2017/18 The Post Mortem Part 2 Wednesday, 13th Jun 2018 10:24
In the second part of the series we take a look at the theory that our transfer dealings and a lack of investment in the squad over the past two seasons has been the root cause of last season.
There is a lot of shouting on social media about Saints being a selling club and how this cannot be sustained, I said in the last piece that put bluntly Saints had no choice but to do this, they can't afford to match the big six pound for pound and as the three relegated clubs showed, if you build solid squads and keep them intact eventually you slide down the table.
So Saints strategy of buying and selling is a good one, of course it is dependent on being successful in our dealings in the transfer market, but we have no real other choice we have to succeed in it or join the rest.
But has this been the root cause of our problems, certainly for the two years under Ronald Koeman it wasn't an issue, but the fact remains that not every signing can be another Mane or Van Dijk, we have to use the market to our advantage and that includes loan signings and we have to accept that the real problem that we can't control it as much as we would like.
Ideally we would keep players for a 2-3 year period and then move them on, but the Virgil Van Dijk situation should have shown us all that when we have a quality player on our hands and when he is in demand actually contracts mean nothing, some when told they have to stay have knuckled down given us another season and then departed with their reputations intact, others like Van Dijk have refused to accept it and have caused problems in the squad because of it.
So it is a fine line and we have to walk it, but overall I don't think the strategy in itself has caused the problems, if you look at our arrivals since Koeman most have contributed over the past two years.
In 2016/17 we lost Mane, Pelle, Wanyama, Fonte, Juanmi and brought in £58 million, coming through the door were Hojbjerg, McCarthy, Boufal, Gabbiadini, Redmond, Pied and Cacerres, £57 million we spent and brought in £58 million there could be no accusation of failing to reinvest the income from transfers there, indeed it would have cost us more by the time agents fees and signing on fees were taken into account.
In essence given that Pelle's replacement Charlie Austin had been signed in January and Wanyama's Oriol Romeu was already at the club on paper at least the squad looked stronger.
Our issues that season were beyond our control, the petulance and disruption caused by Fonte and indeed our failure to replace him when he left and also the injuries to both Charlie Austin and Van Dijk.
But through all that we finished 8th and got to our first cup final in 14 years and only our second in 38, statistically speaking around our 5th or 6th best season ever, I will go into the reasons deeper one of the next pieces, but it wasn't about a failure to reinvest money or bring in substandard players, in general most signed in this season have contributed, some like Redmond may be whipping boys but he has scored vital goals.
In 2017/18 we looked to keep our squad intact and also invest, in the summer we spent £40 million and had only raked in £12 million for the sale of Jay Rodriguez, a deal that looked good money, then came Virgil Van Dijk.
The club held firm and refused to let him go to Liverpool they did everything in their power to prevent it, they wanted another season out of Van Dijk and hoped that with him and Hoedt forming a solid partnership that would provide the springboard for the club to build on the past four seasons.
All four players brought in played a part in the season, but for varying reasons it was not one of consistency, even Guido Carrillo who is much maligned put in several good displays at West Brom and Burnley creating goals that ultimately kept us up, his problem was he wasn't scoring goals, but then again nor was anyone else, if you judge him against his team mates, then he perhaps has a future here.
However all it really did was show the supporters that when a player has been tapped up it is difficult to hold on to him, that didn't make us a selling club it made us the victims, eventually Van Dijk had to be removed from the squad and spend the last few weeks of December training on his own till the transfer window opened.
As I said the Saints way of identifying players and selling them on is a good one, the problem apart from the odd bad signing and to be fair there haven't been that many whom we have paid big money for, is that we cannot always sell them when it suits us.
2017/18 showed a transfer deficit of around £29 million in terms of what we spent against took in, but that was solely due to the inflated price we got for Virgil Van Dijk and our failure to spend it in January, hopefully most of that deficit is now available in this transfer window.
So over the past two seasons I don't think we have fared badly in the transfer window, Bednarek, Hojbjerg and McCarthy, three players who back in the Autumn were being held up as Les Reed wasting money on poor signings are now held up as the shining lights of the season, overall I think we had a decent squad it was just poorly managed but more of that in another article.
So I do not think that the transfer dealings of the club can be blamed for our woes this season, yes we have made mistakes, the biggest being in not replacing Fonte in January 2017 and when we did last summer not replacing Van Dijk as well or in January when he eventually left.
I personally think that this cost us any chance of winning the League cup last season and ultimately Claude Puel his job and has been the root cause of all our problems this season.
