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Saints V Crystal Palace The Verdict
Wednesday, 3rd Jan 2018 10:29

Saints threw the game away from a winning position, on a night when everything came home to roost for Mauricio Pellegrino.

I almost felt sorry for Mauricio Pellegrino last night, in many respects it wasn't all his fault, injuries had reduced his back four to a virtual second string line up, had taken away his top scorer and add to that the transfer window has not had time to kick in and there are some mitigating circumstances for the manager.

But the problem is these things happen and if Pellegrino had performed to the standards expected of him in the previous 21 games then nights like this can be seen as just one of those things, unfortunately for the manager that is now not the case and we remain out of the bottom three only on gol difference.

It started so well though, Saints dominated the first half and went into the break with a deserved lead through a well taken Shane Long goal, indeed the second half looked more likely to see a goal from the home side seal a win that Palace threaten.

But again Pellegrino was not pro active and he was barely reactive, Roy Hodgson made a change just after the hour that saw Palace take ff a defender and put on a midfielder and suddenly the flow of the game changed and Saints were on the back foot.

In fairness Pellegrino had Davis stripped off and ready to go on, but did not throw him into the fray when the game stopped presumably because we were defending and we paid dearly.

You could see the Palace goal coming, firstly Shane Long made a clean tackle but the referee pulled the game back and gave a free kick, Long himself cleared the free kick but the ball was worked out wide and put back in and there was McCarthur completely unmarked to fire home from close range, if he hadn't put the ball in the net there were another two of his colleagues unmarked alongside him.

Saints concede most goals in two ways, the first goal was textbook Saints lapse of concentration, none of the defence was marking anyone, there was no organisation, no marking, no concentration and we keep paying the price.

If that was our first way of conceding our second was not far off, an unmarked man sweeping the ball home from about 25 yards and that happened 10 minutes later.

Saints huffed and puffed in the final minutes of the game and should have had a penalty as Gabbiadini was hauled back by his shirt, TV replays showing it was a massive tug that surely should have been spotted by the referee.

Roy Hodgson is much derided as a manager, indeed Saints fans were up in arms when it was suggsted that he might manage the club, but he showed courage and foresight in his substitutions, once again from Pellegrino we just got like for like, why does he never consider taking off a defender and putting on an attacker or midfielder for instance.

But ultimately what cost us was our failure to deal with stuff at the back, a couple of years ago we would have seen this game out comfortably, but we did not have the quality there, 3 of our 4 defenders would not have got into our first choice back four at any time in the last four years, indeed I would say they would not get into any other Premier League back four and their lies the problem, teams know our weakness's.

Benteke must have been rubbing his hands when he saw our defence, certainly Hodgson would have pointed out our weaknesses to his team and they exploited them to the full, it is no coincidence why so many of the goals we concede are in the same manner, we get pushed back too deep and we lose concentration and leave men unmarked, that also means our midfield drops deep and allows the opposition to pick their spot from distance and too often it goes in, as I say it happens week in week out it is no coincidence.

The only bright spot in this game is that when we get Soares and Hoedt back in it will give us more stability, add a quality central defender in the transfer window and we can be almost as strong at the back as we used to be.

I will no doubt get a bit of stick suggesting that I have an agenda against certain players, this is far from the truth, I say it how I see it and week in week out I see goals conceded by an unmarked player in our penalty box, last night, Huddersfield, Arsenal, Burnley, Leicester, thats 4 out of the last 6 home games where someone has had an easy finish because he hasn't been marked, it has cost us 6 points at least, with those points we would today be 10th, instead we are 17th, that is how tight football is and what margins we have to work too.

Im sorry but loyalty and 100% commitment are not enough, last night we put out a Championship standard back four and we paid a heavy price that may see us back in the Championship because of this result.

Things look grim for Saints, but we have to try and take this result as part of circumstance, if we had lost with a fully fit squad then I would be very worried, but we have players t come back from injury and hopefully before our next league game a player or two signed in the transfer window.

But the overall problem is sadly the manager, you have to question whether things have now gone too far for him to turn it around, I can see where the board are coming from, we do not want to go back to being a club that sacks managers at the drop of a hat, but sometimes you have to do this, this is our worst ever Premier league run we have gone 9 games without a win, something has to change.

