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Burnley 2 v 0 Southampton
Barclays Premier League
Thursday, 21st April 2022 Kick-off 19:45
Southampton At Burnley The Verdict
Saturday, 23rd Apr 2022 09:45

It struck me as i sat in a bar in the shadow of Turf Moor after the game on Thursday, talking to the same people who over 40 years ago I'd sat in other bars after other games talking about the same issues that not a lot changes at Southampton FC.

Just about the only good thing that you can say about this game was that we kept the score down, although in truth as bad as we played we could have and should have got back into the game and made it at least nervy for the home side, but poor finishing put paid to that.

I said in the preview that this would be a cauldron and it was and it suddenly turned Burnley into Brazil circa 1970, they seemed to be able to waltz past our players with ease.

Initially we seemed to be able to cope, although it again needed Fraser Forster to be in top form and ironically it took a beautifully curling shot from outside the area to break the deadlock.

Saints were backs to the wall, but you felt that if they got into the break only one down then we could regroup and get back in the game, but we couldn't even do that and conceded on the stroke of half time.

The second half saw us a little more resolute and when we brought on Che Adams and Nathan Redmond on 65 minutes we looked a better balanced side, indeed it almost paid dividends when Redmond put in a great cross for Adams to get on the end of, he did so but hit the ball right at the keeper who made the save.

A little later Adams again had a great chance but took two long to get his shot away and saw his effort blocked.

If either of those had gone in perhaps Saints could have got back in the game.

One thing that was infuriating though was that Burnley seemed to employ a tactic which saw one of their players go down holding his head when corners were cleared, on at least two occasions this happened and the game was stopped for a head injury when Saints had the ball and in a potentially dangerous position.

The referee on both occasions restarted the game with an uncontested dropped ball for the goalkeeper who did not return the ball to our possession, on the spot where the player had gone down rather than where the ball was in play, as is the accepted protocol, this is a new tactic creeping into the game and very cynical.

Hard to stop it happening unless we return to a contested dropped ball.

But we didn't and the thousand Saints fans who made the trip were to be disappointed.

So what is the problem, in short it is too many players at the moment are not performing to the level they did a couple of months ago, Armando Broja is a shadow of the player he was for three months in the winter, Stuart Armstrong is struggling and Mohammed Elyounoussi is annonymous for much of games, a team just can't carry three passengers.

They are not bad players , so why is this happening is the question we must ask.

I think perhaps the change of owner and talk of a clear out in the summer has demotivated some of the squad, Broja is not a bad player, but he is too inexperienced to play his way though a dry spell, but he has still been played whatever, perhaps that does not sit well that a loan player is preferred to those who will still be here next season when he most likely won't.

Ralph Hasenhuttl didn't put out a bad team, but he does seem to be resigned to the fact that there will need to be changes for next season , some like Walcott & Djeneppo now seem to be completely out of the picture, he is definitely trying certain players to see if they are worth keeping, some are responding, some are not.

The truth is though for a team like Saints and you can look at the form of just about every team not in the top six, form is patchy, sometimes adrenalin wins games that you shouldn't, but overall few teams outside of the top 6/7 win 3 games in a row,

The good news is that we still have Salisu to return and he needs to be back in on Sunday, we have rested Tino Livramento, but he will be back.

Ralph has seen the players who are not performing, he saw last night the likes of Nathan Redmond & Che Adams who started on the bench, but did more in 35 minutes than most did in 90, he truly needs to play those who want to play and do put in the effort and leave on the bench those that don't.

On paper everyone who started the game was worthy of doing so, the reality was that some for whatever reason failed to play to the level they can do, that is what needs to be addressed.

I will finish on the playing side banging on about what is the route of the problem, at the back we lack an experienced leader, until we get one, teams like Burnley fighting for their lives will always turn us over.

Some will moan about the fans travelling all that way for a poor performance and how we were short changed, no one from our table in the Burnley bar thought that way, this wasn't our first experience of travelling long distances for poor performances, indeed all of us had travelled further to see worse displays and results.

No one was whinging about the fact that we had travelled so far, it was just what we do, we have done it for 40 years plus, what we saw on Thursday night was nothing different than any other season.

We don't go to games for medals, we go to support our team, it's what defines us and what we do, I will berate the team in the pub afterwards, but I never feel sorry for myself for having travelled so far for so little, long ago I stopped thinking that professional footballers do it for the love of the club.

I look to the future and not to the past, there is a new era dawning, the end of this season is still part of the last era in terms of our resources and strategy, lets just get to the end of it and then see if anything changes in the summer and next season.

So from this perspective it is all about hope and sometimes it is the hope that is the worst thing !

Photo: Action Images

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HythePeer added 09:53 - Apr 23
Burnley played better without a manager, perhaps Saints should try that?

