Southampton At West Ham United The Preview
Sunday, 23rd May 2021 09:21
Saints head up to the London Stadium to face West Ham United on the final day of the Premier League season playing for nothing else other than pride and £8 million in prize money depending on where they end the day.
This will be our fifth visit to what was the 2012 Olympic games stadium, our first back in September 2016 saw a 3-0 victory, but since then it has been all downhill with three straight defeats with the Hammers also hitting 3 goals in each game, so will the winners this afternoon keep up that tradition of score 3 and you win the game.
But that side being Saints doesn't look likely based on the season both sides have had, West Ham start the day in 6th place and a win will keep them there, but a defeat could see them slip to 8th, although to be honest it would need a big win for Saints and Everton to get a big win at Manchester City for the toffees to turn around a 12 goal difference deficit.
From a Saints perspective they are guaranteed not to finish in 17th, but they could end up anywhere between 16th and 12th, will we be able to pull a last day performance out to finish the season with a flourish.
Ralph Hasenhuttl has a few decisions to make and it will be interesting to see who gets the nod and who doesn't will Fraser Forster return in goal and will Oriol Romeu play or not risked for what is essentially a meaningless game apart from the money at stake.
This has been a disappointing season in the way it had so much promise for the first half and then completely fell away, but if we could hit 12th then although it would not feel like it , actually it will have been a decent one, 12th is just about where Saints lie as a club in the terms of size in the Premier League and throw in an FA Cup semi final, then if we had been told last summer that this would be the season we would have then we would have all been satisfied.
But it has not been a consistent season it has been boom and bust, but there is enough foundation in the squad to suggest that we can continue to progress and lets be blunt we have progressed from where we where this time three years ago when we went into the last day not 100% sure of safety.
Ralph Hasenhuttl has been in charge for 98 games going into this one, he has 35 wins, 20 draws and 43 losses, that equals 1.37 points per game average, over a season that would give us 52 points.
Compare that with the 98 games before he arrived, a period spread over 3 managers, Mark Hughes, Mauricio Pellegrino & Claude Puel, that saw only 22 wins, 33 draws and 43 losses.
Ralph's side has scored 131 goals as opposed to 98 under the other 3 managers, so it is clear we now play a more entertaining attacking game with the only downside that we have conceded more goals under Ralph, 161 against 141.
But overall we have moved forward, our issues this season were mainly due to problems before our control, injuries being a big issue and poor refereeing another.
So there is plenty of use for optimism going forward, this is the modern game throwing money around looks good, but unless you finish in the top four or perhaps the top seven then perhaps you have just wasted most of it.
We need to stop focusing on the things that have not yet happened and focus on what we can do, what would be progress next season for instance, a little more luck and consistency and we could push for a top 10 place and perhaps another cup semi final.
So let's just enjoy this final day for what it is, another season where we have achieved survival fairly early in the season and we have competed for a place in the cup final, lets get real that is more than half the club's in this division have achieved.
Some would say that this is not very ambitious, maybe not but it is realistic and that is where we need to start from next season, look to do what is realistic and achievable.
Photo: Action Images
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Letters from Wiltshire #48 by wessex_exile
“And now the end is near, and so we face the final curtain…regrets, we’ve had a few, but then again, too few to mention”. Not quite right Paul Anka, probably more than a few, but otherwise a fair assessment of where the U’s are today. It’ll be interesting to see how we perform with the relegation monkey finally off their back – I’m not expecting miracles, particularly with Tranmere needing at least a point to guarantee making the play-offs, but they’ll certainly be more nervous than we will be, so can we make that count? This will be my last blog of the season, and not yet sure what I may or may not do for next season, but suggestions are always welcome.
Letters from Wiltshire #47 by wessex_exile
Here we are, at the penultimate game of the season, and our last game in front of the cardboard U’s faithful at the JobServe. It has been a long, difficult, and definitely strange season, which frankly I’ll be glad to see the back of. That’ll we’ll be here again in August is definitely going to be something to celebrate, but I suspect we’re facing a summer of significant rebuilding both on the pitch, and possibly off it too. I won’t be the only one, but the biggest oddity for me has been being able to watch every single game – not always easy viewing, but something I’ve never done before, and probably never will again. But it doesn’t really make up for not being there in person, the long train journey away-days, meeting fellow U’s and other supporters, and of course sharing a beer or three. Fingers-crossed we can return to the terraces in 2021/22.
Letters from Wiltshire #46 by wessex_exile
That was quite a week for us all then. In the space of four short but remarkably tense days we have gone from having to take shoes and socks off to check how many more points we need to guarantee survival, or whether we would even achieve it, to breathing a huge sigh of relief knowing we’re almost there. But close of play this afternoon, whether by our own actions or the failure of others, I am sure survival will be confirmed. Of course, Tuesday night not only all but guaranteed it, it also virtually condemned local rivals Southend United to non-league football for the foreseeable. Looking at the host of fully professional former football league sides currently battling it out for the two promotion slots out of the National league (including Hartlepool, Torquay, Stockport, Wrexham, Chesterfield and Notts County), it is not going to be a walk in the park for Southend to return any day soon.
Letters from Wiltshire #45 by wessex_exile
Tonight, Colchester United face Southend United in what may not necessarily be the most important game of our respective histories (though it’s certainly very close), but is almost certainly the most important Essex derby ever. However this season pans out, by the end of it there’ll either be only one team in Essex, or worst case scenario, none at all. If the U’s win, then Southend will be 9pts behind with just three games to go, and a minimum of a -12 goal difference to overturn if they want to overtake us. Certainly mathematically possible, but that would rely on a remarkable turnaround in their form, form that they’ve shown precious little sign of achieving so far this season. The stalking horse is Grimsby, with their game in hand, who have rather belatedly shown an improvement in form, so their match against automatic promotion chasing Morecambe tonight is equally important, particularly if we want to avoid the unthinkable, with both Essex clubs dropping out of the league.
Letters from Wiltshire #44 by wessex_exile
So here we are, as the nation mourns the passing of His Royal Highness, Duke of Edinburgh, the U’s face the first of two season-defining moments, with our late kick-off match at home to Walsall. Before then, no doubt many will have been focused on events elsewhere, not least the early kick-offs for Grimsby (at home to promotion-chasing Bolton Wanderers), and particularly Essex rivals Southend United, who faced a tricky visit to Exeter City – still very much in the hunt for at least a play-off spot. As I finalise this blog, I know that Grimsby have beaten Bolton 2-1, and Southend earned a credible 0-0 draw in the West Country. More to the point, the U’s will know this too. Whilst I can’t help but feel that will ought to be to our advantage, it surely must also put additional pressure on a squad whose confidence is paper-thin. We must hope that Hayden Mullins, assisted by Paul Tisdale, get their heads right, and send the lads out this evening fired up with self-belief.
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