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Tottenham Hotspur 4 v 1 Southampton
Barclays Premier League
Saturday, 6th August 2022 Kick-off 15:00
Southampton At Tottenham Hotspur The Verdict
Monday, 8th Aug 2022 09:07

Yet another opening day of woe for Saints against Spurs in North London, yet it could easily have been avoidable if we had signed a leader and organiser in the back line, there was little to be praiseworthy about.

I was hacked off about the result at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, but even more hacked off about the manner of it and the fact that I have to now sound like a broken record again and pointing out what seems to be painfully obvious, but not to those in charge of the transfer strategy.

That is a complete lack of leadership and organisation in the defence.

Ralph Hasenhuttl seems determined to play 3 at the back with 2 wingbacks, it didn't work, not because we haven't got the players to play it, but because we have no one who can organise it all on the pitch.

Some would say that Jan Bednarek who is now 26 and a player with 132 Premier League appearances to his name should now be that leader, but he just doesn't seem to be the type, nothing wrong with that, there have been many great players who have not been leaders of men, however this system cannot work unless we get someone in the centre of that back three to steady the ship and organise.

Early doors Spurs were looking to get at us, what was clear on the left was that Moussa Djenepo needed someone to keep him focused, he was playing an alien position and here was also a player who has barely played in 18 months, having started just 5 games last year.

Djenepo came in for a bit of stick from some fans, but it wasn't just his fault, he should have been talked through the game and it wasn't his fault when Spurs pushed their men forward and double teamed him.

Going forward though he looked ok and he made a great run and pull back for James Ward Prowse to open the scoring after 12 minutes and you hoped that this might settle us.

At this stage this is when you need a leader of men, calm the side down, regroup and keep us focused, we didn't have that, we just carried on playing as we did before the goal, chasing shadows and leaving men unmarked.

That perhaps showed as the lead lasted just 9 minutes, Spurs got room and our left and put in a great cross, Kyle Walker Peters is not used to playing as a wing back either and he allowed his man to get in front of him and head home giving Gavin Bazunu no chance.

Again time for leadership, but we were still running around like headless chickens and it was no surprise when Eric Dier headed home completely unmarked on 31 minutes.

It was now going to be a long day, but we dug in, there was plenty of spirit, just no leadership and we got into half time just a goal down.

For the first 15 minutes of the second half we were still in the game, then came a goal that really should not have happened, a harmless cross was going out for a goal kick, no Spurs players anywhere near it, we had 3 or 4 close, you would have thought that one of them would have called to Salisu to let the ball run or even to put his foot on it, but with no shout and he himself clearly unaware of who was around he smashed the ball into his own net.

This epitomises what we lack, there was no talking no organisation, 2 minutes later and the game was over when a fourth was added, the only real question is how the hell did we manage to keep the score at that level for the remaining half hour.

So this was a bad day at the office, not the first one on the opening day of the season and it is still not a terminal blow, although some Saints fans seem to think we are relegated already.

According to Ralph there is transfer business to be done, talk of a goalscorer coming in, but our problem is not scoring goals it is letting them in, our most crucial element in our defending is luck, if we have good luck we can keep a score down, if we don't then we concede.

I can accept it when sides are better than us and rip us to pieces, but when we gift goals and the reason is clear it is hard to take, especially since it has been going on now since January 2017 when Fonte left and Van Dijk got injured.

So apologies for having to write the same things I have been saying for 5 years now, but it has to end.

Bizarrely in the Southampton B set up, Saints recognised the very problem I am talking about, last year they signed Ollie Lancashire to mentor the B team, they wanted someone to sit in the back for and talk the youngsters through the games.

They knew the value of having an old head around to help the players to develop and gain experience, they do that with 18 year olds in the B team so why do they not do it in a back line in the Premier League that is only a couple of years or so older than the B team players.

Some will say we have the experience out there already, they are right we have JWP, Oriol Romeu and Stuart Armstrong, but they are not leaders of men, they lead by example and there is a big difference.

They must be frustrated as they work hard to win balls in the midfield and keep the side going only for time and time again teams to score goals through our own poor defending.

