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Saints V Liverpool The Verdict
Monday, 12th Feb 2018 09:42

A disappointing result in a disappointing game with Saints failing to take the game to Liverpool and falling for two sucker punches.

Saints fans were once again in meltdown after the game after the team put in a poor performance and handed the game to Liverpool on a plate getting caught on the counter attack early in the first half and after that the tone of the game was set and Liverpool dictated the pace.

The first goal was a series of defensive mix ups with the biggest culprit being Wesley Hoedt and the second although excellent from a Liverpool perspective in it's build up was disappointing from a Saints viewpoint.

Saints looked ok in the first half, but the second the visitors allowed them to have plenty of the ball but few chances were created.

Ironically although Saints had 10 less shots than the 16 that Liverpool had, they had the same number on target 4.

The worrying thing in this game is that for one Mauricio Pellegrino picked a team that most of the crowd agreed with, the substitutions were attacking and the manager could not be accused of not trying to win the game, his team thouh seemed to lack the verve and confidence that they had a week earlier.

This is a blow, but it is not a terminal one, we now need to regroup and once again use the FA Cup as a catalyst, there are plenty of games left, we now need to stay focused and pull clear.

This is not a time for moaning and finger pointing, it needs the supporters to be firmly behind their team, now is the time for Saints fans to be part of the problem not the solution, it needs Saints fans to take the positives and banish the negatives, if they want the players to do that, then it is only fair that they do that themselves.

It is not the fans fault the team is in this position, but that is football, there are no guarantees, you buy your season ticket with only hope, not a written guarantee that it will be entertaining.

Older fans who remember the epic relegation battles of the 1990's will tell you, we have been in a lot worse situations that this, with a lot worse players wearing our shirt, they were inspired by the supporters, that is why the likes of Francis Benali were legends, they gave their all and the supporters got behind them.

It is not something to be proud of in a relegation battle to tell the world on social media that you are not renewing your season ticket etc, if that is what you are going to do, then fine it's not up to me to tell you what you should and should not do, but do it quietly and without fuss and let those of us for whom following a football team is not just about the good times but the bad as well, get on with the job of supporting the team and hopefully inspiring it to safety.

Then and only then will we have the inquest, when we are mathematically safe.

Till then either be part of the solution not part of the problem, harsh words, those who support the team through thick and thin will not get offended by what I have said, I know this will touch a few raw nerves, but so what, only one thing matters and that is Saints getting clear of relegation, it is what it is, lets get on with the task in hand with what we have !

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obelisk added 09:57 - Feb 12
Not so much a verdict but a more a call to arms. Maybe Saints should try getting Nick in for the half time team talk.
9

landsdownsaint added 10:00 - Feb 12
Iv suppprted this club many years & I will point the finger at a rubbish manager & week after week mistakes from highly paid players like Hoedt .
5

Duone added 10:02 - Feb 12
I don't boo at the player's of manager but was very disappointed at how quickly heads dropped. We do lack a leader on the pitch to cajole & encourage!
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skiptonsaint added 10:02 - Feb 12
What are you saying Nick ? What did the fans do wrong yesterday ? Are you saying there should of been more singing and getting behind the team ?

Watching so many old players strut around while we gave in was pretty tough to take. Has a team in any top flight league around the world ever had to play against so many ex best players ? The trouble is that hammered home the issue of too many bottom of NET spend windows.

The 2 games on telly before showed how much the team are going to have to dig in and without Lemina we don’t look up for a relegation scrap at all. Boufal laughing and smiling with VVD rather than going and clapping the Northam ? Is that the fans fault ?

MOTD said we are too nice and Souness said on sky we have a good team who shouldn’t be where we are. Ie manager

That’s what the outsiders are saying and now we need MP to sort that out. Can he inspire them ? I just don’t think the team have respect for him ...50/50 now for me on relegation
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saintmark1976 added 10:03 - Feb 12
Sorry Nick but I can't see where you are coming from with this report.

No mention of an abject and gutless display by a team of obviously demoralised players but you want the fans to stay calm and carry on. Why should we given that even the club owners and chairman would rather be in China than attend at St Mary's? That one photo sums up all that is wrong with the Saints at the moment. I am afraid very little else needs to be said.
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SanMarco added 10:08 - Feb 12
Yes - I am a supporter not a customer. Yesterday was hard to take but we won't be changing manager or players now. Relegation is a real possibility, perhaps even a probability so yes we do have to get behind what Les and co have provided for us. That said, the 'strong squad' claptrap does need to be put in the cupboard too. Even if our players are notionally better than those of Huddersfield, Newcastle, Watford, Swansea etc that is totally irrelevant in the predicament we are in. Interesting that Franny Benali should be mentioned - quite a few of our our relegation rivals seem to have a few like him on the pitch - not us though.

