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Saints At Stoke City The Verdict
Sunday, 1st Oct 2017 10:24

This was a worrying performance from Saints, who although dominating the game looked lacklustre for most of the game.

The big talking point before the game was the decision by Mauricio Pellegrino to drop Wesley Hoedt and put in Virgil Van Dijk, it was obviously a difficult decision for the manager, but the fact remains that Hoedt has been our best central defender in the past three games as harsh as would have been to drop Yoshida on performance Hoedt should have stayed, loyalty clearly played a big part in this selection.

But from the start Saints seemed to lack fire, although we passed the ball well in the first two thirds of the field, the final ball was missing.

Defensively in the first half we were all at sea, Stoke carved out a succession of chances and it needed Fraser Forster to be in top form to keep Saints in the game including a great penalty save, those who have knocked Forster in the past cannot deny he is looking the part in the past three games.

It looked like Saints might get through to half time but just before the break Diouf was left completely unmarked to head home from close range, it could have got worse a minute later when Forster's penalty save meant we were still in the game.

Second half was a lot better, but although we had plenty of pressure we just did not seem to have the confidence to take players on or try to hit the final ball, too many times players we have seen in the past do both of these things, when faced with the option of either of these, did the safe thing and checked back and played a sideways ball.

This is the heart of Saints problem we are playing with fear in the final third not with flair or confidence.

When Boufal came on for Davis on the hour mark it was a brave move from Pellegrino that had more than a few mutterings in the away section, however it worked, we took off a defensive player and brought on a player who seemed willing to run at the opposition and hit the final ball, five minutes later when Gabbiadini came on for Redmond we looked a different side.

When Yoshida fired home with 15 minutes left you felt that there would be only one winner and it looked that way for the next 10 minutes, however when Cedric slipped on the wet turf a rare Stoke attack saw them score what would be the winner.

Charlie Austin was thrown on and it was a frantic finale but it was too little too late and another defeat.

Saints are not a bad squad or a bad side, there is just something missing that the manager has not yet sorted out, we have the players to do so, but to be blunt the manager is now at a key point of his Saints career, he has o win a few games to show the fns that he has what it takes.

The issue is goals, but this game was like the others, it was not a question of chances missed, it was one of creating good chances and although 70% possession created 21 attempts on goal, only 3 were on target and Butland was rarely troubled.

The issue is all about creation, get that right and the goals will come.

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wibbersda added 10:52 - Oct 1
Definition of madness. Do the same thing over and over and expect a different result. Slow, ineffective and devoid of ideas. This seasom is depressing already.

LondonSaint added 10:53 - Oct 1
And a defender becomes our joint top scorer with a total of 1 goal this season. Says it all really!

OhBlox added 11:05 - Oct 1
For the first time in a while, I think I agree with pretty much everything Nick has to say here.
In short MP has to change the starting line up.
Tadic really lost it for a period of the match and Redmond was anonymous, these 2 players are key to getting the right patterns of play in the final third and they have both not quite been at the races this season. Both have shown glimpses, but that is not enough to warrant continually starting.
Boufal showed enough to warrant a start and Gabbiadini is always a threat with his runs etc but never gets the service, so these were probably the right subs to make. The question is, is MP going to take a risk and change things up sufficiently from the start in the next game to make a difference.

helpineedsomebody added 11:06 - Oct 1
the verdict= EXCUSES

highfield49 added 11:23 - Oct 1
Redmond, Tadic and Long can't say that they haven't had the chance to impress, so now it must be a run of games for Gabbi, Boufal and Austin. Personally I don't want to see Redmond on the pitch at present but I could name others that just aren't contributing enough. Absolutely frustrating for supporters to see their team have so much of the ball and squander the opportunity to get the ball into the box. Credit to Yoshi for a quality finish that put the huffing and puffing forwards to shame.

aceofthebase added 11:25 - Oct 1
Cedric slips, more like a right Horlicks and cost us a point (again).
Yoshida scores a wonderful athletic goal and is now certain to be dropped for next game.
Tadic and Redmond both pretty useless and slow up games by having to turn inwards to get the ball on good foot.
VVD played a commanding game and looked very comfortable.
Long is no centre-forward on his own.
No quick break attitude by midfield and attackers but stop for a few seconds until opposition defence is perfectly in place.
More? Yes lot's more....

helpineedsomebody added 11:39 - Oct 1
dreadful playing system

halftimeorange added 11:51 - Oct 1
It really does make one wonder what Claude might have achieved with Lemina at his disposal. After all, nothing much else is different from this season to the end of last. It's about time Sims was given a little run out and McQueen. Sims can pass a ball and McQueen used to be a winger so he surely can't contribute less than Redmond currently does if you add his defensive qualities to the equation, plus McQueen has some height. The lack of goals situation doesn't look like changing with the currently favoured players, irrespective of what combination is chosen so, I sincerely hope Saints have a couple of decent targets lined up for January or we will certainly flirt with relegation.

Chapstick added 11:54 - Oct 1
Clearly this group of players are not happy and i suspect not happy with the manager and his style of play. There is no harmony in this squad and likely that is down to many of them not liking the boss and Black.