This team is quite capable of a good mid table finish, but unless we change things it will be another season of boom and bust and 15th.

The talk of scoring goals is all well and good, but that is not our problem, the issue is stopping goals, it is a lot easier to bring in a good experienced central defender and stop leaking 15-20 unnecessary goals a season than it is to find a striker who will score you 20 goals.

Saturday was no surprise, I have a lot of faith in Ralph Hasenhutt, but surely he and indeed those who advise him can see this problem.

Photo: Action Images

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mgprobert added 09:14 - Aug 8
Totally agree, and the problem has been screaming out for a few seasons now. Oh for a Conor Coady! Lets re-assess after 10 matches and then say the same :(

saintmark1976 added 09:21 - Aug 8
In Ralph we Rust …… again.

JGH added 09:29 - Aug 8

DPeps added 09:30 - Aug 8
It's concerning that the new CB (Bella-Kotchap) didn't even make it on the pitch, so we can assume that he's not seen as the answer to our defensive problems, yet.

I'm still reserving judgement because spurs away first game is very tough for any team, but it's all so predictable with us: same problems for years now - blunt attack and weak defence.

The Leeds game is big. If we fail to get anything out of that then, chances are, we'll have nil points after 6 games

DPeps added 09:32 - Aug 8
JGH - Mings would be an improvement on what we have (not hard) but the Villa fans I know do not rate him

EvertonSaint added 09:38 - Aug 8
The supporters know it and have done for the last couple of years, we need a good centre half to organise the defence. If we ordinary supporters see it, then why hasn’t the manager seen it and made an offer on one? The system he is trying to use Is NOT working. There will be demands on Saturday for a win. No win then the owner MUST make the ultimate decision. The fans WILL be shouting ‘You don’t know what your doing’ again. Sell Che Adams, Alan Armstrong, Walcott and Jack Stephens. Use the money wisely.

Rossm2006 added 09:40 - Aug 8
Spot on really, we have spent a lot of money for players with no experience that even the manager says may take a year or more ' to help us'. I don't really blame Ralph as I don't think, like most managers these days, he has much say in transfer policy or targets . We have been crying out for a leader at the back for around 3 seasons. When you watch us there is also no vocal leadership in the whole team. Barely a word is said and they just look at each other. As you said not every player is a leader but we need one. Even JWP is more a leader from example than vocally. I'd also say we need a striker with premiership experience or we will sadly struggle this year. I can't see three teams worse than us. For me, Ralph has done great things for us , we have punched about our weight with no investment. What worries me now is has he played all his cards?
Jumping from formation to formation won't settle or go down well in the dressing room. I don't see 5 at the back making any difference if we're still reliant on Valery and Stephens. No offense but one is a right back and Stephens really struggled against Coventry last year. I feel for Ralph, I find it hard to believe he wanted these players , for me they come next season and this we were crying out for experience and quality. Coady is a great vocal leader but we won't get him .

IanRC added 09:45 - Aug 8
Can't believe Adams didn't feature, someone who can hold up the ball. If he is sold without a good replacement I will have to concede that Ralph has completely lost it. Agree to about a central defence organiser.

HythePeer added 09:59 - Aug 8
Who thinks Saints will still be bottom in October?

JoeEgg added 10:03 - Aug 8
As has been said by one and all -the deficiences revealed again on Saturday were all so predictable. I feel sorry for JWP who has to play with this system and has shown his loyalty to the Club - he could easily have gone to a Big Club. I feel sorry for our new goalkeeper who must now realise what he is up against - he doesn't have to worry about the opposition forwards - just his own defence!!
Pre-season was a disaster as many pointed out and the transfer strategy both comical and disastrous. Thanks goodness our new coaching staff have been selected to concentrate on our defensive strategy! Did anyone spot any improvement on Saturday?
Ralph's team selections and tactics still baffle me although he may not have been totally responsible for the signing of yet more inexperience! I cannot believe that the Club could not have signed at least one experienced defender with leadership qualities and a player who could be remotely described as a striker and might just possibly help to end our goal drought.
If the new owners are prepared to suffer the same lack of insight into what is needed at our Club then we shall be playing the Championship next year. , Ralph never was the man for this Club - I have consistently pointed this out - but it is not fair to blame him entirely for the misguided policy and failure to fill the most obvious gaps on the pitch. The kind of player that we so badly need - and the fans have been calling these for months now- will soon be reluctant to commit to a Club that appears to have lost its way with a manager who appears to have learned little from his mistakes!

kingolaf added 10:06 - Aug 8
Nick, how you can have any faith in Ralph beggars belief.


