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Saints Cannot Attack And Defend
Tuesday, 3rd Apr 2018 12:13

Claude Puel was much maligned by Saints supporters last season, but he knew one thing and that was he didn't have defenders who could defend and would allow him to commit players forward.

There aren't many Saints supporters with a good thing to say about Claude Puel, but he did know how to coach and he knew how to get results even if they were at the expense of entertainment, which eventually did for him as a manager at St Mary's.

Saints problems started the moment that Jose Fonte came back to the club after the European Championships with his head either in Manchester or up his own arse depending on what newspaper you read.

These problems were compounded further when Fonte was allowed to go without a replacement being signed and when Virgil Van Dijk got injurd we were in deep trouble with a central defensive partnership that was Championship standard at best.

In fairness to Puel he recognised this and go people behind the ball to make sure that we did not concede too many, but the fans were more interested in entertainement not results.

When Pellegrino arrived he had the same problems as his predecessor a year earlier, he had Van Dijk behaving terribly, yes we had finally signed Fonte's replacement in Wesley Hoedt, but he was once Van Dijk was out the youngest member of the back four, yet expected to be the leader.

Fo the second year running we let a central defender go in January and did not sign a replacement and this will ultimately be the one thing that costs us our Premier League place more than anything else.

Newcastle had our measure, blitzed us fro the kick off and showed that we cannot handle people running at us nor defend from set pieces., the problems I predicted a year ago are still there and now have dragged us down.

West Ham followed Newcastle's lead on Saturday, came out of the blocks quickly and destroyed us by running at us and finding space in the box to get in free shots and headers meaning the game was over for us like at Newcastle way before half time.

We can't say we didn't see it coming, this season has been littered with soft goals conceded from free headers and shots in the box and getting caught on the break, how many times did I point this out before Xmas, yet many just thought that I had something against Yoshida or Stephens, as I said then I have nothing against them apart from the fact they aren't good enough.

So we have been found out badly in our last two league games, both teams knew exactly how to play us and that is now going to be the case for the rest of the season and if two sides who were supposedly in turmoil when we arrived on their doorsteps could rip us apart so easily that does not bode well.

On Saturday I think Mark Hughes got too caught up in this entertainment demand for two up front, for this game he would have been better to play just one up front and concentrate on getting control of the game and then imposing ourselves on it, rather than attacking from the off, hindsight is a wonderful thing, but looking back you have to question why two players who have barely played in the past few months for one reason or another were suddenly going to be the answer.

So now we have to go back to basics for Arsenal, bring in Yoshida for Stephens, set up with a solid three in midfield and two who will work hard down the wings, perhaps start with Sane Long up top to run down the Gunners defence.

The last part of the season should not be about entertainment it should be about work work and more work, it should be about digging in and scraping results.

This season is far from over, we still have a game in hand, it is about being positive and going for it, but it is about getting the best out of the squad we have.

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dirk_doone added 12:19 - Apr 3
Well, that's because we sold our best defenders, Van Dijk and Fonte, and our best attackers, Mane and Pelle, and fittered away the money on players like Carrillo and Hoedt. Our Director of Football, Les Reed, did that.
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obelisk added 12:21 - Apr 3
No mention of the way the midfield has now developed a tendency to give the ball away in advanced positions and the lack of pace to cover for these ongoing mistakes?
Yes, the defence is error prone but the real problem for more than 2 years now has been a lack of goals scored. I also don't reckon the players are fit enough. If Saints are unable to get players forward for fear of what might happen should they lose the ball then let me suggest that the problems go very deep indeed.
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REEDYREEDOREEDZ added 12:22 - Apr 3
I think the headline should've been Saints can't attack or defend

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dirk_doone added 12:25 - Apr 3
Obelisk,

