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Southampton At Wolverhampton Wanderers The Verdict
Monday, 17th Jan 2022 09:42

Saints had plenty of chances to win this one and really should have got something out of it, but once again individual errors and a dodgy VAR call or two cost us dearly, we really can't go on throwing games like this away.

I was slightly surprised that Ralph Hasenhuttl picked an unchanged team for this one, although in my preview I alluded to the fact that under Rasmus Ankersen, Brentford played exactly the same 3-5-2 formation that was selected against both that club and again here.

Wolves are a side who like to defend deep and go on the break with pace, they have done this to us before and they did it again here, playing three at the back left us not only a little short of pace at the back, but in Nathan Tella & Romain Perraud two players who are not natural wingbacks.

I was surprised that Stuart Armstrong did not start in this position, a player who knows how to hold his position.

But we started the game well and looked the better side before the break until yet again more moments of madness at the back, Wolves won the ball in midfield and suddenly swarmed forward, Jan Bednarek dived in and appeared to have played the ball although if he did so it was the slightest of touches, the referee didn't give a penalty but he went to the screen, personally I thought there was not enough evidence to convict Bednarek, although he appeared to bring down the man on the follow through.

However we didn't let it disrupt our rhythm and we had our chances not least a wonder save from the Wolves keeper, there was also a call of our own, Romeu got a toe in to a ball and was then kicked and brought down in the follow through, why did that one not get spotted and reviewed.

Then came another individual goalkeeping error, Fraser Forster had a decent game and indeed has been very good since his return to the team, but he got this one all wrong and came for a ball he had no chance of getting and was left stranded, the header bounced off the post, Wolves had followed in, our players had given it up for a goal and could not get to the rebound and we were 2-0 down a score we did not deserve.

We got a life line when James Ward Prowse scored perhaps his best free kick of all, certainly the longest distance he has netted from and it sparked a late rally with Perraud almost nicking an equaliser but the ball came back off the woodwork, when it isn't your day it isn't your day.

With Saints pushing forward in injury time, Wolves broke and caught us at the back, our pace was exposed and Traore raced through to fire home.

I do give Wolves their due though, they played to their strengths and took their chances when they came, this was a win in their style, but we should not have let them impose their style on us.

So a disappointing result in a game we really should have done better in, compared to the recent games we lacked a little bit of spirit, a little bit of organisation and we seemed a bit flat.

We still played well at times, but we seemed too sure of ourselves, we didn't seem to think that we had to graft, that the goals would come, we didn't work as a team as we did against West Ham. Spurs, Swansea & Brentford.

This was not a 3-1 result in many respects, what it was though was a trademark Wolves win and a trademark Saints defeat littered with lapses of concentration and individual error.

For me I think the formation was wrong, especially against a team like Wolves who like to catch you on the break, if you want to play 3 at the back then the wingbacks need to be wingbacks and not playing outside of their natural game.

On the right Romain Perraud got forward well, but he doesn't seem to be a player who can get up and down the line, he can defend and he can attack, just not at the same time so to speak.

On the other side Nathan Tella is either an attacking winger or a forward, he is not a defender and even though he can chase back he hasn't got the awareness to know where he should be chasing, where he should be tucking in behind one of the back three when we are on the back foot.

I have nothing against playing 3 at the back, it is a handy tool for the armoury, but you have to play it with the right personnel, in this game if we did it, then Kyle Walker Peters should have been our right wingback.

So yet more dropped points that really should not have been, but in many respects I would rather drop points due to error than be totally out played, if we were battered then that would be worrying, but we can look at errors and hopefully rectify them going forward.

We are a work in progress, sadly like the majority of the other Premier League teams that is probably always going to be the case.

Photo: Action Images

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IanRC added 10:06 - Jan 17
Another disgracefully inconsistent performance by VAR. Even on the first decision you could see the monitor and they only showed the referee the view from behind the goal whereas the side view showed the ball deflect as Bednarak made the tackle. A disgrace that changed the course of the game.

I have to say with the exception of Adama Traore I find Wolves an unpleasant side to watch, diving at the slightest opportunity and generally trying at every chance to kid the referee.