Monksway added 10:11 - Aug 8
Listening to post match I don't think Ralph is convinced by 3-5-2 but is desperately seeking a solution to the run out of steam halfway through a match/ season 4222. He also has spoken out against a vocal leader and the transfer strategy seems very rigid in terms of developing youngsters by playing them. I'm concerned that those older heads aren't good enough - Valery, Stephens, Bednarek, Redmond, Walcott, Elyanoussi and the first crop of youngsters haven't progressed into EPL players Djnepo, Salisu, Adams, Adam Armstrong, Lyanco, Diallo, Tells.

Rossm2006 added 10:14 - Aug 8
I think the WC would have helped us if we stick to 4222, in the recent seasons we have benefited from breaks, especially post covid

onetowatch added 10:15 - Aug 8
Like all fans, I want consistancy at club level which means not changing managers on a regular basis. Because of that I stuck with Ralph, up until recently. Opinions are one thing, but facts can't be ignored. Most sadly for me, that here is a manager with a definite affinity with the club and the fans, which we all appreciate, but the truth is, he is not on an upward projectory with his own learning ands improvement. He has continued for 3 years making similar mistakes both in line ups, substitutions, and not applying enough pressure on those responsible for transfers.
I do wonder Nick, and all others who still support Ralph, what is it going to take, how bad a position do we need to be in, before fans take responsibilty for their club and make their feelingsd known?. I hope it won't be too late....

Boris1977 added 10:23 - Aug 8
The buck stops with the manager. He's making the same selection mistakes (RB at lb with an lb on the bench) and suddenly playing players who fell off the radar last season as they are too erratic.

The club has been mismanaged for several seasons now, to some extent for reasons beyond their control, but the time for excuses are gone.

Ralph is still experimenting with line ups, with systems and doesn't know who is best 11 are. We know what follows next - more erratic decisions to repair damage caused by his original decisions.

I lost faith in Ralph as late as March this year. He's had plenty of time to get things right and we have followed seamlessly from our last game of the season into this one.

We have fallen below Brighton and Brentford in terms of comparable clubs in the top flight. As things stand we are relegation candidates and with Ralph in charge we are relegation certainties.

Colburn added 10:43 - Aug 8
You can blame the defence all you like and yes, we didn't close down the wide players to stop the crosses coming in. But the real problem was the team selection.. One which conceded defeat and gave us no outlet. Our defenders had no forward ball because Ralph started with a 5-3-1-1 system, one striker and one attacking midfielder.. The end result would be no respite for our defenders who conceded goals in the first half because we didn't show the hunger to close the spaces quickly enough. The players didn't look like they believed in this system, understandably, and there is only one outcome. We will be the only team this season who goes there with one attacker with a poor scoring record and an winger on debut.. We got what Ralph deserved and you can bang on about leaders as much as you want but when the set up and tactics are wrong to start with what do any of us expect?
What is glaringly obvious to me is the psychological messages coming from the club and manager are horribly wrong, negative, defeatist, telling the world we have no ambition and use us as a stepping stone. We refuse to compete with smaller clubs in terms of signings and wages and then convince the fans and the players that we aren't good enough! It's no wonder our squad has the wrong mentality and our players who have character are stifled. Again we start the season woefully short of the requirements on the pitch and the rubbish they have said about not having to wait for the signings we want etc seems to be a load nonsense and football is not engineered or played on excel spreadsheets. Our lack of ambition, which we don't keep close to our chest, will never encourage the right players to sign for us. The philosophy sounds good but it hasn't worked in practice and we're now the second worst team in the league judging by belief, tactics and our lack of ability to hurt the opposition.