Regarding the midfield problem, he also sold Wanyama. In fact, he's sold anyone who was any good. We're only left with the ones he can't sell.
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dirk_doone added 12:28 - Apr 3
And the ridiulous thing is the accounts show he has spent more on the mediocre players he's bought than he's got for the good ones he's sold. So, it's actually cost us millions to downgrade the the squad to the state it's in now.
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amsterdamsaint added 12:32 - Apr 3
Yoshida for Houdt. The Dutchman is terrible.
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bstokesaint added 12:34 - Apr 3
What a shambles. I agree almost entirely Nick, although I still think Yoshida is fine with in this league with a better player alongside him, much in the way that Fonte was over the years with Lovren, Toby and VVD. I don’t rate Stephens or Hoedt. Actually on the ‘don’t rate’ subject I could keep going quite easily. We were told this was one of our best squads to date and I look at them all and I’m embarrassed. I used to be so proud of the ‘Dell days’ teams’ that used to compromise of just two or three quality players and a bunch of triers that gave everything for the team and the cause. We always had a chance of a result because we fought for everything. I felt proud of them. I feel zip for this lot. They’re only in it for the money. Would happily see us have a clear-out in the Championship and start from scratch with a combination of youth and players who want to wear the shirt.
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AirFlorida added 12:40 - Apr 3
Oh well soon be over. We'll get to flog our overrated superstars (for a huge loss) and work on a plan for survival/stability in the championship. I feel it could be a while before we return too. But plenty of London games to be had so more cheeky away days.
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dirk_doone added 12:46 - Apr 3
I agree with you, amsterdamsaint, Hoedt is the weakest of our defenders. What a waste of money he was: the defensive equivalent of Carrillo. Those two alone cost £35 million and then there was the money wasted on Gardos, Bednarek and Clasie, who cost another £25 million. Money has just been poured down the drain. No wonder we're in trouble.
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REEDYREEDOREEDZ added 12:52 - Apr 3
A few things from the West Ham game:

West Ham had thier tactics spot on and were incredibly impressive off the ball. As soon as Saints got the ball West Ham were onto them closing them down in packs ala Pochettino and Saints couldn't cope with it. We ended up lofting it forward for Austin and Gabbi to lose every aerial battle.

West Ham's first and third goals were top class. If a top 4 side had scored them everyone would be raving about it. OK, Lemina gave the ball away at a critical time, but the quality shown by West Ham to finish that move was top class. The 3rd goal was a worldy cross and a finish to match.

The 2nd goal was poor marking by Stephens. Its a shame about Stephens because he's great on the ball but he's simply not a good defender. He's like a poor mans John Stones (who also can't defend).

Hoedt is full of mistakes. In 2 years time I think he'll be a great defender but right now he's not great. It's left us with two poor centre backs and other teams know this is our weakness. Yoshida's got great commitment and tries to lead, but again is prone to the odd mistake/lapse. He should probably come in for Stephens though.

Fans were crying out for 2 up front (I was one of them) but this was a tactical disaster on Saturday. The strikers got zero service. Tadic and Redmond were marked out of the game by the excellent Masuaku and Zabaleta and the midfield struggled to string any passes together due to them being closed down so well.

I thought Cedric was a disgrace. After the comments coming out of his interview in Portgual he spent the game looking like a spoilt kid being forced to play for shitty Southampton. Lazily lofting hopeless balls forward. His body language and attitude was awful after we went behind, he should be dropped, he's not going to help us in the run in.

Where it leaves us:
A leaky defence and an attack that can't score. No working tactical system. No confidence, belief or fight in the team. When we go behind you see the players heads go; some get ultra frustrated and lose discipline, others go missing, when you need leaders to take charge we have none. If we take the lead the defence can't be trusted to hold tight.
It would be the greatest of great escapes to get out of this one.
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DorsetIan added 12:56 - Apr 3
Our new owner seems to be absent without leave.
None of our recent signings have seriously improved the team.
A flaky keeper costs us points in the first half the season.
Age has caught up with a couple of our more experienced players.
Gareth Southgate spoilt a couple of players by picking them for England when no one at St Mary’s would have done.
Guardiola should have minded his own business.
We have struggled to score for over a year.
Our home form is diabolical.
We have failed to win so many ‘must win’ games.
We have failed to beat any top six teams.
Our show of strength in hanging on to VVD completely backfired.
Our show of ambition in sacking a boring but solid manager completely backfired.
Our show of loyalty in sticking with Pellegrino completely backfired.
We have now appointed a manager who was recently sacked because of PL failure, rather than someone ‘on the up’.
Our new manager has now spectacularly failed to deliver the required ‘bounce’.
If anything, we are getting worse. We have scored only 1 goal in the last 5 PL matches (away at Burnley), which is the lowest in any 5 game run all season…

I agree that Hughes was extraordinarily naïve to play 4-4-2 from the start at West Ham (and if he was doing that to try to appease the fans, we should be very worried). It was also pretty desperate to start with Austin. The game is 90 minutes long and we were the away team. We should have been much more cautious, and then brought on Austin when legs had tired a bit. (It was also pathetic for Hughes to say he’d learnt something - has he not watched the videos of the previous matches??!)