Thought KWP and Stu Armstrong should have started but at least we should have a decent rest before the City game now.

halftimeorange added 10:13 - Jan 17
I believe your report underlines the long-held belief amongst many Saints fans that Ralph needs some guidance when making team selections and substitutions. Too often round pegs in square holes have cost us points and this game, plus the usual round of individual errors, was another prime example. I'm convinced we have the skeleton of a really decent side. The obvious weaknesses are between the sticks (although Forster isn't the worst in the EPL) , a calming centre-back and a regularly fit playmaker. We can only assume that the new owners will soon highlight these needs and duly endeavour to rectify them.

SaintNick added 10:20 - Jan 17
I have expressed my doubts about the qualities of the coaching staff for a couple of years at least now, I cant disagree that Ralph needs some experience on there, every manager needs a trusted advisor as a number 2.

Farlow added 10:29 - Jan 17
Another shocking referee,the booking of Salisu for a shoulder charge was ridiculous and i
believe thats why he didnt tackle the guy who scored the Wolves opener.

Farlow added 10:32 - Jan 17
The Wolves Second unnderlines why we need to sign Dean Henderson.We really deserved something for a good team performance.

Hamnottingham added 10:37 - Jan 17
Few people have made much of the fact that the ref was refereeing only his second PL match and Wolves players really targetted him. Was it a pen? Possibly, but after 2 1/2 minutes of VAR scrutiny, a clear error by the ref? Likewise the Romeu pen call. Seen them given, but should it be overturned as a clear error? No and no!

Colburn added 11:09 - Jan 17
We had good chances to score more and another day would have. We also should have had a penalty and would have if Romeu had stayed down, causing the play to stop which would have put pressure on VAR. A little naivety there as much as Lyanco for their third goal.
I didn't comment after the last game, thought I'd wait until the two winnable games were done. We garnered three points and were very unlucky not to get more. We were a cut above Brentford and easily as good as Wolves. Nick, you can question the selection of Ralph but as someone who has vehemently defended the need for him to continue (and perhaps rightly so given the change in performance levels and recent growth), you surely must trust him to do what he thinks is right for now and the long term. I agree Tella is better the more forward he plays but I do see Perraud as being able to play wing back. He nearly scored from his new position a couple of times over the last two games and looks a threat. So you can't have it both ways. Had Salisu have scored, or Tella, and the penalty been rightly given, Perraud header hit the bar and went in, this report would look very different. We lost on Saturday because of very fine margins and the performance is what is important for our future. 3 points from the two games is ok and we can see the continued growth of our younger and newer additions. Broja is happy here and there is an air of freshness and hunger about the squad, things look very different to how they did 6-8 weeks ago and beyond and the fact we are disappointed not to win at wolves shows how far we have come. I was one who thought it was time for a change earlier in the season after a long poor run but now we can see the fruits of a squad learning innovative ways to approach the game and sometimes we will get some things wrong and miss glaring chances. I'm sorry it didn't produce for your 50th anniversary Nick but you will remember that free kick for time.. Incredible. Onwards and upwards, I don't expect points in the next 3 games, great if we do, but if not, we are still on the right track. Henderson and Broja permanent would be a dream scenario, it wouldn't have looked remotely likely two months ago, now we look like a team going places.

SaintPaulVW added 11:13 - Jan 17
I really enjoyed watching this game on Saturday. Yes Wolves were pulling every stroke going. Podence was a constant irritation. But that's his job.

The VAR was back to the bad old days. 20 looks to find an angle to tell a new story. As someone has pointed out above. From a forward angle, the ball changes course after JB connects with it then the challenge happens. I thought VAR was improving this season but this seems to be a step back.

However, on another day a draw would have been a fair result. Tella missing from a couple of yards out, Salisu's header and Perraud rattling the woodwork. All so near.

We played well, even if we had the wrong players and made some bad mistakes. If we play at that level against other teams we will get points.

Goal keepers and CB's always make mistakes, sometimes they get away with it usually someone else in the team covers for them. I thought FF had a good game apart from the getting caught in no man's land. However there were 4 other defenders close to the ball who also stood still and just watched Coady smack it in.

It will now be interesting to see how we get on against City.


Peterx added 11:14 - Jan 17
It was a big shout leaving KWP out when fit who should be one of the first names on the team-sheet and the result proves it was the wrong call.

Nevertheless was proud of our never say die attitude.