LordDZLucan added 10:12 - Apr 23
Southampton seemed to lack energy and the will to compete. That has been a feature of a number of our games recently. It suggests to me that all is not well and that maybe Ralph's reign is drawing to a close.

Boris1977 added 10:51 - Apr 23
An impassioned report Nick. Unfortunately this match was not an isolated incident (think Norwich, Watford, Newcastle, villa from this season). As you say the past is the past but when it repeats itself it becomes the present - and an ongoing issue. It doesn't make sense to excuse each embarrassing and humiliating defeat by simply drawing a line under it and moving on to the next humiliation.

Motivation of players is a key part of management - in any walk of life. Ralph mentioned playing the best players for the remaining matches. He doesn't seem to know who his best players are nor which formation suits different circumstances. By chance he gets it right sometimes but this is the issue. Too much is left to chance and Ralph's whims. Too many matches are treated like pre season friendlies with the over complicated formations which confuses the players. There were 3 or 4 formation changes before Ralph realised that what was required was a change of personnel, as well as a simplified formation,- which he did when the game was lost. This is a feature of Ralph's tenure. It does not change.

Ralph is a modern coach which means players are coached to the nth degree stifling creativity and spontaneity - as an example Stuart Armstrong looked like the real deal not so long ago, pulling strings in midfield, but he's a shell of the player he was.

Between losing are best players in the summer or losing Ralph is opt for the latter. As you mention we have a better group of players now than we've had over the past few seasons. And yet the results have not improved and the same issues persist. The evidence points to the manager. Who should replace him? I don't know. We hadn't heard of Ralph before he arrived at the club but I'm confident that there is a coach in the football world who can coach this decent set of players to meet their potential. Ralph has had 3 seasons at the helm - without progression and with the same flaws. Eventually clubs that tread water go down. The future is dictated by the past.


IanRC added 11:30 - Apr 23
Broja clearly is not ready to play as a sole striker although he remains a fantastic prospect and I would still like to see him signed permanently. For my money Redmond has been far superior to ElYonousi and I am very disappointed he did not start. Clearly playing a back three and pushing the wing backs so far forward was a major tactical mistake that Burnley exploited and we failed to correct, thought Perraud had his worst game for some time but it was KWP who was replaced when Tino came on. I have been a constant supporter of Ralph but his tactics and team selection for this game were abysmal. Hope for the best but fear the worst for Sunday.

highfield49 added 11:31 - Apr 23
No excuses required from the players, some of them just aren't good enough if we want push up the league. Broja looks less and less like the clinical finisher we had hoped to see, bench beckons for the Brighton game, Adams is just plain frustrating in terms of chances converted to goals, Stuart Armstrong and Elyounnousi frequent passengers and outfought time after time. Top class goal for Burnley's first and a clear foul on JWP for me on the second. Both of which are utterly irrelevant if we can't get the ball in their net from some golden opportunities. I'd quite happily see Tella, Redmond and Long playing against Brighton because Graham Potter will already be aware of how to contain our regular line up.

davidargyll added 11:43 - Apr 23
Looking at the game from an objective pov, the first twenty minutes or so showed why both teams are frankly no better than average. Saints could have at least drawn or maybe won it if either - or both - OR’s sitters went anywhere near the goal, as Burnley’s defence was, to be charitable, all over the place. But then they scored and you could visibly see the (over)confidence drain from Saints’ faces and their play. And it coincided with Burnley suddenly realising that we were there for the taking with a little bit of effort, and so it proved. In effect they did to us exactly what we did to Arsenal at the weekend, crowd us out, go for every ball, take a few risks and Whoopeedoo, thanks for coming the long trip north…

So what do we make of it all?
1. If you are going to play an unchanged (winning) team, why change the pattern of play? In other words why 3-4-3 (or at times 4-3-3) vs Burnley, when 5-4-1 worked so well against Arsenal?
2. Against a determined opponent - whom I still reckon will go down because they (like us) are very in and out, even if they do have a lot to play for - any incentive to finish in the top 10 RH suggested our players may have had, clearly was lacking in their performance.
3. We were completely listless in midfield, which led to continual passing sideways.
4. Valery and Lyanco, having looked pretty solid in a back 5 against Arsenal, seemed to lose all their confidence when they were part of a 3 or 4 back line.
5. Broja is fast losing his £30m+ price tag, having not got on the score sheet for a good few games and has looked relatively unthreatening for a lot of the time. And Tino also looks half the player he was at the beginning of the season. I wonder whether this running out of puff isn’t the downside of the “pursuit of youth” policy to which mast Martin Semmens and RH have firmly nailed their colours.
6. We absolutely must do something about our defence against corners and crosses, it’s dreadful.

