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Saints Squad In Better Shape Than This Time Last Year
at 16:54:58


I agree about the need for an experienced capable centre back (hopefully worldly enough to be a leader and captain on the field), but clearly THEY (those who decide on transfer targets and player budgets etc) don't!

If they did they would have done the very sensible thing ie. sign either Tarkovski or Mee who were available on free transfers, but Everton and Brentford had more sense and moved quickly while we collected promising but some way from fully accomplished youngsters, by and large.
Why Do Southampton Always Do Badly On The Opening Day
at 14:25:29

My view is that we don't play enough pre season friendlies that are competitive enough to test us and show where we need to focus our efforts.

Four is not enough to get all the squad up to match standard

We should play 6 pre season games with at least the last four with genuinely challenging opponents.

We are all too leisurely about it and I believe quite undercooked and more often than not unsure about who should be in the first team and on the bench on the day before the first and highly unlikely to be ready for the likes of Spurs.

I anticipate a miserable time on Saturday, probably a 3-0 defeat and all that pressure as per previous feeble starts
Two More Signings Needed For Saints This Summer But Only One Is Crucial !
at 12:21:17

I think we need both an experienced CB and a proven striker ( 10 to 12 goals per season) who is of the scale to intimidate defenders in the box and able to play with his back to the opposition goal when necessary...a la Pele.

Dembele, Ihaneacho type perhaps; I would have welcomed the guy Burnley bought last year who had plenty of goals to his name in European leagues, but they have now loaned to a Turkish club. OKay he scored just a single goal for Burnley, but he played a role of one lone striker for them with negligible support from midfield...but he worried defences and kept the ball effectively and laid it off well.
Promising youngsters are good but not enough to survive...I hope I'm wrong!

Both are vital, just one would be a serious setback
Southampton On Verge Of Signing French Striker
at 18:19:07

Perhaps worth the gamble, but unlikely to be capable of playing and scoring consistently for a season or two. We need a proven mature strikes...what about the likes of Iheanacho of Leicester, or the Dembele guy at Lyons?
German U21 International Set To Become Southampton's Next Summer Signing
at 18:05:55

Including this gent (and excluding Phil Jones who we are regularly associated with) this means we are likely to have 7 central defenders, several of whom are not really up to it and none of whom played to an acceptable level in the last third of the season.

Apart from Salisu who has plenty of promise Messrs Bednarek, Stephens, Lyanco and Valery are inconsistent at best, Simeu has no PL experience. None of them have the leadership qualities urgently required...and we need a spine in the team, also painfully absent for much of the season...oh and we're desperate for a reliable goal scorer or two and a No.10!

Is this madness or what....who are we going to sell the dross to?
Southampton V West Ham United The FA Cup Verdict
at 14:38:01

Yes fantastic performance...and so unexpected when I saw the line up...and groaned with frustration. we have a squad of very much improved players and made Wham's squad depth look like ourselves in the darkest moments of last season.

Until recently my faith in Ralph had been slowly declining, but after the last couple of wonderful months, that's all banished. Now I'm worried that he may be dragged away by some wealthy predatory club at the end of the season...perhaps Man U (ugh) perhaps Spurs etc, perhaps one of the major European sides. sign him up now and pay him very well...don't repeat the mistake that we made with Koeman. The point is that to keep him we have to remunerate him according to his value to us and we have to demonstrate that there remains a will to aspire beyond a mid table, survival position. Like Koeman we mustn't let him think that the grass is greener elsewhere even though I like to think he has no particular wish to leave, but ambition needs to be encouraged not suffocated.

So two other lessons from last night

1. we need at minimum two strong, tall, fast strikers (like Adams and Broja) in preference to two fast, shorter, less robust strikers without the ability (like Armstrong and Long) to intimidate large quite mobile centre backs like Wham's defence last night. Adams has got good speed and a fast turn and i am sure he will get more relevant to the squad, but we will have to be as patient as we were with Che in his first 18mths. We need to play more intelligently to exploit his talents. And like many others I fear Broja's development has made it inevitable that Chelsea will want him back at the end of the season

2. a very similar lesson. We cannot afford to take the field with less than one central defender with height and assertiveness and obstinacy (like Bednarek and Salisu and perhaps Lyanco) in every important game we play. Otherwise we will be dominated in the air in our box and have little threat at corners in the opposition box. Nevertheless I did think Stephens played an excellent game last night for which he deserves much credit, he led the defence effectively.
Chelsea "Insider" Reveals Interesting Southampton Broja Transfer news
at 17:42:29

I'm confused, not about Broja, but about McCarthy!