Those that say we haven't reinvested the transfer money back into the squad were wrong up until the sale of van Dijk and to be blunt that was a lot more money in that we expected and although the club itself would admit they wish they had just sold him, a point had to be made and ultimately standing our ground made us another£15 million.
Supporters have to accept that Saints are not a selling club, they are a pragmatic one, they have a planned structure to keep moving forward, that will mean developing and selling players, some say we can't keep doing it, I would say why can't we ? I would also say we have to do it because we have to, otherwise we just drift into relegation.
This season has hopefully been a big wake up call for the club and they won't make the same mistakes again, our transfer structure is part of the solution not part of the problem, but we can't get it right all the time, we have to learn to accept that.
This may lead to some accusing me of being a party political broadcast for the club, I'm not, I just try to look at where we have made the mistakes, as the saying goes one bad apple doesn't spoil the whole barrel, not everything can be perfect.
So in essence the transfer policy and structure is sound, the issue has been our failure to sign a replacement central defender, not once but twice , if we had done so I think both seasons would have turned out differently, so scrapping the whole strategy is not the answer, internally the club have to look at themselves and ask why they failed in this area.
Nick, on the subject of central defenders I'm still bewildered by the February signing of Martin Caceres, as a free agent, and the non renewal of his contract in May last year. His only game as far as I can recall was an away win at Middlesbrough. I think that he now has a contract with Lazio so it appears as though he could have given us the benefit of his talents last season. What on earth happened there?
A good post again NIck. I always wonder what "some" people mean by - investment?
Do they mean spending lots of money on top rated players ?...or just getting more new players in the hope that they will be OK? Obviously the Pogba and Neymar deals blew the transfer market apart and there are few " bargain deals " to be had nowadays - unless you sign someone who's out of contract, or nearing their last year.
Investment doesn't mean LOTS of money...the acquisistions of Bednarek, Hjobjerg and McCarthy was almost equal to the money we paid out for the Monaco" reserve " Carrillo. Historically , big money buys haven't helped Saints improve. Our earlier "investment in Ramirez and Osvaldo both proved to be catastrophes which cost the club over £40 million in fees and salaries. The last really successful "record buy" may well have been Ron Davies in 1966, and a quick look at our leading goalscorers sees Channon, Le Tissier and Paine at the top of the list - all of whom cost the club NOTHING. More recently Lambert, Mane and Pelle were bought for a pittance compared with present price levels.
"Investment" in the Academy is part of Saints plan, and is one of the most successful in the Prem. "The list" starting with Walcott and Bale, ought to have begun with Bridge (!) and has gone on continuosly ever since 2006. The present crop of young players is very exciting and last season saw half-a-dozen U18 's distinguish themselves at U23 level.
It's good to note that the Walcott, Bale, Alex O-C list were all sold before we regained Prem. status. so that the likes of Targett, McQueen, Sims and Stephens show a good result from the current Academy sides. Some of the best of the rest are a bit too young a.t.m. and must be seen as "for the future" which may not be too far off.
Some of the "most expensive buys" (in Saints terms) still haven't been great successes. Carrillo to be fair hasn't had a real run-out, but Lemina and Gabbiadini blow hot and cold and Boufal has been good for those who like spectacular goals although shows that he is unable to play with the rest of the team in Prem. games.
As for those we did invest in ; Hoedt has taken time to replace ..whoever he's meant to replace (Fonte/ VVD ?) but looks to be improving. Our main problem (amongst others) last season was the lack of chances that were converted by 5 strikers - who all have had better sesasons in their careers and were all out of form /injured at the same time.
We can hope last season was just a"blip " , and that Hughes (who knows what goal-scoring is about) can motivate the team to more attacking nexr season.
Every club is a selling club and I agree that we have probably had little choice over most sales. The VVD fiasco was partly of our own making by allowing Liverpool and him to get away with it originally last summer. It made us look soft and we were then sh&t on with contempt by club and player.
The point for me is not the 'selling club' aspect it is what has happened to our recruitment policy. Of course you always gamble on quality, and for every Mane there is a Carrillo, fair enough, but I do feel that in the last two years very little intelligence or awareness of what was needed has been shown over the players brought in. Central defence, goalscoring and attacking m/f were not properly addressed in time and were indeed/still haven't been properly addressed at all. We all knew what was needed but it appeared that those who, usually belatedly, spent the money were not getting it at all. I can't name the exact players we need but I know the positions that need strengthening, just like all of us do. The club need to get it right NOW, the window closes in a few weeks...