Colburn added 10:46 - Aug 8
And to be quite blunt, Spurs were very average, Kane still gathering fitness and they beat us in second gear, they were there for the taking with the right selection and right mentality.

stmichael added 11:11 - Aug 8
15th 🤔
I’d snap
Your hand off..

GRIM added 11:12 - Aug 8
Surely Ralph's reign has now become untenable. Yes, we know he's having to work with average players but it is his job to get the best out of those players. He continues to utilise players out of position which immediately takes them out of their comfort zone & it affects their confidence.
Djennepo cannot play wing back.
JWP should not be wasted on the left.
Romeu is a stopper not a creator
Stuart Armstrong is not a striker
Valery just ain't good enough.
Diallo, well what can I say.
Stephen's shouldn't even be in the squad.
Our best striker (Che) is left on the bench.
And so on :-.
But Lavia looks potentially very good but cannot be played with Romeu.
Watching them in all pre season friendlies & again against Spurs we have no shape or structure to the team, it just looks like a bunch of individuals wishing they didn't have to be there.
Also our players don't trust each other to do their job, we end doubling up on opponents which leaves space off the ball for the opposition.
And enough said about his timing & choice of substitutons.
End of rant .

SaintPaulVW added 11:16 - Aug 8
I believe we've only won 3 opening fixtures in 30 seasons.

The 3 new players looked good and will take time to settle. If there are further transfer moves then this team isn't the finished article.

However the second half collapse was far too familiar. Something needs to happen to stop these. 5 subs must give scope for better game management.

Oh well, it's going to be more agonising Saturdays again!


DorsetIan added 11:26 - Aug 8
I'd say that was a fair assessment GRIM rather than a rant!

Thing is, until another manager comes him who has a bit more nouse about him, we are never going to know what these players - particularly the young ones - are capable of.

Ralph has been messing about for a very long time. When was it that he played Cedric at left back?? Seems like years ago. It's dangerous when you think you're a tactical genius and you're not!

obelisk added 11:39 - Aug 8
"The talk of scoring goals is all well and good, but that is not our problem".

Are you sure? I'd suggest that is another problem and that it compounds Saints defensive frailties.

wessexman added 11:49 - Aug 8
Nick, we have a new coaching staff yet...the problems stay the same. Of course there will be no improvement if we persist with the same personnel. Our powers to be see exactly what we see yet...they refuse to address the problem. The bottom line is they are happy to see us finish above the dreaded line. As for do wonder whether he is angling for the sack.9

erick added 13:09 - Aug 8
At one time in the game, Lavia, Romeu, and Jwp were each 2 or 3 yards from each other, and I was wondering who can break with the ball forward to create space. The problem is not the defence or the attack, it's the midfield. That midfield was so redundant as no one can create for forward players, Romeu can never be a 10 or an 8 with no work rate. Diallo is better suited for that role, play 433 bazunu, kwp, kotchap, salisu, Perraud. Jwp, Lavia, Diallo, Djenepo, armstrong, Aribo. stop tinkering to create consistency. give jwp more freedom on the right and centre positions to bring crosses and shoot outside the box.
I expected a loss, but spurs showed the is a huge gap with a team that failed to beat us last season when we were 10 men in more than one half or the comeback.

Block8 added 13:10 - Aug 8
First game of what promises to be a very difficult season. Out tactics were completely wrong, have been used for all of our friendlies and proven not to work. The 10 minutes when it all went right against Monaco doesn't count. And yet we could easily have changed it a half time by replacing ONE player. Valery to right back, KWP to left back with Djenepo off and Adams up front. We may then have known our defensive shape and maybe the ball may have stayed up front a bit longer. You can Slate A. Armstrong as much as you like but he ran his socks off and got about five touches, one he fluffed ok. Adams has got to be leaving otherwise he was a shoe in for this game. Stu Armstrong up front looked totally lost and it's very hard not to be negative when we pick such obviously poor formations and follow it with even worse tactics!

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