I was pretty sure that I read on this site that McCarthy had recently signed a new contract and this clearly meant that FF was second choice and he would be leaving when his very expensive contract expired in the summer.

Now it seems that both keepers' contracts end this summer (hence the interest in various others over the last couple of months). Yet I didn't think it was all that long ago (c18mths?) that McCarthy had had his existing contract extended

Can someone please tell me authoritatively what the state of play is with regard to tweedle dum and tweedle dee between the posts?
Southampton At Swansea City The Verdict
at 23:00:46

We should have been 3 goals ahead by the time Valery was sent off! Why are we so often unable to take advantage of relatively easy chances; the number of goal opportunities we waste are not worthy of a Premiere League side. Swansea were a pretty poor side yet we were hapless in front of goal after Redmond scored. Broja looked uninterested and Redmond seemed to think he had done enough after that too. At least Long still knows where the goal is. Tella looks full of talent but he simply doesn't hit the ball hard enough when shooting and Adam Armstrong seems to have lost any idea of what he needs to do to score. Some signs of Stuart Armstrong getting match fit at least.
Southampton V Aston Villa The Verdict
at 13:16:22

Given the number of times that Villa put the ball into our box in the second half, sometimes with farcical attempts at putting it into the net, I think we should all be grateful that Ings wasn't playing. He would have scored several in all probability.

Our scoring problem remains the quality of our passing/crosses that actually reach players when the opposition has been pressed back into last ditch defence. I feel that AA is capable of being as good as Ings without the injury absences, his first touch is usually good, he turns very quickly and he would most benefit from playing beside Broja who will disrupt opposition defences much more effectively than the industrious but erratic Adams.

And yes, it's obvious Tino should be on the right side of midfield (and Walcott on the bench, not on the field) with KWP at right back and the very effective Perraud at left back. Why doesn't RH explain why he is not doing this...its inexplicable (irrespective of Tino's rather disappointing for much of the second 18 he probably needs resting here and there.
Southampton V Leeds United The Verdict
at 22:44:24

Is it possible that Redmond has been consistently disappointing for some time because we have not been playing him in the best position for his talents?

For a long time I have felt that we have missed an effective No10, a player to play in the hole behind preferably a strong tall striker (perhaps Brojan, like Pele) and a fast runner in the channels (perhaps A Armstrong) Could it be that Redmond isolated on the right or left of midfield for long periods in the past has found his niche with a freer role in the centre working between the lines.

In the past I have thought Stuart Armstrong could do this job for us (and score goals),sometimes that JWP might fit the role (though not much recently) and now perhaps Redmond.

OK too early to say with much confidence, but well worth an extended trial there; he certainly seems to have found a knack of increasing his assist tally in recent weeks

Go on Ralf, give him a chance and give him a freer role in the opposition's half of the pitch

Southampton At Manchester City The Verdict
at 18:19:07

I feel a good deal better about AA than many of the other correspondents on this site.

He turns very rapidly, like Ings, and works as hard as Che and I think he looks sharper. Penalties against him both at Newcastle and probably at Man City would have contributed a total of 4pts, but for VAR...indeed he might have scored both of them had he not been dragged down.

His problem, just like Ings, when he also had to be the single striker who pressed from the front , is the chronic lack of support. The best solution seems to me to start him with Broja and then I think, after gainingsome familiarity with each other, we would likely see them both amongst the goals. Of course we would have to forfeit one midfielder...
Southampton V West Ham United The Verdict
at 13:21:24

Key things to learn here I suggest:

* Broja and Armstrong up front is the best combination, the latter's speed on the turn and the former's directness, strength and opportunism bold well, if they are played together
* Elyanoussi looked far more effective when moved into the No10 roll in the second half and more predatory
* Romeu looks very off form and Diallo deserves more game time
* Tino was again outstanding and should be on the right hand side of midfield, with KWP restored to right back
* Perraud was impressive, especially the speed he possesses when we have given the ball away and he has to get back to defend which he did effectively
* credit to Stephens and McCarthy for good games, especially the latter who came off his line effectively and quite often (has somebody at last started to coach him in this previously neglected skill?
* Djenepo deserves great credit for his effort and playing a role really alien to his nature; okay his final pass leaves much to be desired but surely we can improve on this skill with focused training. I love his attitude and speed. Why don't we post him half way up the field when we are defending corners etc, clearing the ball up the field to him would likely give some opposition defenders a real fright with his breakaway speed
* why is Redmond so erratic in performance?
* Salisu has great potential but needs better distribution, why is Bednarek getting the cold shoulder? Could we play three at the back as a viable tactic...I'm undecided

Some mysteries here...what is going on in Ralph's mind?
Southampton At Newport County The Verdict
at 11:13:35

Well, 3 goals and two assists surely suggest that Elyanoussi deserves a first team run out in the place that Walcott strolls around so ineffectually in?
Southampton V Manchester United The Verdict
at 10:40:27

Yes, very fair report.

But we need to better understand what is going on in Ralf's head.

It's blatantly obvious to almost everyone that Forster is far better than McCarthy, so why does RH keep making this curious decision. McCarthy looks nervous, he makes the fans nervous, he must scare his defender's s**tless. So on what rationale does he choose him. Has it anything to do with the many goalkeepers he has on the staff?

The second question is about Walcott, lovely man etc but doesn't seem to represent any sort of serious threat. Negligible involvement in the first half, great improvement in the team's shape when he didn't reappear. Can't understand why we have taken him on at all.

Any explanations about why no Bednarek from the start, he's our best central defender even if he does lack a little pace. What's Ralf thinking there, is he still giving him rest time from the Euros?

Ralf needs to explain himself, since none of the supporters have a clue about what his decisions are based on. What does he see in training that persuades him to make these odd selections.

If he was happy with the side that lost it in the second half against Everton, so didn't change the side for yesterday's game, what will he make of the performance against ManU - presumably that will have cemented McCarthy's first choice status? Madness

I heard that Stu Armstrong was injured, he's such a key player for us that I hope there is no other underlying reason for his non appearance; his departure would be very hard to bear!
Southampton At Everton The Verdict
at 10:48:20

Yes, to all your comments, but some more inexplicable (weird?) selections from Ralf re McCarthy, Walcott and Stephens and the usual overly delayed substitutions. Though heartened by the performances of Livramento and Djenepo. Armstrong is fundamental to our cause too. Perhaps having more players to choose from is more challenging for Ralph than having fewer. Also think we must have Broja on the bench as an alternative to two too similar strikers. But promising start from Armstrong with a very Ings-like goal.

Ralf has to get himself together
Southampton At West Ham United The Verdict
at 11:40:10

Why play Redmond, Djenepo is faster and more energetic and better with the ball at his feet and makes tackles...ok he has much to learn but I can see progress this year. We cannot afford to play two of the group of players containing Redmond, Minamino, Walcott and Djenepo in the same game

We cannot keep on wasting opportunities to score in the way we have so often right through the season JWP rarely shoots in open play; the admirable Armstrong was very wide of the mark yesterday; Adams misses so many sitters (but brings other things to the party and is vital to supporting Ings).

We must have two defensive midfielders in front of the defence (Romeu and Diallo)

KWP is fantastic going forward and Bertrand's replacement must be likewise

Our four centrebacks do not seem to understand the fundamentals of concentration, positioning, stopping the opposition coming inside or anticipating their attacks. Which ones out of Bednarek, Vestergaard and Stephens should go...we certainly have no prospect or cash for replacing them all. Yet on occasions and for spells in a game they are each capable of some sound moments, Bednarek is high up the table for blocks for instance, well he would be given the opportunities for shots that we gift the opposition! Vestergard can be very effective at heading clear and his cross field passing is better than most defenders, Stephens failures are well documented but he's a good fall back though not a first choice. So we've got Salisu for the present. Perhaps the problem is that we simply don't have the coaching staff. In rugby union there are attack and defence coaches, perhaps this would be a good way forward...we seem to be overloaded with ex goalies who clearly don't make Forster or McCarthy all that much better at all

And yes...despite being a more or less consistent supporter of Ralf I am unable to explain or support some of his selections, substitutions or tactics which seem to be more erratic every game

Why are we clearly so feeble in some games Leeds (x2), notoriously at W Brom, WHam yesterday and Everton and the cup semi final.