There has to be a massive question mark about this team’s/these players ability to learn or change. Pellegrino had THIRTY (30) games playing pretty much the same 4-2-3-1 system. This is not a system which is doomed to failure; a system which cannot produce goals and good football. And yet, the players consistently failed to make it work.

This is what I would do:

1. Replace Hoedt with Yoshida.
2. Return to playing Romeu in front of the back four (the central defenders are not solid enough on their own). Romeu needs to play in that spot alone though, rather than as a 2-, because we can’t afford to have 6 players focused on defence.
3. Play JWP. He gives us a chance at set pieces which no one else does, and with Austin on the pitch, we have someone who can get on the end of crosses.
4. Play Sims. He has shown by far the most attacking intent of anyone all season.
5. Work out the rest of the team around that. (If we assume McCarthy, Bertrand, Yoshida, Stephens, Cedric, Romeu, JWP, Sims, Austin, there are only two places left to fill anyway).

We can still stay up but something has got to happen in these last seven games that hasn’t happened all season. I think you would call that a miracle.
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SanMarco added 12:59 - Apr 3
Great article - sums up my view perfectly. Puel was a shrewd manager who realised that he had to be conservative once the Fonte/VVD partnership broke up. I don't think most of us realised that at the time. At around the time of the cup final last February we were on the fringes of the relegation struggle. Puel made sure we didn't go down by doing exactly what Nick says - protecting the weak centre of defence. A lesser manager brought in with the additional remit to 'entertain' was always going to struggle. Hughes made a big mistake on Saturday - ironically it was just the game to keep it tight and play conservatively. Was I saying that before the game though? Not really - accept for that sinking feeling I had when I saw Tadic and Redmond as part of a 4 man midfield. All we needed was for Lemina to have a bad game......

Dirk's point on the spending is also important. We have spent a lot of money but how much of it has been worth it since Koeman left? If we had used that money to buy sensibly we might well have been in comfortable mid-table with Puel as a popular enough manager. Instead we spashed money on poor players or on players we didn't need, or both.

We have reached the stage where I think Yoshida has to come in for Hoedt rather than Stephens. Also Steven Davis for Tadic and just about anyone instead of Redmond and Lemina. Arsenal were very poor against Stoke - I hope their Moscow quarter-final is still in the balance after Thursday. If it is then we need to play as well as Stoke did and have more luck than they did.
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Abbosaint added 13:07 - Apr 3
The most worrying thing about our last two league defeats has been our spineless performances. Too many players have appeared to lack the passion and commitment required to compete at this level. This is probably down to a combination of a lack of confidence in each other, lack of genuine pride in playing for the club and having their mind on other places and a lack of belief in a new system and the ability to adapt to it. Whatever the reason for the embarrassing level of performance we have had to suffer, I feel we need to select a team of players who have shown that they really care and are likely to give their all for the cause. Players I would include in this category are
Davis, Romeu, Yoshida (to replace Hoedt} Stephens, Ward-Prowse, Long, Hojbjberg, Sims, McQueen.
If we are to be relegated, let us at least go down with a fight!
10

SaintBrock added 13:07 - Apr 3
I can't see any connection between your hardline Nick and the article that follows so don't know how to respond. The key to football is the ball, whoever has it controls the match. We just need to concentrate on holding the ball and making sure when we pass it, it goes to one of our players.
-3

REEDYREEDOREEDZ added 13:15 - Apr 3
SaintBrock - 'The key to football is the ball, whoever has it controls the match. We just need to concentrate on holding the ball and making sure when we pass it, it goes to one of our players.'

Lol!! Isn't that how Pellegrino had us playing all season!!!
5

LordDZLucan added 13:21 - Apr 3
You're living in a parallel universe, Nick. No-one covered themselves in glory on Saturday but the midfield lost us the game. Lemina had a big hand in 2 of the goals. For the first goal I was shouting at him (from a distance!) 'Don't lose the ball there' for a good 5 seconds before he lost the ball. It had goal written all over it from the moment he lost it. And for the third goal he didn't go in for a 50/50 ball which he had to win. Add in Holjberg losing the ball in his own half and you've got the game right there. If your midfield doesn't get the game by the scruff of the neck the defence is put under pressure and the attack doesn't get any service. That is basically what happened on Saturday.
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Sanguin added 13:24 - Apr 3
Saints Cannot Attack OR Defend.

FTFY
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oldeastterrace added 13:44 - Apr 3
I keep hearing that we have a good enough squad and we are under performing. I have heard it from Nick and I have heard it from various pundits. The FACT is you need heart and desire to go with ability. Without the first two the latter counts for sh-t!!! There is no heart and desire in this lot and THAT IS WHY WE ARE IN THE S--T!!!