We thought we had turned the corner last week but if you turn enough corners you end up going round in circles (geometrically inaccurate but you know what I mean) and those circles are in danger of becoming 'ever-decreasing'. I shall now shut up and start fantisising about a win at Burnley...
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Heisenberg added 10:11 - Feb 12
Liverpool won't have an easier game all season. Sucker punches ? If they had stepped up they would have scored more. Long having a laugh with VVD tapping hands with him after a gentle shove. He should have gone right through him and taken a yellow if he had any understanding of how Saints fans feel. And as for our 'owners' laughing and joking thousands of miles away. An absolute disgrace. Good PR Ralph. Thought that was his strength.
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halftimeorange added 10:16 - Feb 12
Unfortunately, Nick, we do not have a Benali in the team although, going by his recent heroics, he might not have run out of steam and ideas like some of our players yesterday. It seems to me that hope, rather than belief, is how it stands in the camp in respect of avoiding relegation. Not so long ago I went to St Marys wondering how long it would take the Saints to score, not whether we might. Carrillo was isolated yesterday, exactly as both Austin and Gabbiadini have been earlier in the season. Pellegrino's apparent obsession with playing one up front is unfathomable as it patently doesn't work, not to mention the old chestnut, lack of height. Carrillo himself isn't exactly a giant in the Pelle or Lambert mould. Whilst Pellegrino continues to mystify, the board has let him down and some blame needs to be laid at their door. We do have a number of talented young players in the squad but glaring weaknesses in both attack and central defence. There is no natural on-pitch leader amongst the senior pros and Bertrand saved yesterday for one of his worst performances of the season, constantly giving the ball away. Yesterday Saints were out played and outclassed for the final fifty minutes and, regrettably but, unsurprisingly, showed little appetite for a fight, unlike the Huddersfield team which, despite limited ability, bossed Bournemouth and had, in Hogg, a real battling captain. It is my reluctant conviction that if Saints stay up it will be because of results elsewhere as we can only hope - there's that word again - to limp over the safety line. My only satisfaction yesterday was avoiding the snow showers before the game. Dismayed and wet I couldn't have handled.
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warrens76 added 10:18 - Feb 12
No one respects us and we 'do' care.
There is a fine line between supporting the team and handing a free card to a thoroughly dysfunctional, disconnected, obtuse, dismissive, deceitful indeed humiliating board and ownership, it's marie Antoinette stuff and the fans feelings are just not relevant.....
The difficulty is in supporting the team on one hand the board get a free pass for treating us sooooo badly.
We do not have a united club because the board and fans are after polar opposite aims, the players are stuck tight in the middle, there is no direction and it's turning ugly outside.
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SaintNick added 10:21 - Feb 12
As I said those who are behind the team do not get offended, saintmark, what can the fans do apart from keep calm and carry on, there needs to be an atmosphere of positivity created not one of negativity.

Saintmark, what the hell does it matter whether the owners and chairman are at the game, this comment is symtomatic of our fan base at the moment, they want something to rant at even if that rant is totally irrelavant.

Most of the big six owners live abroad and dont watch every game, Ralph Krueger is the execuive chairman it is not in his brief to be at every game either.

Have you ever looked at the logisitcs of travelling to England from China on a weekly basis, it's a 20 hour flight each way.

People scream that Gao is doing nothing, and they scream when Krueger goes over to see the owners to get their instructions, ever considered that Gao might only have been able to see them at weekends due to other business commitments, this isnt like Markus only a 2 hour flight away.

Skipton, I didnt say the fans did wrong, but what I am saying is that everyone now needs to get behind the team, I have watched many teams strut around, we were only 2-0 down, I have seen many games were we have been appalling for most of it but had a late fight back because the crowd stayed with the team, what does it matter that they were our ex players, given that for most of the game there were only two of our ex players on the pitch, I would say that most teams around the world would have played against that number of their ex players, but what does that matter in the grand scheme of things, why keep crying over spilt milk.