A1079 added 11:54 - Oct 1
On the whole Nick, agree with your summary. But, how do you explain, those first 20 minutes after the break when we looked so pedestrian and slow and lacking in purpose? What on earth could have been said at half time that did not motivate them to come out fired up and attacking with purpose and given that the first half was worrying, why were the changes not made at half time, instead of being left so late in the game?

If as you say, we have a good squad and good players why is that not coming out in the 90 minutes of play? Is the coaching and management of the team suppressing their abilities or are they not as able as we would like to think they are? These are grown men, paid well and yet how can they look so lacklustre and disinterested for long stretches? That has to be something to do with motivation, belief and passion as much as it is about tactics, style and ability. Pellegrino and Black et al need to get their act together.

The fans were patient yesterday, and ok, there was the usual mutterings and sense of frustration but that did not spill out into any negative chanting (putting aside the ironic singing of "we've score a goal").

TeamCortese added 12:04 - Oct 1
For me, this issues all stems, yet again, with the board's lack of proactiveness in the transfer market to replace Mane and Pelle. When they brought Gabbiadini in Jan we all thought we'd kick on and start scoring on a regular basis--and we did initially. However, there's definitely a problem within the dressing room and this seems to be permeating to our attack. Furthermore, we are now feeling the repercussions of Fonte's departure. In past performances, he would have taken responsibility for motivating the team and I feel that we would have won that match with his mental influence on his teammate. Perhaps we thought VVD would carry on the responsibility but given that he wants to leave it's pretty clear that's not going to happen!

I also suspect the whole thing stems from Koeman's departure and the introduction of Eric Black. With the greatest respect to Davis, he is not captain material. I have never seen him animated with his teammates to get people motivated. I understand there are other ways of conducting yourself but fundamentally he needs to motivate the team. For him to be substituted when our backs are against the wall must be desperately disappointing for him. He's been an excellent servant to the club but I think we need to reassess his position. He is not an attacking midfielder. The best person in that position is Sofiane Boufal and he needs a run of games to get his confidence back.

I think we should give him a similar role to that of Michael Carrick at Man Utd. He should come on in the last 20-30 mins to calm the play when we're in a winning position and under pressure to hold our lead.

On a more general point, we need someone in the team to speak up and take responsibility for motivating the rest of the team. There's not enough passion or emotion from the player's at the moment (based off their body language). Where's the pride? Where's the hunger to be the best? I think it should be Yoshida. He's shown enough professionalism and loyalty to the club.

I remember when Koeman managed us against West Ham. We were 1-0 down at half-time. He told the players point-blank that he'd very disappointed if we lost and believes we have a better squad than West Ham. And we did by finishing 7th that season.

That winning mentality is what we're missing. I don't sense that MP. We have the 7th best squad in the league. We're just a few decent additions away from challenging the Top 6. Our players need to believe in their abilities. Have the arrogance to know we're better than Stoke, we're better than Watford, we're better than bloody Huddersfield. Come on you Saints!

pete_boggs added 12:06 - Oct 1
They ARE a bad squad, short of attacking options.

They ARE a bad side, fielding Davis and Redmond is playing with 9 men.

steve73 added 12:16 - Oct 1
I'm probably angry and looking for someone to blame but it can't be denied that the one constant feature in this seemingly never ending run of boring, negative football is one Eric Black.

As for yesterday just more of the same. For all of the possession and a few good individual performances the result was never really in doubt. Stoke are a bad side but they have teeth. We've got too many lightweight players that flatter to deceive. Gabb looks utterly lost and would probably jump at the chance of going home. to say nothing.

Final word goes to Yoshida. Despite his detractors it can't be denied he's adding to his cult legacy all the time. What a strike!

RobsMatePete added 12:22 - Oct 1
Well ....My Mate Rob and I have just sorted out a way to improve Saints results. In fact it was a variation on my wife suggestion that the plays get paid on the following basic
No Goals - No Pay
1 Goal 50% of Pay
2 Goals 100% 0f Pay
3 Goals 150% of Pay

My mate Rob also thinks that perhaps my wife could also make my life better, if if Saints Score ....I score....:-))

Thats probably the issue as to why we aren't scoring more goals mind you!

brownk added 12:27 - Oct 1
I just don't understand why he dropped Hoedt? He has looked excellent and even more odd when our problems have been scoring. So why change the defence when in the most part that has been our strengths. VVD looked heavy legged and ponderous especially when he gave the penalty away. It is not possible these days to let a player regain fitness in the PL. That needs to be done by playing U23 games. After 8 months out he needed at least 6/8 games to get up to speed. Really annoying when it so obvious and at times yesterday the back 4 looked all over the place!

saintmark1976 added 12:53 - Oct 1
Nick, I get the impression from the tone of your report that after match after match of telling us "it will be alright on the night" you are now becoming aware of our true situation.

If my research is correct our last fifteen Premiership matches have provided us with nine goals which equates to a ratio of 0.6 goals per game. Historically to finish above the bottom three a team needs to have scored at least a goal a game. Put simply, if the problem of our inability to score goals over the last fifteen games is allowed to continue unabated to the end of the current season then in 2018 we will be playing in the Championship no matter how good our defence may or may not be.