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REEDYREEDOREEDZ added 10:37 - Jan 3
This month we need a new manager, a new striker, a number 10 that can score and create goals, two new wide attacking midfielders that can score and create goals, and a top class centre back to play alongside Hoedt. That's what we need to stay up. Reed, Kruger etc take note and get cracking.

saintstuinoz added 10:49 - Jan 3
Sorry, but I don't agree that our squad isn't good enough or that we need to sign a load of players this transfer window. Look at Brighton, or Bournemouth or Huddersfield or Burnley... would anyone say their players are better than ours, No, yet they are all above us in the league. They don't have better training facilities or other 'behind-the-scenes' infrastructure, it all comes down to the fact they have managers who are getting the best out of the team. We do not. The only thing that needs to be fixed is this, but I worry that Les & Ralph don't have the stomach to admit they're wrong, and also I don't know who we would get in. I'd bend over backwards to have RK back, but not sure either party would go for it. I struggle to think of any realistic alternatives at the moment...

Saint88 added 10:51 - Jan 3
It really highlights that we should not have got rid of CP, as MP has had less games to contend with and the teams performance has been poor and our performance much worse than last season. Not sure getting rid of MP helps as who do you get to come in who can turn it around or would want to, given the chance of reputational damage taking over a failing team? We need to add to the squad and quickly.

Saint88 added 10:54 - Jan 3
Ps as Saintstuinoz comments, MP needs to get more out of the squad and improve the players we have.

ExiledSupporter added 10:59 - Jan 3
Nick, agree pretty much with your analysis, aside from the fact that it was obvious within 5mins of Long’s goal that we were already ‘settling’ for a 1-0 win because we started to play our ridiculously cautious style of play with an occasional long ball for Long to chase.

I hope we will spend a lot of the VVD money early and well, but that is not easy in the January window so I think a number of good loanees is more likely, but we have to get on with it.

But the main issue is the manager (and I am not one used to calling for the managers head…I certainly didn’t think we should have removed Puel) Furthermore I am most concerned about the semi-coherent complacency demonstrated by Krueger in his Daily Echo interview.

The fundamental problem that we have had since the end of our first season back in the premiereship is not the unceasing sale and purchase of players, not defensive tactics, not injuries, not loss of form, not even demotivated players, nor even idiosyncratic selections, nor low morale. Although sadly and/or frustratingly all of these have been apparent in the last couple of seasons.

No…it has been our total inability to attract and retain high quality managers.
And why is this… because we continuously demonstrate both our lack of ambition and mystifying reluctance to pay managers of proven quality enough to attract and then retain them. This is a toxic combination and one that we can only change when we recognise that high quality managers (those with proven track records, obvious leadership talents, tactical sophistication and authority) should be our targets. Talented players are always important, but our priority should be to recruit excellent managers and we can only successfully do that by displaying our real ambition and our determination not to always sell core elements of the team and thereby undermining any manager’s ability to develop a team that can compete.

Not doing so relegates us to bringing in promising but sometimes insufficiently experienced players and a lack of continuity, ”senior” managers interpret this as making their jobs more hazardous and are reluctant to join or stay. Then we end up recruiting managers who, because they have had limited but not consistent success, perhaps not experienced in the English leagues but, arguably, with potential. These are riskier appointments, but are less expensive and that no doubt in Reed’s mind, (endorsed or required by Krueger et al), makes the ‘gamble’ worthwhile.

MP1 was an example of a successful gamble and MP2 looks to be an example of the other end of the spectrum.

My last point is that the process relationship between the roles of Dir. of Football (Reed) and the Head Coach/Manager seems to fluctuate according to the relative power of each incumbent; so for instance currently Reed seems to have overall control over the recruitment or otherwise of players and MP2 appears to have little say.
This seems apparent in the way that MP2 seems to be reluctant to select and even endorse the arrival of new players that Reed has decided upon. During Koeman’s tenure the balance seemed very different, RK appeared to introduce players that we were not ‘watching’ eg Pelle and Tadic, urged the purchase of Mane and Clasie and I suspect may have vetoed others who we never saw. This was because RK was a far more experienced and by and large more sophisticated tactician and respected manager than MP2. And he probably would not have joined up if he had not had at least this measure of say in these crucial decisions. Puel was probably somewhere in the middle of this continuum

The point is that it is unhealthy for Reed to be able to ‘select’ the shortlisted managers when he has a personal and vested interest in recruiting less substantial talents to fill a more constrained head coach role. Let me just say that I do think , despite these reservations that Reed has been mainly very successful in recent years in terms of the players recruited including for instance Hoedt, Lemina and especially Boufal (though I think Puel played a large part in bringing the latter here).

So before we spend a large chunk of the VVD money on desperately needed new blood, for me in the forwards and midfield, much more than the defence, we should think very carefully about the sort of manager we want and need

saintpp added 11:04 - Jan 3
As saintstuinoz posted there are a bunch of teams above us who dont have better players just better managers. If he isnt sacked we will go down and ive been saying this for weeks even months.