Lansdown, if you want to keep pointing the finger at a rubbish manager that is your perogative, but I would say that in the last 45 years we have not had a manager who hasnt had a spell at the start when we were questioning his ability except perhaps Koeman, everyone else, McMenemy included had their issues results wise

-2

DorsetIan added 10:25 - Feb 12
The bookies still have Saints at around 4-1 to go down with seven other teams at shorter odds to go down...but...

...it's not looking good to me and the second half performance felt like the worst I'd seen all season. I don't think you can say that the players weren't up for it or weren't trying. As far as I could see, they were all desperate play well but, and this has been the situation in so many games this season, they just couldn't.

They were up against a very good team admittedly, and one which seemed content to defend pretty deep but even so, the number of misplaced passes and the general failure to get the ball forward was extraordinary. It's like the connections between the players' brains and their feet failed collectively and, yes, they were running around like the proverbial headless chickens.

It was interesting to me that Liverpool's game plan was the same as most of the weaker teams that come to St Mary's. Defend in numbers, know that Saints will huff and puff but fail to blow the defences down, and then grab one of two on the break.

I don't know what the problem is, but there clearly is one and its been pretty much the same for 12 months (you'll remember that we failed to score in the final 5 home games of last season). We've missed the opportunity to change the personnel in January (Carillo could have been Gabbiadini, running around, chasing shadows) and the manager doesn't seem to want to change his style of play. Having chosen not to sack him so far, we may have missed the boat. It's like Danny said in Withnail and I:

"If you're hanging on to a rising balloon, you're presented with a difficult decision - let go before it's too late or hang on and keep getting higher, posing the question: how long can you keep a grip on the rope?"
15

Rustyhelmet added 10:53 - Feb 12
As much as i normally agree with a lot of your reports/comments, this one i cant, for several different reasons:

1. What attacking substitutions?? Long? a bloke who is really good at running about and being a pain in the ass, but is to goals what Forster is to catching crosses.

Davis - slowly but surely getting more and more less mobile and unreliable.

Boufal - still as much use as a chocolate fireguard.

Gabbi, sat on the bench wondering how his career has suddenly stalled - crazy.

2. The manager didn't try and win the game at all! blatantly obvious that 0-2 was damage limitation and he was happy with that.

3. Whilst it isn't a comparison to the 90's it is, if anything, more of a let down - back then we really were 'little old Southampton', now we are a team that were expected to push and achieve, all we have done is sell and not regroup, and flounder with cheap affordable managers whop are happy to say yes and not rock the boat.

4. Fans will always moan - given the fact that this level of performance and the inept tactics have been happening ALL season can you blame them? you can only get behind something that wants to be driven forward, all the current squad want to do is collect another weeks worth of £££££'s and buy another Bentley.

Crap performance, crap tactics, crap ambition, crap manager.
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saintmark1976 added 10:53 - Feb 12
Nick, ever heard the saying "one picture paints a thousand words"? That's why it matters.
3

saintjf added 10:54 - Feb 12
I know we have to get behind the team but boy was I gloomy yesterday. It is not only how dull and uninspired Saints were it is the results elsewhere that worried me. Other teams at the bottom are winning and we are not that far above WBA either. We just do not look up for a fight (gifted but gutless players) and if we do stay up it may be on goal difference.
4

kingolaf added 11:17 - Feb 12
Ther is one glaringly obvious thing to do to get all the supporters onside.

Sack the worst Saints manager in living memory.

Sorry Nick, you protested to get rid of Branfoot, now in your older years you seem happy to accept the club's actions.
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Sanguin added 11:20 - Feb 12
On the positive side, I thought the first half was one of the best halves of football I’ve seen at St Mary’s. We set up defensively and in a way most fans would agree with. Lemina has a good game. After they scored we looked the more likely to score and had some really good chances, particularly a pinpoint Tadic cross onto Carillo’s head. It seemed our plan was to keep it tight, not concede and then bring on more attacking players later in the game.

Unfortunately, the negatives outweighed the positives. The first goal was atrocious and at times it looked too easy for Liverpool. We were constantly carved up through the middle. Hojbjerg, Hoedt, Soares and Bertrand all had poor games. We looked a yard off the pace and despite Liverpool running themselves into the ground in the first half, we didn’t capitalise by making them maintain that tiring work rate in the second half. We lack leaders on the pitch.