Bridsaint added 13:06 - Oct 1
How is it that Pelegrino was watching a different game to everyone else?!

Braveheart added 13:53 - Oct 1
What's missing is a decent manager who refuses to listen to the people around him. We must have 2 upfront all the time. I fear for this season already , it is becoming quite dire. Why does the manager always seem to be watching a different game to everyone else. I amquite sick of the club trolling out different players midweek with the same old rhetorical shite. "We must have more effort" " We must be more determined" "We are better than this" Stop insulting our intelligence and get on and do it. At the moment you are shite and you know you are.. Get rid of Pelligrino and the rest of the useless coaching staff and bring in Derek McInnes from Aberdeen, a good, no nonsense BRITISH manager.

AmericanSaint added 14:06 - Oct 1
I unfortunately did get to see the game, but after all the comments and highlights, I can't understand several things: 1) Why is Redmond still starting?; 2) Why is Long still starting as the lone striker- he is NOT a goal scorer PERIOD. 3) Why is Davis in an attacking midfield role? 4) Why is Tadic starting starting in a wing position? Our front line up should be Gabs, Attack/Mid - Boufal (left), Tadic (center), Long (right). If this front can't get you goals and real scoring opportunities, then we are in dire straights.

Just a though and on to the next game.


allsaint54 added 14:10 - Oct 1
Agree with steve73 we haven't played attractive football since Ian Black arrived. Has he had any success at his other clubs, I don't think so. All the players are going backwards, just look at Gabbi. How much worse do Redmond & Tadic have to play before they're dropped, it's like playing with 9 men. About the only plus is the return to form of FF.

Bulgarian added 15:50 - Oct 1
I owe respect to any player and staff at SFC for their commitment. So my view is not about personal vendettas. However problems must be named and blame should be taken for the constant underperformance of a very competent team...
The Stoke game was lost by M. Pellegrino - personally and without any chance for excuses.
1. Our best defender Hoedt is suddenly dropped - unexplicable!!!

2. The half-time talk provided negative effect: from second one we showed total disintegration, both teamwise and individually.

3. How could Mr Pellegrino remove Davis and leave the worn and ennerved Tadic? How can he take Lemina (our best midfielder) and leave Redmond? Unexplicable!

4. MP said that Long, Gabbi and Austin were players of the same type and this was the reason to play only one of them up front. How come we saw the three of them in the second half???

5. The problem with MP is his stubborness! He persists in his mistakes, playing Tadic and Redmond, who both slow down our play. Our "pretty football" is counterproductive and deceiving the eye - we seem to have the ball, but don't create anything serious. This is purely because the ling between the striker and the "attacking midfielders" doesn't click.

6. Shane Long is not a striker. He is best suited as an attacking winger WITH Gabbi or Austin to communicate. This is so blatant I am in awe of MoPe's refusal to explore this scheme. If we want to win the next games we simply MUST use Long on the wing, tormenting defenders and passing unselfishly to Gabbi.

7. I am afraid that the talent of a very capable Gabbi are just wasted at SFC for the time being. We don't need another striker - we just need to utilise our available staff properly.

8. The PR hype around MoPe was all about his tactical nous in Alaves. So far we have seen the contrary at Saints. Absolutely no will to be proactive, to adjust the style according to our players' strengths. It's not E. Black or L. Reed, it's the stubborness of our manager, who is turning to be a worse copy of Claude Puel.

Summary: If M. Pellegrino doesn't change his attitude immediately, he will enter Puel's trap - failing a very capable team into staggering mediocrity.

SanMarco added 16:33 - Oct 1
saintmark1976's statistics are worth looking at. Darical surgery will be needed in January - until them MP needs to keep his nerve and work with what he has got. I think a version of American Saint's idea may be what he needs to arrive at, certainly Redmond needs to be 'rested'. I watched Burnley at Everton this afternoon - they had no problem breaking forward - even Brighton were more fluent than we are...

SaintBrock added 18:10 - Oct 1
Having listened only to Solent's commentary the lasting impression was of our play being random and spasmodic gradually deteriorating into a right royal shambles with no discernible pattern of play and the gradual resort to long balls into the box out of sheer desperation.

This did not sound like The Southampton Way in any shape or form and Blackmore's asides were more illuminating than his commentary. Normally measured and careful his lack of caution on air tells us a great deal about the ineptitude and incompetence that pervades the place right now.

The manager must take the flak as he is responsible for the state we are in but It seems improbable that he'll be fired any time soon simply because it is very unlikely Reed could survive the humiliation of having to wield the axe twice on his own choices of manager.


VancouverSaint added 18:26 - Oct 1
Heres a thought, keep Yoshida and Hoedt together and play the big man, VVD up front. We looked better near the end when he moved up. Big strong target is what we are missing. Virgil with Gabbi or Austin to pick up his scraps.

SaintPaulVW added 18:45 - Oct 1
One up top isn't working. '3 at the back' won't solve it. Time for MP to earn his dosh.

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