However, despite no one bar FF really putting in a shift against Burnley, I guess if you’d said at the beginning of the week we’d have got 3 points from the last two matches by Thursday, we’d all have been quite grateful, it’s just that the points came the wrong way round, and somehow a draw at both games oddly might have seemed better, even if obviously it would have meant a point less. So let’s not get too down on the boys after their somewhat less than vintage performance, and hope that against Brighton and Palace combined again we can also get us at least another three points.

SanMarco added 12:23 - Apr 23
I loved the article - that feeling in the pub/on the train/in the car after a dreadful away performance. And knowing that it will happen again - I have been seeing this for even longer than Nick has (although I haven't been to anywhere near as many games as he and all the regulars have).

What I would say is that round that decades long table of despair the position of the manager would usually have been discussed. I have seen performances like that from Ted Bates onwards. Ralph is now, I believe, our third-longest serving manager since Ted (maybe he hasn't overtaken Branfoot yet?). It would be unusual NOT to be talking about whether the manager is the right one for us. Yes, blame individual players for not being good enough or having a bad day or whatever but there IS an issue here about match day tactics and the longer term pattern of the way we go under Ralph. I suspect we will only end up 5 or 6 points above the dotted line and one season soon the occasional peaks will not compensate for the troughs. Ralph is capable of putting together runs of very good performances but the lows are pretty low. The Chelsea game, which would have been 10-0 if they hadn't declared on 6, was a wake up call for me - the 9-0s haven't gone away nor the fiascos of poor/unsuitable tactics.

I am not calling for Ralph to be sacked but he has to take responsibility for everything, not just the successes. If this exact same pattern continues next year then I think the new lot WILL sack him. So a very important summer ahead. To those that say a bit of a cup run and fourth from bottom is good enough and all we can expect I say that is not what Ralph aims for. He is a top ten man - recent history shows that even the fourth from bottom managers run out of luck eventually...

WestSussexSaint added 12:38 - Apr 23
The frustration and anger of watching on Thursday has now subsided So hopefully I can comment a little more objectively.

1) we bemoaned that Ralph stuck rigidly to formation and tactics in the past. This season has gone completely the other way and he seems to mix an match for the sake of it. He was right to change things for the Arsenal game but why didn’t he revert back to the plan A for Burnley? It was proven as the right tactic when he made the change on 65mins but the damage was done by then.

2) I don’t think you can blame Walcott or Djenepo for this but I think the point is if their time is done then free up squad places for players who will be more useful and provide variety to the squad.

3) Broja as good as he is is still very raw and cannot play as a lone striker.

4) Stuart Armstrong had his poorest game in a Saints shirt (he wasn’t alone) so I wonder if it was that he didn’t believe in the formation or that he needs a rest. Redmond was lively when he came on.

5) There cannot be any debate now about Forster being our no 1 keeper. He showed how frustrated he was on Thursday so the only concern is whether he thinks Saints is the right move for him.

6) the sky commentary made the point that Saints was the youngest squad in the league (and Burnley was the oldest). You will get inconsistent performance with younger players so I hope the summer signings add some experience and leadership to the squad.

The only good to come out of Thursday was Everton being dragged back into the relegation battle. Burnley deserved their win and showed that having fight and intensity in you play goes along way to making up for a relative absence of skill.

ItchenNorth added 13:25 - Apr 23
A shambolic first half display. This was all on the players. They didn't look interested. Romeu should have scored one of those two headers, yes, and it might have been different, but it highlighted just how weak the players minds are that from those missed chances and going a goal down; they basically gave up.

The killer though was Burnleys second goal, which shouldn't have been allowed. Forget the 'did it touch Jack Cork' bit, who cares. What is VAR for, if they couldn't seen the foul on JWP? The reason the header was unchallenged was Collins had both hands on JWPs shoulders, so JWP stayed routed as Collins jumped up. That was a joke. We might of regrouped at half time but it just summed up this evening.

If's buts and maybe's.

The players need to yet again, show us they will fight, in very game. It's no wonder Ralph looked so hacked off with them all.

It's in there somewhere, but boy can this team frustrate.

In the summer the new owner and Ralph need to sit down and plan for a few player movements and to shake this up a little.

In Ralph we trust.

halftimeorange added 14:59 - Apr 23
The wrong formation for this opponent. For ten minutes Burnley were all at sea, a side desperate not to lose but, we send out a defensive set-up because it worked against Arsenal, a far more gifted and attack-minded team. Also, we start with a single front man who is currently out of form. I truly thought that Ralph would give Adam Armstrong and Che Adams starting berths against vulnerable opposition, especially as they're likely to be our front men at the beginning of next season. Neither will find their scoring touch sat on the bench (the same can be said for Tella). There are many ponderable over Ralph but, I won't list them again here save that an experienced Director of Football or coach to work with him might not go amiss. We got lucky against Arsenal thanks to Forster's performance but, overall our current form is dismal and not likely to improve any time soon. There has to be a big rethink this summer.