DPeps added 11:05 - Jan 3
We could sack MP but 2 problems would remain:
1.) based on recent appointments, do we trust the board to get a decent replacement in?
2.) who would want the job?

For all the talk of the black box and the Southampton Way, we’ve been slowly sleepwalking into this mess over the last few years. We’re now in a predicament where we desperately need several new players (as Reedz points out), but this is in January when it’s difficult to sign good players and teams end up paying over the odds. We shouldn’t be in this situation!

Time to spend some of that money we’ve been saving up for a rainy day.

saintmark1976 added 11:12 - Jan 3
Another fair summary Nick but the problems run far deeper than another poor performance by the players on a wet and windy January evening.

The whole club is now riddled with lack of ambition from owners who don't even live in this country to an almost invisible chairman who gives a pre match interview that describes the club he represents as "small". What sort of message does that remark send out to players and fans alike on the eve of a relegation six pointer

Frankly, where we find ourselves is no more or less than we deserve given the last two to three years of miss management by the board and profit taking by a certain Swiss lady.


skiptonsaint added 11:13 - Jan 3
Palace had a few out injured as well. I am afraid we are in a spiral that is going to be very difficult to get out of now.

The players seem completely broken and shot of confidence which is why I am so annoyed at the Ralp interview earlier

I understand what he was trying to do , resetting our expectations etc but I honestly think the continual comments about us being a small club will come back to haunt us as badly as Les comments on MP playing attacking Football.

There are 92 clubs in the league and the small clubs are down the bottom with 4k attendances , We have the 9th largest wage bill, a modern 32k ground and state of the art training facilities. We are not a top 6 team but we are clearly not a small team either

There was no fight or ambition in the interview for me , just politician speak talking down to the fans who have kept their side of the bargain (see old Trafford last week) and I fear like Moyes comments on the Sunderland squad or Gerald Ratner saying his jewellery was shit that that has sent a message to the players here and potential players that the best we can hope for his bottom half relegation scrapping each year even if we do stay up. Those words have made the relationship worse with the fans imo

He has also gambled that giving that interview before a must win game would pull us all together when we realise MP is un sackable. Now what ? He has backed himself into a corner where he will lose all credibitly if he sacks MP soon

We will now have to pay even more for any players out there in Jan to get them to come and could therefore go down with a nasty big set of overpaid average players we can't then shift

This is not just about his season for me now but the longer term future of the club.... This is a complete mess stemming from the decision making higher up than MP.

NYC_Saint added 11:14 - Jan 3
I only saw the second half and it looked like we were on the ropes for most of it although admittedly the conditions made our passing game tricky. However it looked very much to me as though we were protecting a lead for the entire second half and I didn’t see any evidence of us pushing forward save one long ball from Tadic to Long. And to your point we didn’t have the players available to do that

Regarding the manager situation, I remember when CP was appointed you were keen to point out he should not be thought of as a “cheap option” but in hindsight both he and MP appear to have at best been “value acquisitions” that haven’t paid off. I won’t get into the threat to Reed debate but it’s almost as if they have done so well with certain players making huge sums on Mane, Lovren etc that they think they can apply this to managers too attempting to not pay over the odds and get performance over and above. As Mr White has pointed out on the forum, after the echo piece yesterday it will be almost impossible for the board to replace the manger having given him a pass due to the Virgil transfer saga (and my impression was RK wasn’t too forthcoming about new signings either saying if they can’t agree on the right one or two the money will be available in the summer). Even if we were to replace the manager I wouldn’t have much faith they would get the best available but as above the best value they can find.

REEDYREEDOREEDZ added 11:25 - Jan 3
People saying the squad is good enough and its all down to the manager are wrong. We have no goals or creatvity in the team. Redmond, Tadic and Boufal have no end product. Long can't finish. Gabbiadini needs to feed off of a clever number 10 with balls to feet, not crosses from wide against 6' 4" defenders.
We absolutely need to buy better attackers. We haven't scored many goals since Pelle and Mane were sold. There's no doubt that even under Puel or Pellegrino we would've scored more goals if we still had Pelle and Mane.
We have to buy in January and they need to be quality or we will continue to struggle.