Good well reasoned post Nick. I am really glad I support a team that builds steadily and sustainably rather than one of the big 6 (whose supporters think they are owed success). Hopefully Mane and VVD will depart Liverpool shortly and they will revert to mid-table. The likes of Morhinio make me laugh I am sure I could have a chance of winning the league if I had unlimited funds at my disposal and it would be a damn sight more entertaining than his teams, at least Pep's are good to watch as a neutral - although I do wish referees would learn to finish the game when they should rather than waiting for City to score.
Bang on the money. Could not agree more. We cannot expect to hold on to players of the class of Mane and the excellent Toby A who both want to move on again. We should enjoy them why they are at St Mary's and hope to get classy replacements which is not always possible when you are looking at buying young ambitious players who want to play for the biggest clubs. The good thing is that players of this calibre are happy to play for Saints for a few years. It is mixing these players with some longer term older heads that is the key. Not replacing Fonte was just stupid.
Having read both parts of the article, for me the reason for our downfall is simple. Who to blame may not be simple but the issues are.. 1- didn’t replace Pelle and Mane goals, gambled too much on cheap replacements, Redmond cost a third of Mane’s fee, says it all! 2- we employed a negative characterless manager in Puel, which took us backwards, not helped by the issues with Fonte and VVD. 3- The board did NOT learn their lesson with the previous 2 points and instead employed someone just as defensive minded as Puel, if not more. They claimed Pellegrino would bring a fresh attacking style of football, which for me showed they had NOT scouted him in person, going to watch Alaves play. If they had, they would have seen someone with the opposite style to the promised attacking flair..
Having appointed 2 poorly fitting managers, Reed was at pains to make the necessary change as it reflected so badly on him, which prolonged the pain.. I feel a little for Pellegrino but Reed MUST take responsibility for the past 2 wrong appointments and clearly he has not said a word to this effect showing a lack of spine and intelligence. He got lucky with Koeman but since that has made clueless decisions in my opinion. This last season has shown exactly we are running the club as a business ahead of trying to achieve sporting success.
I honestly think it’s time for Mr Reed to step aside as he doesn’t seem to have the qualities to recognise appropriate appointments and signings. If we had not appointed someone as risky as an inexperienced Pellegrino, I don’t think we would be having this ‘post near-mortem’..
we are not a selling club we are a farm or even a super farm, a club that forges relationships with those clubs with ambitions (Sh**epool & Arse ) and acquires the players they would like to see in there squads after they have gained the desired experience, then we sell them to that club at a profit and the circle goes on with Celtic included, we also do that with our youth academy with regular updates to those ambitious teams of any up and coming stars we have that will be available whenever they want, to some people this is how to exist to me I'd rather the old boot boys that loved nothing more than kicking lumps out of all those that came to the dell because they won just as many games and played just as attractive football as this current squad but with a bit or alot more passion, so whats the strategy when we have a team full of mr average, the ward prowses ,yoshida's,stephens,longs,gardos,forsters,davis, relagation? or those teams with ambition don't need any players for a while what happens then? Well the players wont come to us because we cant guarantee a stepping stone to ambition so were stuck with them like guly and harding or fox as well as the above, don't get me wrong all teams sell players but with us even the most blinkered of fans know there's a strangeness about our relationship with Sh***pool , some of the signings have been bizarre as well like we all knew we needed a CB and got carillio who wasn't even the striker that would fit our team and the same can be said when Boufal came it seemed to me these players arrived because they were destined to go elsewhere and could do a job until then regardless of who we already had in that position, all very desperate just like giving Les reed a contract until he is 70 what the hell is that, I'm no ageist but id put my mortgage on there being a younger hungrier and better man out there than dear old Les,
For me the question is whose in charge of the black box. The guy who spotted so many of our best buys in 2012/ 16 has moved on . Fc Leipzig is his latest club I believe. He knew how to use it. Les Reed, once manager of Stevenage, doesn’t know how to use it. The only black box I associate with him is the sort you find after the airplane crashes ,meaning you can view what caused the disaster. I hope we never have to view Les’s black box after we crash out of the premiership!
From now on I hope Hughes and co. shadow Fc Leipzig’s transfer dealings and nip in and offer their targets a few extra million to join us instead.
As a postscript to my earlier post; the timing of Pellegrino's departure was (in part) due to individual errors that cost points in games where we often were the "better side". Most of the strikers were all missing sitters, and by the time MP started Charlie Austin in games we had already lost a dozen points at home.