If I was Ings I would not be able to think of any seriously good reasons for staying

But here's the truth, so many things have to change that it is impossible to imagine how we can manage the situation and emerge any better next season

Sadly I live a long way from Southampton and cannot justify a season ticket and travel costs etc though in the past I have often imagined living nearer and being proud to attend every home game. If that dream were to be a reality, I am now not sure that I would contemplate buying a season ticket, I'm just relieved that I don't actually have that dilemma!
Southampton V Crystal Palace The Verdict
at 12:13:56

Yes, agree with almost all of the other contributors comments.

Just want to emphasise a few points.

*we have too many players who have poor first touches, especially amongst the forwards, most notably Walcott and Minamino, but also Adams who to some extent makes up for it with a great deal of hard work, while the other two are simply not strong enough on the ball. Redwood's first touch is not good and he seems very unwilling to run more directly at players and his shooting is erratic at best. Djenepo has something that these others don't which is considerable speed and very clever ball skills, but is also knocked off the ball too easily. I think that we should use him more intelligently, so expecting him to do a little less defensive effort (which he has worked hard at improving) and more of a breakaway role where he can run directly at retreating defenders and make them turn against their wishes. So don't keep either Walcott or Minamino, but perhaps we should consider retaining Elyanoussi in their place, he seems to have done well at Celtic (?)
* next season we should play both Romeu and Diallo in the defensive midfield with Oriol staying back and Ibrahima going forward more. Together they will be reminiscent of the Schneiderlin/Wanyama (though not the same) allowing JWP to advance more and the admirable Armstrong to play in the hole (fantastic direct runs, great engine, plays with his head up, want him to stay as long as possible please) JWP and SA need more opportunity to score more goals by being closer to the opposition's penalty box.
* what we really need is exactly what neither Ings nor (oddly) Adams give us ie. a classic centre forward who can play with his back to goal, but can also turn, redistribute, bully defenders and score This would take some of the responsibility of Ings and probably mean that he would have more scope himself in the box. Someone like Pele for instance?
* while we have a very poor defensive record I'm not convinced that we lack enough quality defenders to tighten up play, with special mention to Salisu (looks like a star) and Bednarek (the latter is top of the league in blocking and has played strongly all season. What we really need is, not another import, but a much cheaper expert defensive coach and get rid of one of our too many goalkeeping coaches turned general factotums
* obviously we need another attacking wing back with non negotiable defensive quality given RB's departure
* we clearly need more depth in the squad than we have had this year (arguably RH's biggest mistake in the past)
In Ralph We Should Trust
at 13:47:15

I have been a supporter since 1966 and have seen some tremendous moments of (transitory) success and quite a few occasions of humiliating disaster. I do not use any form of social media which I abhor. While I appreciate the mostly sensible commentaries from you, Nick, and appreciate your long commitment to the cause, there are some remarks that you have made recently which seem to me to be somewhat delusional eg. the idea that this could yet be our greatest season...because we could avoid relegation again and win the FA Cup!

I do agree with you that Ralf brings a number of things to the club which we have sorely missed for far too long. I admire him for his obvious integrity, honesty, commitment, skill in improving players' skill sets and until recently ability to motivate his squad.

I'm not so sure about the latter after the woeful performance vs WBA, they outclassed us for most of the game by doing the simple things extremely well, by being direct, by applying an effective press for most of the game and seemingly having far more energy than most of our players.

I completely accept that there are many mitigating circumstances this odd season which Ralf has uniquely, in our club's history, had to overcome. Despite all this our record has been erratic for most of his tenure. Spells of consistent success and spells of dismal, sequential defeats have occurred like the passing of the seasons.