Peterx added 15:39 - Apr 23
Some comments to a highly frustrating afternoon.

Earlier in the season we were putting in some more penetrating risky passes from the likes of Romeu that were turning games. In this game the likes of Perraud were doing runs and no body tried a more risky early pass. Who Dares Wins etc.

Can't understand why we did not start 4-2-2-2 which has to be our #1 formation against weaker sides.

Would rather see AA and Long chasing defenders early doors in a 4-2-2-2 which inhibits sides and bring on Che later and Broja (if we think he will stay with us).

YosemiteSaint added 17:22 - Apr 23
I think the problem is as simple as the fact that Ralph is a lousy tactician, full stop.

felly1 added 19:09 - Apr 23
When you look at the table and from 9th to 17th, some teams have won 1 or 2 more games than us, some have won less. Some of those teams have also lost alot more games, some less. Are all these managers poor tactician?
Do any of these guys have directors of football or loyal, excellent assistants to guide them?.. Some do, some don't.
Ralph has made many mistakes, many baffling decisions, as have all losing managers. You're either a tactical genius or a hapless buffoon dependent on the result.
Eventually Ralph will either get the sack or he'll walk. Will we improve with a new manager and this bunch of players and our limited budget.... Probably not.

mattlegod added 20:33 - Apr 23
Why on earth put a back five out against a relegation threatened team?! If we had played our offensive pressing game against them we would have put them on the back foot from the start and they would have started to make mistakes. It was Saints who looked like the relegation threatened team. Absolutely shocking

A1079 added 22:35 - Apr 23
A fair summary overall Nick and boy can I relate to your bit about getting to the away ground, the pub and the discussion before and after. I travelled to Burnley not that surprised by the result because I sort of knew what to expect and for the years upon years of going to away games it has been more in hope than expectation.

Yesterday I wrote quite a long ramble on my take of the game and of where I think we are with some players and underlying attitudes and this annual sense of reaching safety and then metaphorically hanging up the boots before the season has ended. Fortunately for everyone on here my Wifi went down just as I pressed send and you were all saved from a fate worse than the result itself.

JoeEgg added 08:49 - Apr 24
Just a quick foot note to another Ralph shambles.

Eddie Howe already doing a great job at Newcastle and would have sorted our players out in double quick time. Its true he has had money to spend but he is also bringing out the best of the players who were already at Newcastle and the team spirit looks amazing.
In Ralph we trust?!!! Not for much longer

underweststand added 09:07 - Apr 24
After every dismal display we end up blaming defensive errors - not that there hasn't been a few - but our real problem still lies up top and not so often at the back.
Goals to shots analysis show the real problem. We have managed to score more than 2 Prem. goals only twice in the entire season (ironically WHam and Spurs - both away) , whilst a tally of 12 draws shows that we would have had a much better league position for the want of an extra goal - here and there , and whilst securing " near-impossible results " against both Manchester sides, Tottenham, Arsenal and WHam, we have than gifted points to poorer sides much lower than us in the table.

Both Adams and Broja have managed just 1 goal each in their last 8 outings, and thanks only to his dead-ball efforts JWP is joint top scorer with 7. I feel sorry for Adam A. whose debut season is now reminiscent of Che Adams first year, as he is first to be subbed when things go pear-shaped before HT. Clearly he needs a run of games before the end of the season and a chance to regain confidence and his scoring skills.
Not wishing to be over-critical about Ralph's selections, clearly Livramento looks better playing further up on the right, whilst both Armstrong and Redmond are too often played in roles that don't suit their best talents.
With an anticipated summer clear-out on the books, hopefully we can replace some of the misfits and try to avoid buying-in players who won't fit our playing system.

A1079 added 10:17 - Apr 24
Completely agree with your comments Underweststand.

Much focus is made of defensive frailties and errors and no one would say that it has not been an issue now for many seasons - all too many, but our performance in terms of goals, conversion and scoring from open play is woeful. Che Adams I like and works hard but he along with others have little composure and ability as a striking force and at the end of the day he was brought to score goals. Broja has gone way off the boil but he is young and he is now expecting to often work alone in a team that is not performing well in just about all areas. Our midfield is not providing much in terms of supply, even Stuart Armstrong - usually so reliable - has lost his verve recently.

I don't know about Adam Armstrong. He has perhaps not had a fair crack at it but when he has played for me he does not look like he will cut it at this level. He appears more of a replacement for Long with a similar style. Lots of running about but not much cutting edge.

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