For all the shouts of ‘You don’t know what you’re doing’ at each Saints substitution, I’m not sure what else Pellegrino could have done. I don’t think Gabbi was fit and Redmond, our top scorer last season, isn’t able to get a sniff this year. We need Austin back and we need him to have two or three games at his best or I think we’re done.
8

landsdownsaint added 11:30 - Feb 12
Nick ... it was another gutless display & that comes down to management , I wouldn’t mind so much if I thought we wasn’t technically good enough but showed character, I will continue to point the finger towards MP & this isn’t the little ol Saints from years ago imho
4

skiptonsaint added 11:41 - Feb 12
Of all the games to go to China Ralph and Kat pick Liverpool rather than facing up to their directors , representatives and VVD

What sort of message did that send down through the club and to the players ?

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Keesie66 added 12:00 - Feb 12
4-1 great odds I’m sticking £20 on that happening....
1

SanMarco added 12:17 - Feb 12
Isn't the point of the article that now we are in deep crisis. We all have our views as to how this slow motion car crash has been allowed to happen and most of us are angry and finger-pointing, as you would expect us to be. When it comes to support on the terraces we surely have to put that behind us now. I don't think that should apply to views on TUI though. I am just too down to put my four penneth in this morning...
9

OldRed added 12:35 - Feb 12
Everyone supporters, and pundits expected a top ten finish at least this season. As each week goes by relegation look more likely.
3

helpineedsomebody added 12:36 - Feb 12
nick i live near china & i can asure you it does not take 20 hrs each way to get to china
the 2nd goal just summed up our central pairing / one looking again & the other cant be bothered to stay with the player thats his job

THE CHINESES ARE NO FOOLS
3

REEDYREEDOREEDZ added 12:39 - Feb 12
We have 11 games left in the league. 4 at home and 7 away.

Going back to 28/12/16 we have only won 5 league games at home out of 26.
5 out of 26!!!! It's dreadful!!!! It's no wonder St Mary's is the way it is. Everyone's had enough.

It might be a blessing in disguise that we've got so many away games left. The players probably feel less anxious playing away from St Mary's now.

Not that our away form is much better though. We've only won 7 out of our last 28 in the league away from home. A slightly higher win % but not by much.

This season has been a disaster. Last season wasn't much better. I'm not sure how many fighters we have in the squad. If the 2nd half from yesterday is anything to go by then we'll go down with a whimper. Our Premiership survival kind of hangs on Lemina staying fit, Austin getting fit and Pellegrino playing two up top and being more attacking.

WBA away next in the cup. It really doesn't matter if we win or lose. It's all about the next League game away to Burnley. They're struggling and haven't won in 11 games. We have to go there and win. Anything less won't be enough. Teams around us are winning. We might need more than 38 points to stay up this year. Fail to win at Burnley and its hard to see where the points will come from.
11

pintsizedsaint added 12:49 - Feb 12
It was the worst possible weekend for other results, which would not have helped with anxiety. Given that run of luck, i suspect West Brom will thrash Chelsea tonight...

Overall, this was likely to have not seen Saints picking up all three points (Liverpool are playing very well at the moment). However, the spirit of the team was lacking - especially in the 2nd half. Whilst I wouldn't have put it quite like how Nick has put it, i think there is a question of the team feeling very anxious at St Mary's at the moment. It is no surprise to see that Saints have tended to put in their better performances away from home this season.

Now I am not in any way blaming fans: at the end of the day we pay our money to see the team and to be entertained. All I'm saying is that it is basic human psychology to see that, when a group of professional sportsmen are lacking confidence/nervous - and are playing with the fear of relegation - then sometimes an atmosphere can hinder performance. Anybody who has played football will know that you get the most out of a player by encouraging them when they make mistakes and praising them when they do well. Shouting at them when the ball is lost or pass goes misplaced does nothing but rest squarely in the memory - it does not breed confidence. The best captains and managers I've played with would do this both before, during and after the game.

As Nick puts it, I don't think many could grumble with the original set up. As I have said before though, I wonder whether its best to go with a 4-3-3 or 4-4-2 and have Gabbi upfront with Carrillo. I just think there's a bit of bloody mindedness going on here with MP sticking to a formation that doesn't work in all situations. I feel Liverpool guessed this set up and took full advantage of it.