Each year we have been fortunate enough to be not quite bad enough to be relegated, but as you say this has often been down to the greater failings of those clubs who have had less time to dwell in the PL, but spend much of their time rising and falling with the tide - clubs like Norwich, Huddersfield, Hull, Sunderland, Watford, Swansea, Fulham, West Brom etc Others are chronic underperformers Newcastle, Stoke, West Ham (until very recently), Aston Villa, Crystal Palace and perhaps Saints too. I certainly feel that we should expect to be more consistently successful than the likes of Burnley, Brighton and Sheffield United

What I would like to understand better is why we are not more like teams that I feel we should be more comparable with like Leicester, Wolves and West Ham currently, Why aren't we customarily somewhere in the, say, 7th to 12th league positions at the end of the season?

Well the reasons are obvious:
- we lack the financial resources (no wealthy benefactor, limited crowd attendance, limited overseas appeal from a marketing perspective etc
- necessarily a selling club with a consequent high turnover in quality players who are replaced at best (though not often) by promising younger players who are often from abroad and take several seasons to adjust to the demands of the PL. Frequently they are replaced by significantly cheaper players who do not become regulars - we've had plenty of those over many years. Why how is it that some teams seem to buy in remarkably talented players whom none of us have barely ever heard of yet seem to make their mark forcibly? Pereira, St Maximin, Watkins, Raphinha, Neto, Almiron etc
- who is responsible for player recruitment now and where are we looking for talent?
- after many years of quality academy 'stars' that stream seems to have now reduced to a dribble
- a complete inability to attract, select and retain quality managers (on balance I do think that Ralf is one of those, despite some current obvious failings) But Koeman and Pochetino were by any measure far superior to those next three who followed them.
- some of the players in the current crop are just not good enough.Tthe first touches of Walcott and Adams and Minamino are terrible and only Adams seems occasionally to be a reliable source of goals though he does take some of the pressure of Ings who needs a strike partner. At least Adams is not easily knocked off the ball and challenges the opposition, though he is not often found in the opponents box and his capacity to miss sitters (eg. last minute vs Burnley) is remarkable, sorry I should say depressing!
-it's clear to all that we need a larger squad to better manage injuries, loss of form etc. Ralf has failed here in prefering to work with a smaller squad, supposedly, but we need serious competition at full back and in the forward line.

Irrespective of Ings future we need at least another reliable striker who can play with his back to goal when necessary and hold the ball up and bully the opposition in their penalty area. This would give us some greater adaptability to change our tactics when we need to

Consistently the best player for the last couple of seasons has been Armstrong, unlike anyone else in the team he seems both the most likely to be an effective captain and an influential creative force. He plays with his head up and seems to have an excellent engine with good acceleration and a goal threat. I saw no evidence of JWP providing any captaincy skills on Monday; too many sideways passes (like Ray Wilkins) and a general unwillingness to take the ball very far forward. Great free kicks, but he needs to take calculated risks to drive us forward. He so often seems to play within his potential.
The lethargy of last Monday was clearly evident in the defence, particularly on our left flank and Diallo, who I have been impressed with, had his worst game. Salisu also looks promising and Djenepo seems to be gradually making the grade (as an impact sub)

There are so many moving parts that contribute to our current though enduring unstable circumstances that it is quite difficult to prioritise the steps forward, but we must sought things out this summer for once and for all and yes, I do still thing that Ralf represents the best prospect of doing this, but he has to achieve far greater consistency of commitment and performance on the pitch...urgently
Southampton V Wolverhampton Wanderers The Verdict
at 11:24:39

Generally I agree with your perspective on this latest calamity, Nick. But there two aspects of that game that have recurred all too frequently.

The first is that , apart from Ings (and to a lesser extent Armstrong) we do not have any players who are reliable goalscorers. Adams, Redmond, Walcott and Djenepo are too unreliable, their first touches are often terrible. JWP is rarely close to the opposition's penalty area in open play and Romeu is a one goal per season. Both Bertrand and KWP threaten to score more convincingly than our forwards.

As a consequence even when we dominate in the first half as much as yesterday's game we consistently fail to build on our advantage. It seemed to me to be madness to play Redmond as a striker, when he is capable of creating opportunities for others, but by no means a reliable scorer. Adams is such a disappointment, he works incredibly hard all over the pitch, but doesn't spend enough time in the penalty area and his first touch is often heavy and awkward, but he should have been RH's choice there before Redmond.