ElijahK added 12:08 - Jan 17
Ok I’m really confused as to why soo many are complaining about VAR now? As their penalty, was a penalty all day long and was down to a stupid tackle for Bednerak not really getting anything on the ball, and a poor touch from Tella when giving it away. As it’s a penalty, so why soo many are using that as an excuse is just stupid.
As the only other debatable VAR decision was the late kick on Romeu which is one of those decisions where if it’s given for you then great, but if it’s given against you then your outraged, and yeah they’re sometimes given, but they’re also sometimes not and today it wasn’t given, which yeah is frustrating but if it was vice versa I’d be peed off if it was given against us.

We simply lost as there were some really poor performances out there and very few decent once’s, very little to do with Ralph or his tactics whatsoever. But even then we were playing against a really decent inform wolves team that were favourites to win, and in the end did, as until we sort out certain positions with new signings (aka a new goalie) and some of our more important players come back from injury, then we’re not gonna be challenging for Europe like they are.

SalisburySaint added 12:09 - Jan 17
agree with most you say apart form your view on Perraud who i thought had another excellent game and di all that could be expected from a wing back

SaintNick added 12:50 - Jan 17
I didnt say he had a bad game, I just dont think he has the engine to be a wing back

wrathoftazz added 12:59 - Jan 17
The problem, yet again, wasn't VAR because we know how that is and how dodgy it can be... but it was due to Ralph being out thought again. Wolves made him look a fool, yet again... sad, but that's the story of his tenure

TimSaint added 13:06 - Jan 17
In Podence, Wolves have the biggest diving, cheating t0sser of all. WAC.

We played well, but it was back to the same old Saints. Don't take our chances when on top, then gift the opposition chances and goals.

Tella needlessly lost possession for the 1st goal. It was never ever a penalty - just like their pen a couple of seasons ago in the 1-1 draw, their player dived. Perhaps KWP wasn't fully fit, following his bout of Covid, so Tella got the nod at RWB ? At least RH kept a winning side.

Everything has already been said about the 2nd goal, but I'll add that the annoying thing for me was the way FF just stood there after it went over him. Had he tried to get back, he probably would have got to it after it hit the post.

I couldn't believe some of the chances we missed, especially Tella and Sali x 2, but a simply sublime free kick from JWP go us back into it and we could and should have got that equaliser from Perraud.

Trigger the diving and time wasting, just like Wolves did at St Marys. I thought it may ease once Jimenez went off - as he was the main instigator before, but no. We don't help ourselves though. Wolves deliberately orchestrated a melee after a foul to waste time and we duly bit. Fvck knows how long that wasted, but the players don't seem to get it. Walk away and let's get on with it. It was our time after all, as we were 2-1 down. Instead we just played into their hands.

Horrible team. We owe them big time and will hopefully do the double of them next season to even it up a little !!

SanMarco added 13:15 - Jan 17
We should definitely have got something from this game. Not playing KWP on the right was stupid. Their keeper was superb while ours made a match-losing error. Forster has his good points but crosses expose him time and time again. Our finishing was back to its pre-Brentford standards.

The vital point about VAR is that we were told at the start of the season that the ref's decision would be stayed with unless there was 'a clear and obvious error'. Fair enough ElijahK if you think it was such a bad decision from the ref that it had to be overturned. I disagree. If an error is obvious it is spotted straightaway. If the VAR man needs over two minutes then it is not obvious. Full stop. People are moaning (not just us as this keeps happening across the EPL) because the rules are CLEAR. What happened yesterday and away vs Man City shows the two officials coming to a decision that has nothing to do with a 'clear and obvious error'. The VAR man's view prevailed - two people had differing views on whether a pretty 50-50 decision was a penalty and we lost out because those two people did NOT follow the clear rules. If the man in the VAR box has a stronger personality or is senior to the on-field man then this is bound to happen. It is the CLEAR rules that should stop this happening. Or, of course, change the rules again... or just make it up as you go along which seems to be the EPL's preferred way (the recent postponement farce is another). Rant over...

beynali73 added 14:22 - Jan 17
Not a surprising result against a team who have a well defined shape and purpose. As things stand Wolves are a better team than us but we are a work in progress.