Number_58 added 11:33 - Jan 3
If Nick thinks all our problems lie with a sub standard back four then he is seriously deluded. Even Man City, Spurs, Liverpool etc concede goals, but they all have the ability to score more than the opposition and subsequently win most of their games - we simply do not create enough chances or possess enough proven goalscorers. This has been our main problem for 18 months now. He mentions that the Saints of a couple of years ago would have seen out the game comfortably; I'd like to think that the Saints of two years ago would have gone on and scored a couple more goals and finished off a Palace team that, in the first half, were bloody awful and definitely there for the taking. Yes, our defence is struggling, but no more than just about every other area on the pitch (and off) at the moment.

Consigliere added 11:38 - Jan 3
All the above criticisms are valid but they all lead to the same conclusion - the style of football we are playing invites other teams to have a go at our defence because they don't fear the attack coming their way. Frederick the Great, Emperor of Prussia and a great military strategist wrote that "he who defends everything defends nothing" or to put it another way, "the best means of defence is usually attack". Our style has been to try to snatch a lead and then hold on to it rather than build on it. That inevitably leads the opposition to play higher up the field and for us to play increasingly deeper. You could see this happening throughout the second half, and the goal(s) against us were foreseeable and foreseen by almost everyone watching, save the manager. I'm not calling for his head (yet) but a severe haircut is due. As my old mentor Mr Rumple of the Bailey used to say, "He who keeps his head when all around are losing theirs may have seriously under-estimated the gravity of the situation". Time is running out very fast.

Phil_looks_sharp added 11:39 - Jan 3
Agree with previous posters that we settled for 1-0 as ‘enough’ to win the game. The only way to break out of this mentality was to make decisive substitutions that would change the game, which the manager failed to do. MP has been found lacking in this department throughout the season.
I think we need someone in quickly who can motivate us to win at home for starters! Our record is atrocious. Going back to the whole Hodgson as a manager argument - an experienced EPL manager (dare I say it) like Allardyce is required.
Despite the pessimism of some of their fans (Radio 5 Live) you can bet your bottom dollar they WON’T get relegated.
Can’t remember feeling so despondent since ‘Arry tried to save us from relegation by buying Ricardo Fuller......


Keesie66 added 11:39 - Jan 3
If Pellegrino was manager at City where would they be? If RK was manager at city where would they be? If Pochetino was manager at city where would they be..... My guess is that with both RK & Pochetino City would be in the top 3 and with Pellegrino they would be top 6 only if that... the major issue is that he can not put together a strongest team with 9 always players combined with 2 variations. At the same time he states the lack of confidence as the biggest problem, how do you create confidence ... and we are back to a settled and fixed team.... There were times that you could quite safely guess the matchday team and bench.... which Saints fan could do now? We are all over the place and even a quality player like Lemina, Gabbi, Boufal, Hoijberg does not know today if they will play tomorrow..... its a mess. I am convinced the first thing a new manager would do is pick his top 13/14 players and play them every week, breeding confidence and security, to say players might be tired is rubbish we only play 36 games plus some FA cup... nothing else, come on why would a player need a rest?
But.... if we keep on doing what we are doing (keep MP) we will keep on getting what we are getting that is a fact in any business.... we are in a downward spiral and we will not get a miracle any time soon as these do not exist .....

geezershoong1 added 11:40 - Jan 3
Undone by 2 subs and a change of formation yet again...
It says a lot when we are most vulnerable when we are 1-0 up.

NeilF added 11:54 - Jan 3
As I sat there last night at the game, as much I was thinking it, others were shouting 'forward'. There were so many occasions where a player had time to turn and move forward. They had space to turn. In my meagre time playing football, we always would talk to each other telling them 'man on' or 'time'. Why has Southampton gone to playing first time balls backwards?

There were other times when the play was going forward and the player checks back when they could have crossed it or laid a through ball. When they check back, it goes back to the defender and then back to the keeper who hoofs it. This was then headed by a Crystal Palace defender? It seems easy to me what the best option would be here; at least have a go!

I would also like to mention Bertrand telling the ball boys to slow down. Who decided that 1-0 would be enough? Consolidate that lead, drive when your ahead then do this.

As a player scoring, creating goals, this has to be the best feeling so why do the Saints players feel that passing it around, passing back and not driving forward is the best way?

I like watching Match of the Day and seeing these top teams breaking and playing attacking football. Those decisive passes, telling balls. Don't any of the Saints players watch this kind of play? Are they banned from watching the better teams play? If I wanted to be a great player, how would I achieve this by always playing the ball backwards? Imagine telling Ronaldo or Messi that you want them to pass the ball sideways or pass back always and do not drive through the opposing team. Where has that passion to be a legend at Saints gone?


petedoors1 added 11:58 - Jan 3
Well said Nick that has to be one of your best reports. We need to spend the 75m from the VVD sale plus a lot more that they have been saving each year from the TV money. The manager needs to go along with a lot of the dead wood in the team.