The goals were disappointing - again an individual lapse in concentration (this time from Hoedt). Getting a score so early would have dented Saints' ability to get back into the game. Liverpool actually set up well to absorb - and when you dont have attackers that are full of confidence (or, in Carrilio's case, experience of EPL) then it is an uphill struggle.

No Boufal to start infuriated me. I think this just affected his motivation and he had a mare in the 2nd. PEH played well, but he's not somebody who has attacking verve. Again i can see why PEH played (Liverpool's midfield is awesome) but I would have put Boufal there - or Gabbi.

And I think this is where the crux of the problem lies - MP is nervous; he wants defensive stability (no blame here against Lilverpool) but it never pays off. There's always a defensive lapse that means that a Plan B is needed. Most teams try to park the bus with Liverpool - but those who have profited have actually brought the game to them. Yet I do admit that Liverpool actually decided to allow possesion and counter attack.

All in all - the plan backfired in 6th minute. Personally I would have liked to see MP throw caution to the wind- and i think the fans would have preferred a loss where we went down attacking/fighting. Yet he was cautious and it suffered.

On a related-but-seperate note: Why Tadic? If you play PEH then play Boufal and give him a free role. You get the sense that Tadic is playing because MP knows he can upset the apple cart in the squad - but he's just not playing that well at the moment.

So a disappointing weekend. As i say I didn't expect a win (although i did expect Bournemouth, Man Utd and others to do us a favour) but now we are back in the mire. Saving grace is that we play away in the next few games...
7

pintsizedsaint added 12:49 - Feb 12
It was the worst possible weekend for other results, which would not have helped with anxiety. Given that run of luck, i suspect West Brom will thrash Chelsea tonight...

Overall, this was likely to have not seen Saints picking up all three points (Liverpool are playing very well at the moment). However, the spirit of the team was lacking - especially in the 2nd half. Whilst I wouldn't have put it quite like how Nick has put it, i think there is a question of the team feeling very anxious at St Mary's at the moment. It is no surprise to see that Saints have tended to put in their better performances away from home this season.

Now I am not in any way blaming fans: at the end of the day we pay our money to see the team and to be entertained. All I'm saying is that it is basic human psychology to see that, when a group of professional sportsmen are lacking confidence/nervous - and are playing with the fear of relegation - then sometimes an atmosphere can hinder performance. Anybody who has played football will know that you get the most out of a player by encouraging them when they make mistakes and praising them when they do well. Shouting at them when the ball is lost or pass goes misplaced does nothing but rest squarely in the memory - it does not breed confidence. The best captains and managers I've played with would do this both before, during and after the game.

As Nick puts it, I don't think many could grumble with the original set up. As I have said before though, I wonder whether its best to go with a 4-3-3 or 4-4-2 and have Gabbi upfront with Carrillo. I just think there's a bit of bloody mindedness going on here with MP sticking to a formation that doesn't work in all situations. I feel Liverpool guessed this set up and took full advantage of it.

The goals were disappointing - again an individual lapse in concentration (this time from Hoedt). Getting a score so early would have dented Saints' ability to get back into the game. Liverpool actually set up well to absorb - and when you dont have attackers that are full of confidence (or, in Carrilio's case, experience of EPL) then it is an uphill struggle.

No Boufal to start infuriated me. I think this just affected his motivation and he had a mare in the 2nd. PEH played well, but he's not somebody who has attacking verve. Again i can see why PEH played (Liverpool's midfield is awesome) but I would have put Boufal there - or Gabbi.

And I think this is where the crux of the problem lies - MP is nervous; he wants defensive stability (no blame here against Lilverpool) but it never pays off. There's always a defensive lapse that means that a Plan B is needed. Most teams try to park the bus with Liverpool - but those who have profited have actually brought the game to them. Yet I do admit that Liverpool actually decided to allow possesion and counter attack.

All in all - the plan backfired in 6th minute. Personally I would have liked to see MP throw caution to the wind- and i think the fans would have preferred a loss where we went down attacking/fighting. Yet he was cautious and it suffered.

On a related-but-seperate note: Why Tadic? If you play PEH then play Boufal and give him a free role. You get the sense that Tadic is playing because MP knows he can upset the apple cart in the squad - but he's just not playing that well at the moment.

So a disappointing weekend. As i say I didn't expect a win (although i did expect Bournemouth, Man Utd and others to do us a favour) but now we are back in the mire. Saving grace is that we play away in the next few games...
1


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