I hate to say this but if we get more limp displays in the next couple of games I can see our fans turning on the players. To lose a game is not a sin but to lose a game without fight and passion is a F----G DISGRACE! Like it or not NIck Les Reed has a lot to answer for IF he is the one responsible for recruitment ( or the lack of it).

Correct me if I am wrong but that 'famous' black box' we heard so much about was supposed to know everything about every professional player whether it be their character or their ability, Judging by a number of our current squad then I would say that black box is as much use as t-ts on a chicken! You'd get more accurate data from a cardboard box!
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Billeewithers added 13:45 - Apr 3
Wasn't MP supposed to be an attacking style manager with experience at Liverpool , Barcelona and great things at Alaves.
He was tripe from day one and not an attacking bone in his body. He could not defend a toffee.
The club cannot possibly have done their homework
5

geezershoong1 added 13:48 - Apr 3
He had 2 weeks with 'em and they come out with that...
4

benalisbroom added 13:54 - Apr 3
I agree with Nick's thoughts on Stephens, but given Cedric's almost total absence/disinterest in recent weeks, I would keep Stephens in the team but play him at right back. There's just a little evidence, I think, that the back four play better as a unit when the attacking full backs get injured and either Stephens or McQueen stand in. Stephens is not strong enough in the air to be a top CB but I think he could yet be a great RB - the position he played when we signed him. He always does his best, which I don't think can be said for Cedric. Likewise, move Bert into the middle alongside Yosh and McQueen can do a job at LB. At least you would then have a back 4 which is difficult to penetrate.
10

aceofthebase added 14:20 - Apr 3
At last fans are recognising that Cedric is part of the problem, not all but a big part. The right hand side cannot defend high crossed balls and Stevens/Hoedt are expected to cover for Cedric. Cedric's creative play consists of booting the ball upfield.

Play Yoshida somewhere, anywhere, he would even cause problems in attack, he has heart unlike Bertrand who appears to be demoralised and is not a leader.

We have had terrible signings over the last few years, it's now too late I fear to avoid relegation. Ah well, always a Saint!
8

saintmark1976 added 14:21 - Apr 3
You can't have it both ways Nick. For weeks you were wittering on about how poor Yoshida was even though he had formed a half decent partnership with Stephens. You wanted VVD back and Hoedt in the team.Well you got your wish and as they say "we are where we are".

Whilst our current situation is very poor I don't hold the view that all is lost. There are seven games left and whilst on paper some of the games look very difficult to win its still not impossible for us to escape relegation.

What is required is a wholesale change of attitude.Starting by dropping the players who simply aren't interested. I for one would be delighted if the first to go were the season long serial under performers, Tadic and Redmond.Frankly they are both "sand dancers" and neither would be missed whoever took their place.


11

highfield49 added 14:36 - Apr 3
The only clear improvement on Saturday was Gabbi's haircut but I'm not sure that counts as a positive. Personally I don't want to see Redmond or Tadic going through the motions again, if that's the best you can do it really isn't good enough and you should hang your heads in shame. Neither full back appeared to have any fight in them, Lemina is either unfit or can't be arsed.I fully expect Hughes to wield the axe and probably bring in Yoshi, McQueen, JWP, Sims and Long with Romeu to wake some of the others from their self induced comas. The only player who started on Saturday that I don't have an issue with is McCarthy. And last, but not least, there is zero use in having Bertrand as captain if his only input is guessing which way the coin will fall before kick off. Thankfully there are still other teams around us with problems as bad if not worse and two ground out results might dig us out of the drop. Any match is winnable and for Tadic to be quoted as saying we couldn't win after going two down on Saturday is a clear demonstration that he has no part to play this season or any other.
10

SaintPaulVW added 14:45 - Apr 3
Hughes was clearly trying to blitz West Ham and get early goals. Playing with a new partnership upfront was risky. Playing with an attacking midfield was risky. It didn't pay off. He's only been given 8 games to save us, so he clearly decided on a shot or bust strategy for this game. It failed. Moyes had clearly whipped up his players to show the fans something and one in particular to get one over on his old manager again.

I seem to recall someone stating repeatedly that Hoedt was better than Yoshida but this seems to have been forgotten now. Our faliure over the last 2 seasons still to my mind comes down to not being able to put an attack together, shoot or score. All teams let in goals.

In short on the face of the last 2 league games we have no chance of staying up. However looking at the premier league table we still have a good chance. Hughes needs to learn fast and have a bit of luck. Fingers crossed.



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