We were still in 11th place by December and although the debacle v. Tottenham was the season's worst defeat. A point at Old Trafford really did spark confidence that we were on the up, and after being robbed by a late handball goal at Watford we felt unlucky.
Just when we were about to sack MP a good result came up ...A win at West Brom, only followed by another poor show against a rampant Liverpool. Another Cup win and a late point at Burnley and a clean sheet against Stoke only saw us dropping points and places in the table just a time time when the other bottom teams were finding some form.
The defeat at Newcastle from an all-time low from the footballing perspective and really was the last straw for Pellegrino, and he finally had to go.
Saints are rarely seen as a club to make panic moves, and much has been written about the arrival of Hughes, and the remaining games that kept us up.
Changing managers so late in the season was a desperate gamble that (for once) paid off. Let us hope that we don't ever reach that situation again, and that we will see the best of Hughes in his new role.
Hughes plays 9 at the back? I seem to remember that when it really mattered he stuck on 3 centre forwards. The goals for column seemed pretty healthy during his time particularly compared to the two negative incumbents of the job and if anyone thinks not playing 2 centre forwards is a sign of negativity then they have not exactly been studying tactics this millennium.
Cheers for running the site nick, I always enjoy the articles even though some of the negative posts make me want to smash my computer.
So in summary. We spend as much as we make by selling. Every purchase cant be a great one so we have gradually weakened our first team to the natural point where no-one wants to buy our players anymore because they pretty average.
Our "best season" featured football so defensive that huge parts of the fanbase started to wonder what the point was and even Les realised he was pushing it.
and "Saints strategy of buying and selling is a good one"
Spot on Nick, its refreshing to see an intelligent thought out view of our position as a club, too many people have a negative view and see us as a “selling club” wheras , like you, I fully understand our position, indeed if we had not been able to source the players in the first place then where would we be now realistically.
I remember a few years ago when De Bruyne was an unknown and saints were linked with him and our supporters were slagging the club off for trying to buy someone like him instead of a “proven” star …Mane was unknown, so was Toby and VVD, ….what is the alternative…blow all our money on one “Superstar” and keep our fingers crossed….and also for everyone screaming at Kat to have spent her fathers money on said superstars. …why should she?? She is running a business not some fantasy league football game, for those that call her names I say this, why don’t you re-mortgage your house and just throw the money at the club .
Sadly, these days, football is a business and we as fans have to accept that, I think the saints business is being run very well although as Nick said we did make mistakes last year with the appointment of MP but who doesn’t make mistakes? I Have been supporting Saints since 74 and moved to the midlands in 78 but have the benefit of observing from a distance and like one of the other posters on here I get so frustrated and sometimes embarrassed by some of the “Support” on this forum and others….we are not alone in having this element of support, just listen to 5Live or talk sport and hear what some of the other clubs muppets have to say. Saints are a well run ship who sometimes punch above our weight and can do again, we just need to accept as supporters that we are not going to win every game or that every season is going to be a roaring success, there are too many factors involved to influence what happens over a season and over the last two seasons, (in my opinion), the behaviour of Fonte and then VVD were the catalyst for our downturn, throw in the mix MP as manager and it took us a long while to steady the ship. Lets look forward to next season with optimism and a little bit of trust.
Some you win, some you don't. How many people have we each worked with who were paid more or the same as us who we considered weren't worth it? It happens in every profession so we can't exempt footballers from failing to live up to their anticipated prospects, particularly when the manager fails to get the best from them. Yes, MP was a mistake but you can bet Saints did their research thoroughly however he simply failed to meet their criteria. Leicester obviously didn't think CP was a failure at St Mary's but Ron fell at Goodison after his success here. As for Les Reed, I would venture that he has experience on his side in the transfer market (and notjust his own experience which will be backed up by scouts and player development agencies) which has evolved over a good period of time and he must have an understudy in case of his untimely demise (thankfully mere character assassinations don't count). Also, how many cast-offs have come here and succeeded - currently think Bertrand, Mccarthy and Romeu - and I take issue with Steven Davis being labelled as average. Yes, he's past his very best but for several seasons he was the glue that held our defensive and attacking strands together but neither seeking or getting the plaudits he deserved. In the event that Saints have another disappointing term then perhaps I will change my opinions in repect of their selection processes. if we have no unexpected close season disruption, I'm sure that Mark Hughes will get our squad fit and up for it and, let's face it, he's not been employed as a manager at any club that's performed as consistently well as Saints so this is an opportunity for him to go on to greater things. That's just the way it is.