We need to stop blaming VAR as we cannot control that and as much as ifs and buts are understandable the bottom line is we are an average team with the potential to be a decent team on our day but we have a manager that does not know his best team, is too random in his selections (which must confuse the players), and is in dire need of a strong man number two to advise and challenge him. My concern is that when we have a full squad to choose from Ralph's selections will become stranger. He's very lucky to still have a job (for better or worse) and I do not think he is a long term solution for this club as he does not learn from one week to the other what works and who is best in a given role.


underweststand added 15:02 - Jan 17
You summed it up well in your first paragraph (Nick).
KWP might have played, but Ralph had a good win v. Brentford and might have been reluctant to change a winning side, and kept the same personnel.
That formation required Tella to play as full back, not a good position for him as (like Livramento)... he is better going forward than he is defending.
The penalty (?) .most of us seem to think it was harsh on Bednarek. A tackle that didn't come off with the Wolves player falling one way, and the ball going in the opposite direction and JB stuck in the middle. I've seen a lot worse that weren't given.

As several pointed out Podence was worth more than one yellow card throughout the game, but instead got the "Oscar for Best Dive " in the match. Totally Unprofessional but you can be pretty sure he'll get away with a lot more during this season.

TeamCortese added 15:59 - Jan 17
For me it was great match with terrible refereeing. On the balance a draw would have been fair. Hopefully Ralph can clean up the backroom staff and get a true number 2 to challenge his team selection in future.

Nick: I still hold onto my original view a few years ago that we should have signed Adama Traore. At the time we opted for Guido I need to say anymore??? (smh)

Traore is among the best if not best dribbler in Europe (statistically) and would have created a ridiculous amount of space our team as whole when attacking on the counter---not to mention more freekick opportunities for JWP! It's a shame but it's too late now.

JoeEgg added 16:56 - Jan 17
Wolves are a Premier League team that just do not score goals. On Saturday they scored THREE times. You can shout and scream VAR, Penalty decisions, divers or inevitably, poor referees, but it was almost bound to be the weekend the Wolves suddenly discovered the ability to hit the back of the net. Our team is playing immeasurably better now than two months ago, but under the direction and leadership of Pochettino this is the kind of game we would have won and won impressively. We have the players to be a first class Premier League side and we should all know by now how Wolves play - so I still question the ability of our present manager to set out our team appropriately and then make the best use of the substitutes available. I am a great fan of JWP who once again was left wondering why he was left on the bench. An appalling error in team selection. Tella and Diallo are players with enormous potential but being asked to perform out of position and roles they are unsuited to. If only Ralph has someone alongside him to assist in getting things right from team selection to team substitutions, we would already be watching the best Saintq side for many many years.

A1079 added 17:20 - Jan 17
Overall a fair assessment Nick.

Wolves are very astute tactically and "streetwise" as well as being effective and efficient in what they do.

We were not bad but failure to take our chances, plus the errors and some naivety on our part and then add in the poor decisions by the officials all culminated in our defeat.

I kind of feel (again) that we just need to get across the line and hopefully build in the summer so that we can challenge at a higher level in the league. I know some are already arguing we are safe but after last years second half of the season I will not assume we are until we actually are.

SanMarco added 17:58 - Jan 17
I am not blaming VAR for our defeat beynali73 - I am just pointing out that it is not working properly...

Boris1977 added 23:02 - Jan 17
100% San Marco that var is not being utilised correctly.

Whatsforpud added 14:21 - Jan 18
JWP scores with the strike of the season, and no one (apart from Nick) has even mentioned it!

davidargyll added 15:38 - Jan 18
Why is it - apart from the fact they can’t bear to be proved wrong - that some people on here persist in always blaming Ralph when we lose a well fought match. I for one am getting heartily sick of all these “Ralph is no good” comments. If you don’t like what’s going on at the Saints, why don’t you just bugger off and go and support somebody else, like Pompey?
Because as has been pointed out numerous times, football is a game of fine margins and on another day we’d have scored three more goals, but on this occasion luck wasn’t with us and we didn’t. But that doesn’t mean we played badly or that Ralph was somehow responsible for us not hitting the back of the net mote than once. That’s just the way the cookie crumbles.
My own view was that I thought that three games in a short space of time just looked as if it was catching up with the squad, and they seemed to be just a tad off the pace at times, none more so than Broja. Hopefully by next weekend they would have got some if their puff back.
So I remain as happy and confident as ever that we are going to have a good second half of the season and more than anything else we will continue to see GOOD ENTERTAINING FOOTBALL AT ST MARY’S and I don’t see what more could we possibly ask for.

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