The second issue that Nick ignores is that we habitually lose games in the second half where we always seem to fade and then collapse. We allow teams a chance to get back in the game and then present them with the sort of opportunity that we would probably miss, but we almost help them score with a bit of bad judgement along the way.

I do think that Foster should have played, though I think he looks as uncomfortable with playing out from the back as does McCarthy, but he looks more confident in dominating his penalty area and resisting the opposition's attacks

Yesterday I though RH's subs were not that well considered, unless he was injured I would have kept Armstrong on the pitch and I wouldn't have put Djenepo on instead of Minamino either!
Southampton At Manchester United The Verdict
at 13:27:30

Two disastrous 9-0 defeats in successive seasons is just too much of a coincidence for there not to be some common factors underlying these results and, self evidently, those factors have not been addressed.

I want to make it clear that like most supporters I strongly approve of what Ralf has done for this club, relatively successfully, since his arrival. You might care to remember the three managers who immediately proceeded him and they were uniformly hopeless.

But you may also remember that Koeman was considerably more capable than the three who followed him and quite a few others who had gone before. But the reason that we lost Koeman so early was exaxactly the same reason as we may well lose Ralf now...that we display a recurrent inclination to demonstrate to good managers that we as a club do not sufficiently support their plans for hoisting Saints, at least into the top half of the table, because that will involve some greater measure of investment in the squad. It's hardly surprising that capable and ambitious managers lose heart and go on elsewhere to advance their careers

We have to recognise that losing a very good manager is far more destructive of our stability, consistency, rhythm and development than losing a top class player for large sums of money (although we often don't re-invest it all that well )

It's clear in my mind that Ralf said at the end of his first part season with us that he preferred to work with a smaller squad of first team regulars and to give young players more chances to compete for first team players. Did he really mean that or did he say that because it was in fact the parameters that he had been told he would have to work within? I thought at the time that he was rather naive to think that a) he would be unable to improve the skills of some of the players he inherited (and he has proved me wrong in that, thankfully) b) that he probably overestimated the talent in the academy ranks (still to be determined) and c) perhaps most significantly, that he seriously underestimated the grinding relentless pressure of the PL fixture list and the competitive, physical stress placed on the fitness of a small squad of players. At that time I had not anticipated the extent to which he would put pressure on his limited playing resources by adopting what has now become our trade mark pressing effective when we have our first choice 11 on the pitch, so exhausting when the unique circumstances of Covid entail such a condensed fixture list week in week out that players have little opportunity to recover their energies, let alone overcome the inevitable injuries in such constricted timescales.

So in some respects I think Ralf has misjudged the situation. On the other hand it may be that when he said this, c18 mths ago, he was simply making a virtue of a predicament forced upon him by the higher management, working to Gao's policy of "sell first and then replace more cheaply" by gambling on unproven talent that may occasionally blossom, but often seems to have disappointing outcomes.

I no longer know whether Ralf has all that much say in the selection of transfer targets; but it is clear that some of our recent recruits look to have been good eg. Ings, Armstrong, KWP, Diallo while others who shall remain nameless do not seem to have reproduced the form (or goals) which we anticipated And some of our purchases/ loanees do not very convincingly seem to be chosen with a clear view of what problem they are being recruited to solve.

I do not see much point in banging on about referees, VAR, the effect of Covid guidance on our Physio facilities etc. But I do think that the wholesale movement of players out on loan over the last week (and in particular the despatch of the only two reserve full backs with any first team experience seems suicidal (tho' I did think Ramsay made a reasonably good job of being handed a really tough assignment without any significant help/guidance from other members of the team.)

Bu why did this happen? I can't believe that this was Ralf decision, so I have to assume that it was forced upon him , as he intimated during the week, as an expeditious means of reducing the wage bill in the short term.

If this is so then we have probably damaged or lost his commitment to the role and we can as like as not expect to see him resign (on principle) at the end of the season or be prised away from our approving gaze by bigger bucks and a club that know where it is going. And we will be back where we left off with Koeman's departure and that means grubbing around in the lower reaches of the PL with mediocre management like Puel, Pellegrino and Hughes...assuming that we can reverse the slide down the table asap
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