IanRC added 12:00 - Jan 3
We should have murdered Palace last night after scoring the first goal. They were there for the taking but instead as others have said we sat back and, having clearly dominated the first half, gifted them the second. Poor management of the worst order due to a complete lack of confidence. He needs to go and fast, I have never called for a manager to go before but this is just unacceptable. We have players who can compete, see the Old Trafford game, but they need consistent direction not random or no game management. Truly shocking.

StRipper added 12:20 - Jan 3
I thought Hodgson said something interesting in his post match interview. He mentioned about managers being over dependent on sports science to make their decisions for them. I think this was a direct dig at Saints and maybe Pellegrino specifically. I may not think the old coot says much that makes sense, but in this case I think the old head has pinpointed one of the causes of our problems. It's certainly one of the under lying reasons why we over rotate the squad. We are a club run by committee and consensus in all ways. So much so that we have ended up with no leaders and a manager that devolves his own responsibility to choose the best side to win matches. No wonder he totally panics over his substitutions when it all rests on him.
I definitely think Pellegrino has to go, but the root of our problems, even since Pochettino left, lies far deeper

SaintJez added 12:23 - Jan 3
What is abundantly clear is that the combination of manager and players does not work so something has to give.

Can Saints attract the right quality players in the transfer window to allow the current manager to dig us out of the hole? Do Saints risk paying big transfer fees and exorbitant wages for players who's best days are behind them (or never quite made it) and are likely to spend more time on the treatment table than the pitch anyway? I fear for the club's future if we make the kind of signings I keep reading about.

As for the performance.. Nick's article is another obvious thinly veiled dig at Yoshida but let's be fair.. teams do concede goals, every goal ever conceded by anyone could have been defended better, and the equaliser and winner yesterday was nothing to do with him (JWP, who I like, switched off for the first. He'll know, we know it, and we must move on).

The big concern with the players and management is we pick 3 "luxury" players every week. 2 wingers and a centre forward. Their job is (presumably) to win us games. They have 4 goals between them from open play this season. Look no further than that for the reason for our struggles. The miss from Long after 10 seconds last night beggars belief. Every other forward in this league at least makes the keeper save that and 9/10 that's a goal. He hit Row Z and no-one was surprised.

The fault is partly the players but we've also been seeing the same lack of creativity, invention, end product and finishing all season from these guys. Don't they say madness is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different outcome. I think Pellegrino is mad.....

wolf660 added 12:25 - Jan 3

StRipper added 12:29 - Jan 3
By the way, watch Pellegrino post match interview. He constantly uses the word 'we' in taking about the performance and what went wrong. Replace 'we' with 'i' and read his post match comments again and there is then a clear and honest appraisal where he got it wrong.
I don't think this is MoPe avoiding responsibility. I think instead this is an outward demonstration of the Southampton way, and where it is going wrong as he is talking in terms that the club had insisted he does. The determination by the club to enforce unity and share red pin, which on face terms makes sense, has led us to a situation where no individual takes responsibility and the messaging within the club must be similarly confusing. Things need an overhaul from top to bottom in our approach and quickly

StRipper added 12:33 - Jan 3
*share red pin = shared responsibility

AmericanSaint added 12:46 - Jan 3
Some valid points here, but i personally think changing managers right now is a bad move. I said it last year, that getting rid of CP was a bad idea. I have come to realize that we do not have many premier league players in the depth chart. I agree that some players took to the defensive mindset after 1-0 and that hurt us. I finally to the point that we need to bench JWP for the long term. I was yelling at the tv all night for all his backward passing. His set piece delivery is not worth him being on the pitch. Also, I watched the replay of the 1st goal and it looks like Beneteke was (1) slight offsides and (2) he was climbing on the back of Bertrand. But again the defense shut off too. I think it is time to make Oriel the captain and that it. no yoshida or Davis. I also think that there were too many times that Boufal and Tadic made overlapping runs on the wing and nobody passed the ball forward (especially JWP). Man that was infuriating to watch. Finally, I agree that crossing into the box with a 6'2" forward is useless unless you are always doing it on the ground. Tadic tried several through balls in the middle with no luck as the defense swarmed it. I think we need a new proven scorer, a #10 who can pass, but most of all we need to have the players playing actually play to their potential. Some of this half-ass effort is what pisses me off. This is going to be a long season and i think we will stay up if only on goal differential.

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