucky dip and the injury front.

I agree with most of the comments. We have lacked an ability to adapt in game to changed circumstances. Poor recruitment plus gambles on loan deals, which Ralph must have had some say in, have all stripped Ralph of options and those chickens came home to roost. However I'm not sure how a lack of players explains the inability to create anything constructive when playing against 9 men recently? You don't actually need any more players in that situation.

Fingers crossed for tomorrow.

pwithers123 added 13:50 - Feb 22
Watching Saints under Hassenhuttl has been a wonderful experience. Despite injuries and real financial issues- the team keeps playing with great courage and immense effort. The football they play shows they are usually up for it - and is exciting to watch - although not good for a calm and easy relaxing beer.

He has Saints playing on the front foot - takes loads of risks - encourages the players to take risks - tries to train them to manage the risks.

He has slowly brought young players in - ensuring the other Saints teams are playing same system. He has carefully brought in new bought players. His system takes time to learn. Salisu and Djneppo - were super against Chelsea.

When I think of how Saints played under Hughes, Pellegrino ...and to some extent Puel - give me this team any time. Hard on supporters - as we have to live with the risks of playing this way - but its exciting and good to watch

zonehead added 14:06 - Feb 22
Agree long live Ralph, although if Tucal was as famed for his attention to detail he missed a trick in not bringing on Giroud with his record against us!

SanMarco added 14:06 - Feb 22
An admirable article in its attempt to keep up morale. Disraeli said there were 'lies, damned lies and statistics' and Nick has of course cherry-picked a little bit here: "one of the worst losing spells of their history" No, it is actually the worst. 5 in a row used to be the worst, now 6 is. Yes we have had worst runs if you pick a random number of matches but 'worst ever' does mean worst ever in terms of league defeats in a row. Also do we really want to compare ourselves with those past teams that Nick cites?

The truth is we need to come back and read this article in a month. If we get, say, 7 points minimum from the 5 games AND get to the semi then Nick is a prophet who was right to emphasise the positives. If on the other hand we get just 2 pts then we will be on the fringe of (or even deep in) the relegation battle and have just 8 pts from 16 games. We would then need a very cunning statistician to massage those figures into anything less than a fiasco.

So, roll on Leeds and Everton and Sheff Utd and Brighton and Man City (well not that one) and Bournemouth. Show us Saints that Nick's reasons to be cheerful are indeed reasons to be cheerful.

TimSaint added 14:11 - Feb 22
Our Plan B is to wait until we go behind, then make a couple of subs, but still continue to play the same way and hoping we score. The same way that is so pedestrian, predictable and easy to defend against - as even 9 men showed at Newcastle.

I know our methods have been drummed into our players, but when we are losing or chasing the game, try something different FFS. Put Vest up top as a target man, play with 5 forwards, hoof it into the box.

When we were against 9 man Newcastle, we should have made use of the whole wide pitch and made it as big as possible, kept men out wide to draw out their 8 defenders and then use midfield runners to get into the box, gamble and push a defender or 2 further forward. Oh and not give away stupid fouls in injury time and then argue about it with the ref for a minute or more and waste precious time and a chance of an equaliser. All that combined just plays into the hands of the opposition and yet again we are our own worst enemies !!
The same could be said away to Palace on the 1st game of the season. Losing, we still play the same slow way with no urgency to get an equaliser, let alone go on and win it !!

The very fact that we say this so often, shows that nothing has changed and it probably never will - until Ralph is allowed to sign the players he wants, that are capable of playing his way.

DellBoyWally added 14:35 - Feb 22
Well....who would like to be a Newcastle United supporter? Everything points to them being a top 6 side - large ground, massive support.....and they're big claim for glory this season? They beat us!!!
Be grateful for what we have. As I said a few days ago...we could be 2 or 3 divisions lower, points deducted and on the brink of liquidation rather than a moderately successful mid-table PL team.

teamster1 added 17:32 - Feb 22
If you think 2 wins makes us safe I think that is a dangerous statement

SanMarco added 23:46 - Feb 22
2 wins with 3 or 4 draws would do.

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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
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